One of the long running debates when building a site is what content management system to use. Gatsby and WordPress sit on both ends of the spectrum. After building sites with both I thought I would run down some of the uses cases when to pick one over the other.
A couple of years ago I built my own website on Gatsby to learn the ropes before jumping in to New Relic which has a lot of Gatsby sites. From an engineering standpoint Gatsby is a lot of fun to use and feels like magic when you see your external content get pulled in during the build process. It is a lot of fun to build out the source templates in React. Depending on your content team Gatsby might be the right choice. Here are some of Gatsby’s pros and cons.
- Markdown is great for technical documentation
- GitHub PR requests can be open sourced to communities
- Content must adhere to the underlying component structure
- Lack of customization in posts
- Long build times for websites with a large number of pages
- Some editors prefer a rich text editor
- Harder to preview content
The team that manages New Relic’s documentation website is going through some of these growing pains. Deploying a simple typo fix can take upwards of 45 minutes to go live.
Over the years I have built and maintained lots of WordPress sites. It has been fun to see how they can evolve over time and sometimes fall apart without proper maintenance. The WordPress community moves so fast and the new Gutenberg block editor tools are pretty cool. From an authoring standpoint it is really fun to start a new section by hitting return and a forward slash to bring up the block selector. It is a huge step forward from the normal point and click methods that you see in Drupal where setting up a page with different components can feel like a chore.
- Fast to setup with community plugins and themes
- Fast creation to go live cycle
- The default choice for blog authors
- Needs tweaking to live in version control
- Constant need to update plugins and themes for larger sites
- Authors can hack their way around theming issues.
- Known security target for hackers
WordPress sites can be hard to manage for larger businesses. I have had to work around the included update prompts in favor of Git version control and lock down the plug in pages to keep the code base in sync. Authors can also create hacky bad markup to work around design issues which can be problematic across different browsers.
For a small website there is nothing better than using off the shelf plugins and commercial themes from the WordPress community. Most of the time you can build a pretty good website without ever writing any code. Turn on automatic updates and you should be good to go and only need to check up on the site a couple of times a year to test things out.
WordPress and Gatsby are both awesome tools for us to use. When I have a highly technical team that wants to live in GitHub for code and content changes Gatsby would be a great solution. If I have a small website that I want to write the least amount of code for WordPress is a great solution. WordPress is also a great choice for a blog where new authors will be coming and going over time since that will be the tool that they are most used to.
For this website the convenience of WordPress outweighs the development strengths of using Gatsby. Being able to publish content from any device reduces the friction of needing GIT to deploy a post. I love writing blog posts on the iPad and being able to update the site’s code and plugins from my phone.
If you are researching similar choices feel free to reach out. I am always happy to chat.