CMS vs Framework vs Decoupled CMS

  • Date Published
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A web development project can be a complicated process. Should you opt for a development framework or a CMS platform.

Undertaking a web development project can be a complicated process. And understandably, many of our clients are overwhelmed by the various technologies, acronyms, and buzzwords involved.

One of the most common areas of confusion is whether to opt for a development framework or a CMS platform.

So let One explain a little about both of these systems to help you to decide which one might work best for you.

What is a Framework?

When we use the term ‘Framework’ we’re usually referring to a Web Application Framework.

Based on coding, the simplest way to explain a framework is to imagine it as a collection of readymade functions or libraries.

Because the developer doesn’t need to create a function (usually called a library set) from scratch, the programmer just needs to set the function in the framework.

Or you can think of it like building a house. You bring together a variety of different materials to construct the whole building.

In a framework, the functions are like those materials – they’re the foundations, wall systems, wiring and outlets that come together to build your site.

Because these elements are pre-made and ready to be integrated, using a development framework makes building your site easier.

At this point you may be wondering whether this is the same as off-the-shelf CMS platforms and how they extend themselves via plugins, modules, or extensions.

Actually it’s quite different.

Just like a modular home comes in pieces and speeds up the process, it still needs finishing and decorating. In this case, the ‘finishing and decorating’ will be customising the site to the end-user’s requirements.

This methodology is how a “custom” CMS can be built on top of a framework. At One, we take the customer requirements and make them a reality by utilising pre-fabricated snippets of code and putting them together to creates custom software, made specifically for you.

To give a more specific example directly related to web development, a developer may utilise a framework such as Laravel, which includes many common use cases for applications built with the PHP language.

When building out the application, the developer won’t have to write code to enable functions such as connecting with a database, handling user sessions or saving files to a server.

As this code already exists, the developer’s job is to tie the functions together and apply them to a display layer, or front-end presentation.

What is a CMS?

A CMS platform is a complete system that can be installed, configured, themed and then, almost immediately after that process is completed, be used to create, edit, and publish web pages. This means they are already completed, assembled code that performs a variety of tasks mostly centred around content management.

These systems all allow for extensibility via the use of software plugins, modules, or extensions, depending on the platform. These third-party pieces of software are designed to be easily installed and integrated with the CMS, enabling website owners to quickly add new features and saving on development time.

So if you needed to add a searchable location map feature to your website, chances are that there already exists a plugin that’s been built and tested, which your agency or developer could configure to your exact requirements.

This is where frameworks and CMS platforms differ. Whereas frameworks are extended via more code, CMS platforms are extended via more software. Open source CMS platforms like WordPress allow developers worldwide to contribute to the community and extend this software, making it more cost-effective than developing bespoke code.

So which system should you go for? To help you decide, we’ve listed some of the pros and cons below.

Framework or CMS: The pros and cons

There are a number of pros and cons associated with each system and you should weigh these depending on your requirements. As an agency One will access your requirements and make recommendations on the platform you should go for.



  • Quick API development
  • More secure
  • Scalable
  • Speed optimisation (preinstalled software, you can do without accessories and plugins that make your website ‘slower’)
  • Wider variety of code bases


  • Quick API development Requires programming knowledge or developers to update website
  • Older versions can cause slower speed
  • Longer development time
  • Can be more expensive



  • Quick deployment (the use of a CMS can dramatically quicken the necessity of development of a site)
  • Easy for the non-technically minded
  • Instant updates (easy for marketing teams to update content)
  • Cheaper (cut down website maintenance expenses, and reliance on external web developers for simple updates of content)


  • Security (because plugins and modules are open source, anyone can develop software for the platform, this can lead to vulnerabilities. To ensure the platform remains secure you should perform updates regularly)
  • Plugins and modules can be limited if you have a specific requirement
  • Can run slower (because of all the plugins installed your developers should be careful to minimise scripts and optimise the website for speed)

There are a number of pros and cons associated with each system and you should weigh these depending on your requirements. As an agency One will access your requirements and make recommendations on the platform you should go for.

There is a third way… introducing the decoupled CMS

However, if you can’t decide between a framework or a CMS, there is another option – a hybrid known as a decoupled CMS.

With a traditional CMS like WordPress or Drupal, users create and edit their content through tools like a WYSIWYG or HTML editor and save it to the back-end database. The CMS then displays the content according to its built-in front-end delivery layer.

However with a decoupled CMS, your content is managed separately and is front-end agnostic. But at the same time, it offers front-end delivery tools, such as templates, should you want to use them.

The difference is that the back-end and front-end are not “coupled” to each other through a database like with a traditional CMS. Instead, the front-end and back-end communicate to each other through calls to an API.

Such a system is useful when the whole of your website doesn’t need to be editable through a CMS. This is what we have used on the One website, where the only content that needs regularly updating is our news, vacancies and case studies.

These sections are plugged into a CMS, whereas the rest of the website works off a framework, allowing us greater flexibility and providing the best of both worlds.

With a deep understanding of the benefits of all the systems available, One will help you choose the right framework or CMS for your business and marketing needs. To find out more and discuss your requirements, please get in touch today.

One last thing – don’t ignore the rest of your website (house)

If a framework or CMS can be compared to the foundations of your website, it’s important you don’t forget all the other elements that make up your website.

Once again, One can help you with this and make building and marketing your website as seamless as possible.