Contentful Alternatives: Why Enterprises Choose CrafterCMS

Competition among content management systems is rife. Enterprises in particular have several options to choose from. Traditional or legacy CMSs or monolithic DXP platforms had been the common choice for quite some time but now there is a gradual shift towards headless platforms built for both marketers and developers.

Among these systems, a popular choice is Contentful, a modern headless platform that takes an API-first, SaaS-only cloud approach to content management. Like many other headless CMSs, Contentful breaks the molds of the traditional and legacy CMS platforms, freeing enterprises from legacy front-end technologies and suite-based solutions, and allowing them to choose the best tools to accompany their CMS.

Yet for all of its benefits, Contentful isn’t necessarily the ideal solution, in particular for enterprises that innovate with their content authoring teams, developer teams, and/or DevOps teams. In contrast, CrafterCMS gives mid- to large-size enterprises and fast growing startups an alternative they can count on. In this article we’ll explore why some companies may want to move away from Contentful and what they can gain with CrafterCMS.

What Is Contentful?

Contentful is a leading content platform for digital businesses. Users are able to create and manage digital experiences on multiple channels with greater speed and scalability than traditional CMS platforms.

Contentful can be used to make content unified and structured. Like other headless solutions, Contentful was built for capitalizing on an omnichannel world and delivering digital content by using modern technologies. This also means that it can integrate with several tools to improve ecommerce, personalization, segmentation and more. This seamless integration with other platforms is a hallmark of API-driven headless CMS platforms and Contentful is no exception.

Where Does Contentful Fall Short?

While Contentful is heralded by its users for allowing businesses to build experiences quickly, remain adaptable and scale as necessary, there are quite a few drawbacks that enterprises seeking to innovate need to take into consideration.

Limited Workflows

Contentful is built as a headless CMS for both developers and marketers to use. However, there are limitations to what can be created for workflows and users report the need for more automation. In a modern environment where developers rely on DevOps to deliver software applications faster, the ability to automate certain tasks and improve workflows is essential. Another issue which stems from this is there is a lack of customizability, meaning that teams and individuals may struggle to adjust the platform to suit their needs.

Slow Loading, Lagging UI

At the enterprise level, speed is absolutely critical. However, something that is also true is that many enterprise organizations can be quite large with tens of people on their marketing and development teams. One issue with Contentful is that when multiple users are on the platform it can be slow to load, meaning that campaigns take longer to be implemented and marketers may grow frustrated. In addition the user interface can lag which can further exacerbate the pain marketers feel while using the CMS. Some users have even reported partial outages that can occur.

Rich Text Editor Limitations

Contentful was originally built as a headless-only platform, meaning that marketer features were the last to be improved. As a result, some of the marketing features, though improved, are still lagging behind what’s required from a modern headless platform. One such issue is the rich text editor which can’t be upgraded and can't be customized by marketing teams. For businesses that do extensive design work and may want to include additional fonts and features to support their marketing teams, they will find issues working with Contentful.

Why A Contentful Alternative Is Necessary

Contentful offers a lot of promise for enterprises, but a closer look shows that there are drawbacks which can negatively impact both the content author and developer experience. Some of the reasons why a Contentful alternative is necessary include:

Deployment Limitations

Contentful is available as a SaaS-only solution. While SaaS products are useful for modern enterprises seeking to embrace cloud-native applications, some businesses need a hybrid approach that enables them to have some flexibility. As a result, a headless CMS that also supports on-premise deployments, or hybrid public/private cloud deployments, is always a better option in the long run. No major enterprise wants to get stuck in the SaaS-trap.

Database-Centric Architecture

Like most CMSs, Contentful is built around a database-centric architecture. Databases are ideal for structured data, but were not designed for either structured or unstructured content. Database-oriented CMSs like Contentful suffer from operational, maintainability, security, scalability, both developer and and content authoring bottlenecks. Moving content and code among environments (a key part of DevContentOps processes) is cumbersome and slow, causing developer bottlenecks and also resulting in content publishing freezes from time to time.

Proprietary and Closed

As a SaaS-only product, Contentful is also a closed, proprietary system. Building on Contentful’s APIs and storing your content in their cloud means you are locking your application(s) and intellectual property into them. If and when you need a new feature or capability, or custom backend capability, you are entirely dependent upon a single vendor to fit it into their roadmap, if at all. Open source software is superior to proprietary, closed software everyday of the week.

CrafterCMS: A Better Headless Solution for Enterprises

Best-in-Class Content Authoring Experience

Marketers and content authors must have access to the easy-to-use content creation tools they’re familiar with in traditional CMS platforms. However, a platform that goes a step further, with WYSIWYG authoring, in-context editable previews for various digital channels, drag and drop experience building, and the ability to build and test personalized experiences is crucial. CrafterCMS offers that platform with the user-friendly content authoring Crafter Studio. Built for the needs of modern content teams, Crafter Studio is entirely extensible, meaning that enterprise businesses can add more advanced features and customize them as necessary using modern development tools.

Distributed, Git-based Repository

Just as marketers need the right tools to support their content creation efforts, these platforms shouldn’t neglect the importance of version control, security, and audits. Platforms also need to provide support for modern development workflows, which includes continuous integration and delivery as well as continuous uninterrupted publishing (CI/CD/CP). CrafterCMS offers comprehensive content management for all content-driven digital experiences. Developers can also benefit from advanced workflow support, including multi-file versioning, branching, and more. Git’s history tracking, versioning, and security features can be beneficial for content authors, even if they know nothing about how Git works. With Crafter Studio, content authors can enjoy a user-friendly experience without worrying about the technical details of Git.

DevContentOps

DevOps facilitates the speedy delivery of software applications, allowing organizations to quickly build and operate software products. When DevOps is working properly, new features and functionality can be introduced without interrupting other activities. In addition, this can yield improvements in the customer experience stability and reliability.

With CrafterCMS, the benefits of DevOps are provided to content-driven software applications, products, and digital experiences. Our unique support for DevContentOps processes, enables software development teams to work collaboratively with content teams to publish new content updates, continuously release new software features, and deliver digital customer experiences faster than ever before.

For example, code can be moved forward from development environments to production, and then content can be moved back from production environments just by using simple push and pull operations. This allows teams to work in small batch sizes and automate their processes with CI/CD pipelines and tooling integrations. DevContentOps is crucial for supporting the high rate of innovation necessary for today’s digital landscape.

Developer-Friendly Platform

The headless-only concept is simply a content API, usually residing exclusively in the cloud. With CrafterCMS, we take it several steps further, toward what we call headless “plus”. Headless+ represents a true developer platform that allows for backend development, integration, and extensibility in addition to providing rich content APIs. It provides extensible APIs that enable teams to customize backend functionality and integrate third-party systems as necessary. Developers can easily extend the backend with Groovy, Java, or Node.js/Next.js/Nuxt.js. Moreover, CrafterCMS allows them to build custom APIs to meet application-specific requirements and easily integrate with third-party systems and other repositories. By leveraging on an API-first architecture, built-in scripting support, and modular packaging, CrafterCMS supports the rapid development of innovative digital experiences.

Decoupled Architecture

Headless-only CMS platforms don’t quite grasp the true meaning of decoupled as having the end user interface separate from the content repository isn’t enough to facilitate a decoupled architecture. In reality, a truly decoupled CMS architecture means having the content authoring system separated from the API-first headless content delivery engine. This original meaning of decoupled architecture provides added security, reliability, and scalability. Designed as a decoupled platform from the onset, CrafterCMS provides the content authoring tools (Crafter Studio) necessary for content creation, in-context preview, workflows, and publishes content to the decoupled content delivery system known as Crafter Engine. As a stateless/serverless platform that integrates seamlessly with CI/CD tools and DevOps processes, this content delivery system can be scaled to meet the user experience requirements that enable content authors to deliver fast, secure, and personalized content experiences across the globe.

Deployment Flexibility

Flexible deployment is crucial for headless CMS platforms. They need to be able to provide what a business needs, whether that means an open source version that comes with community support, a self-managed enterprise version, or a fully-managed SaaS. Regardless of an organization's needs, CrafterCMS can be deployed on-premises, in a private cloud, or in public clouds such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. Crafter also provides a fully-managed private SaaS/PaaS solution called Crafter Cloud that leverages AWS to provide a cost-effective, agile, enterprise-ready CMS solution.

Client-side and Server-side Rendering

Client-side rendering is crucial for any headless CMS, but most headless CMS platforms stop there. Crafter’s headless+ CMS also supports server-side rendered (SSR) applications. CrafterCMS provides full support even if you need to develop on the server. Native support for Java and Groovy is offered as well as easy integrations with Node, Next, or any other Javascript-based server-side rendering platform. Through universal RESTful APIs, native GraphQL, and platform-oriented SDKs, developers have the option to choose the tools and processes they prefer.

For example, not every modern application needs to be an SPA. Therefore, CrafterCMS also provides native support for HTML5 sites via Freemarker (SSR). This way, developers are able to choose the tools they want for the front-end, such as React or Vue and leverage our REST and GraphQL APIs for SPAs. For other content such as microsites, landing pages, and other sites where HTML5 is a better and easier fit, they can rely on CrafterCMS’s comprehensive support for all types of modern digital experience applications and sites.

Open Source, Open Platform

CrafterCMS is available under the open source (OSI-approved) GPL license, and as such, is available to all for free download and use, to review and modify the source code, and to a community of contributors and users to extend the platform to meet their needs. As an open source and open platform, CrafterCMS does not lock-in its users or enterprise customers to a single vendor, as the option for community support is always available. Open source software has also proven to be more reliable, more secure, and more cost effective in the long run when compared to proprietary, closed systems like Contentful.

CrafterCMS For Your Enterprise

CrafterCMS is an open source, API-first and Git-based headless platform for the enterprise. Unlike other headless CMS platforms, CrafterCMS goes beyond the basics, into the realm of headless plus. Whether you’re looking for an enterprise CMS to replace your existing platform, or already a Contentful user and looking to migrate, CrafterCMS is the best option.

Discover more about how to benefit from CrafterCMS in our Webcast: How to Easily Migrate from Contentful to CrafterCMS.

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Posted by Mike Vertal

Mike Vertal brings over 25 years of operational, technical and executive leadership experience to CrafterCMS. Over the course of his career, Mike has served in executive positions at leading software and services companies. Mike holds BSEE and MSEE degrees from Case Western Reserve University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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