Contentful Vs WordPress: Traditional Vs Headless CMS

WordPress is understandably the most well-known content management system in North America. Only in the last few years have new content-specific web services even tried to compete with WordPress. 

One such contender - Contentful - is not just another CMS. Rather, it is a content and infrastructure management platform that has taken headless development to the next level.

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A content management system, or CMS, is a software application that allows you to manage website content.


With the help of a CMS, organizations can upload, modify, and publish various forms of content at will. A CMS platform also invites multiple users to contribute content to a website. Content marketers, for example, rely heavily on CMS platforms to draw web traffic and generate leads for their business.

What is WordPress?


WordPress is currently the leading CMS platform that offers web design and content management. And because of WordPress’s open source structure, developers can create themes and plugins to customize their websites.

For non-developers that want to create their own website, WordPress acts as a step up from web builders, such as Squarespace or Weebly. Without having to build their own components, designers with little to no PHP, CSS, or HTML experience can choose from countless pre-built themes and plugins.

What is Contentful?


Contentful is one of the more popular up-and-coming headless CMS platforms. It operates as an API-enabled tool, and as such, one would not use Contentful to build or design their website from scratch. For example, web developers use Gatsby to generate a website and Contentful to create and manage the content.

As a headless CMS, Contentful acts solely for the purpose of content and infrastructure management. For websites that want greater flexibility for development and content creation, Contentful competes well with traditional and other headless CMSs. Here at Exobyte, Contentful is our preferred CMS tool.

Traditional Vs Headless CMS

The best way to understand the difference between traditional and headless CMS is by defining the term “coupled.” In web design, components that are coupled are working in sync. Decoupling two components requires significant work hours from a programmer.

Some CMSs couple web design with the web content - blogs, video, images, etc. This component coupling can negatively affect websites that have separate teams managing content and design. 


Traditional CMS

WordPress is a traditional CMS because it couples web design with content. As an all-in-one platform, WordPress allows beginner web designers and content creators to render web content simultaneously with the website design.

Traditional CMSs are frequently referred to as website-design-first platforms. The emphasis is on delivering a website before managing content with increased functionality and nuance. While many content marketers and web designers still highly regard some traditional CMSs, most web developers and content teams view coupling CMSs as outdated. The traditional approach to content management nearly always has a negative impact on website performance.

Headless CMS

In contrast, headless CMS decouples the web design and rendering from the content itself. Overall, it is more agile, productivity and performance-driven. Contentful is an example of a headless CMS. 

When an editor makes adjustments to the content, those changes have no effect on the overall web design. Additionally, a web developer making design tweaks will not inadvertently alter the content.

These two components - content and design - run independently. And as such, marketing teams enjoy a new level of independence to refine their respective website-related tasks. Once either team is ready to publish their work, they inform the application programming interface (API) which in turn renders the content and/or design asynchronously.

Contentful Vs WordPress - A Comparison

Tenure - Which Platform is More Established?

No other CMS platform comes close to WordPress in terms of popularity and brand longevity. In Contentful’s own words,

“WordPress powers 27% of the internet. WordPress is simply the giant that every other CMS gets compared to.”

So there’s no denying that WordPress claims the longest tenure among CMS platforms. It’s open-source design lends itself to both experienced programmers and web design newbies. 


Contentful gives web developers way more options to design as they please. By storing all the data (content) separately, developers can use whatever APIs they want to call - not just the raw data itself - but particular variations of the data that they or their content creators built.

Contentful far surpasses WordPress for fast, multi-faceted online presences, to include both websites and mobile apps. One database can feed content to more than one online location.

In contrast, WordPress is clunky and inflexible. Making “minor” tweaks on either the content or design side can greatly impact the entire site’s performance. And even though WordPress makes their client’s website mobile-friendly, its CMS is not suitable for app content development or specific-use APIs.

That said, Contentful can be difficult to manage without the help of a web developer team to handle API rules and final rendering. In contrast, content creators can use WordPress’s all-in-one suite to both publish content and design their own website.


Due to coupling, WordPress often gets in the way of design and content development teams. Contentful is generally regarded as the more collaborative CMS platform, simply because team members can edit specific pieces of content - like photo editing or paragraph proofreading - while programmers focus on API rules that render a final user interface.

Contentful also does a better job of using cloud tools to store content files and data. This offers team members additional options to contribute on their own time and without negatively impacting web performance and design.


From a cost perspective, WordPress is much cheaper than Contentful. Setting up an account on WordPress is as easy as bundling your web hosting services with a subscription for less than $30/month.

In most cases, app and web developer agencies absorb the cost of a Contentful subscription, which begins at just under $500/month. However, agencies can use a single Contentful account to manage content for scores of websites and mobile apps. For those that manage remote teams of content creators, programmers, and clients, the cost gap between Contentful and WordPress closes rapidly.

But in terms of productivity and flexibility, you get what you pay for with Contentful, which is why it continues to amass positive reviews from stack developers.

Customer Service

Verified users report better customer support from Contentful. Considering the cost, this reality comes as no surprise.

As a general rule, open-source platforms like WordPress only maintain limited customer support options. Most content creators that need assistance partner with WordPress specialists from their web host provider or dig through online forums to find answers to their questions.


An ongoing concern among WordPress users is cybersecurity. Due to the sheer volume of independently-built plugins and themes, there are literally thousands of ways for hackers to breach security protocols. Customers that fail to keep up with software updates are even more susceptible to back-door hacker or malware intrusions. 

Contentful relies on programmers to customize APIs for the final user interface. Developers that use Gatsby, for example, enjoy serverless rendering. These APIs provide static site generators with implied security and significantly fewer attack vectors. In other words, websites using Contentful to manage content in a headless fashion enjoy greater security.

In Conclusion

As a final recap, Contentful is a recent, groundbreaking addition to the headless CMS marketplace. WordPress remains the leader in traditional CMS platforms.

For those that insist on maintaining websites apart from the help of web developers, WordPress is the best option. Users don’t need programming experience to design their website and manage content efficiently.

However, once an organization is ready to take its website to the next level and offer team members greater productivity and flexibility, it will be time to launch a headless CMS platform. Though relatively new, Contentful stands as one of the most intuitive headless solutions for content managers and web developers.