Let me jump to the point.

I am looking for the right tool to build websites where I take care of the design and scaffolding and other "non-tech”-people (my clients, family, or friends) should be able to easily take care of the content.

As normal operations I expect my clients to do include: edit basic information on the website such as text and images, add future events, and sometimes add new subpages (equivalent to a blog, or e.g. add future events and listings)

I am a bit overwhelmed by the amount of stuff out there that supposedly is suited for doing this and other type of stuff. Wordress, Hugo, Grav, OctoberCMS, Jekyll, Bolt, Statamic, Processwire, Sitecake, CouchCMS, Joomla, CraftCMS.

Here are what I think are my absolute requirements:

  1. It needs to be super easy for clients to edit (at the level of using a word editor)
  2. I need to have precise control on the design of the website. I have experience with Bootstrap, so ideally I would take a bootstrap boilerplate or template and easily incorporate it with the functionality for the CMS

Here is what I think is very desirable:

  1. Learning Curve for me is small
  2. Open Source, either free or one time off cheap.
  3. No database? I guess this would help for future migrations, but I’m not too sure whether this is really important
  4. Fast

Here is what would be cool, but not important:

  1. If the community around it is getting bigger and have many plugins being created

Does anyone have advice on this?

Here are my current thoughts on solutions I've heard of:

Wordpress: It seems the king here, but everyone seems to hate it! My understanding is that it is fairly easy for clients to edit, but last time I looked it was way harder for me to have precise control on the design, people also complain that it is slow, and uses a database.

Hugo, Jekyll, and other static site generators: Well they have their strong points, (fast, secure, etc.) but it seems that to get the non-tech-editing functionality is exactly what they don’t have.

Grav: I am currently looking into Grav, the user interface seems ok for clients, but I am experiencing a higher learning curve than expected.

OctoberCMS: seems sweet for learning curve, but from what I read, since it is developer-oriented (good for me) it becomes harder for my clients.

Bolt: seems good at its promises (“Easy for editors, and a developer's dream CMS") but uses a database?

Statamic: expensive for me and my type of clients

Processwire: didn’t look much on it

Sitecake: So cool!! Very easy for clients, without a database, for dead simple websites, but I guess way harder to have something similar to a blog where clients can add pages that fall under different categories?

CouchCMS: similar to Sitecake but needs a database

Joomla: people say so many bad things that I didn’t even looked into it. Should I?

CraftCMS: sounds nice, and it has a solo free option, with only one user. That might work?

Wix, Squarespace, etc. Great for clients who have the money to spend. super intuitive to edit. Not for my wallet and clients

There might be others I'm not aware of. What would you recommend that meets my needs?

  • One thing I would take into consideration is privacy. If you self-host, you have best control. Some of the SaaS variants come with quite a lot of tracking.
    – Izzy
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


From the experience of someone who has built a fair few websites with Grav, and maintains several plugins and themes for it, I'll try to answer points 1-7:

  1. Whilst the Admin-plugin contains just about every setting, you can change what is available for what user by creating groups with specific permissions. Editing a Page in Grav is a very similar experience to most other CMS', and users will be able to focus on content.
  2. Grav generally maximizes control, and imposes very little on what you can do. From the outset, you'll hopefully find that Markdown-content is a good, modern standard and that Twig-templating gives you what you need. Compared to most other templating-systems, at least in the PHP-space, I find it to be at the top of the class.
  3. Grav is well-documented, though the length can seem imposing at first. It's pedagogically built up though, so I'd recommend reading it from the first chapter and working with the CMS at the same time. Learning by doing is almost always best, and the chapters go into more advanced topics later.
  4. Grav is MIT-licensed, so entirely open source. As are most of the available plugins and themes, so you can easily build on others work if needed.
  5. The flat-file approach is warranted for simple websites, in my opinion. Databases have become easier to migrate, but it's almost always more work than expected - and certainly a more prominent attack-vector.
  6. Modern versions of PHP beat most other technologies, and are widely available. Though the speed of most websites rely relatively little on the back-end technology, Grav itself is rarely if ever the reason a website will take more than one second to load.
  7. There is, at the time of writing, more than 300 plugins and more than 100 themes available. Also almost 50 ready-to-use Skeleton-packages, which contain a theme, plugins, and sample content. I find the ecosystem to be fairly actively developed and maintained, though some plugins have fallen by the wayside. The community is quite active, with support by chat and on a dedicated forum. Most authors of third-party extensions also tend to be fairly responsive on GitHub.
  • yes, grav stands on top of my list. Bolt looks very similar.. can you comment on the differences to this and other options? and why so many options? wouldn't it be better for everyone if forces are joined?
    – gota
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 21:54
  • 1
    The first difference with Bolt I notice is that Bolt requires a database, otherwise the features are quite similar, apart from a few conceptual differences. I'd suggest trying out both to get an idea of what feels right. The reason why there are so many options is that, unlike a decade ago, the amount of stable and well-developed libraries and frameworks abound. This makes it relatively easier for anyone to create a CMS, and use good standards and systems for it. But they remain different, because people disagree on what and how.
    – OleVik
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 20:05
  • 1
    One further thing I'd add, which I find helpful, is to consider the licenses and governance-models. The future, and thus long-term stability of a CMS (or other system), depends a lot on its long-term development and maintenance. And without a healthy community, ecosystem, and governance-model, most fall to the wayside. Almost all solo-projects I've come across will fail because of this, but then again, not everything designed by committee works well. Grav has developed well, even without a fully-fledged governance-model, because the core developers are responsive to the community.
    – OleVik
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 20:10

OctoberCMS for the win, if you think it's too much developper oriented, take a look at static page plugin, or content editor plugin which allow easy edit for clients.

Every people that take time to understand it's concept never go back

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