Craft to Contentful

When the right tool for where you’ve been is the wrong tool for where you need to go


Finding the right CMS for your business can be challenging. There are more options than ever, each with unique advantages and challenges. The CMS you chose when your organization was smaller and your needs were less complex, may have worked fine. However, as your business grows, you may find yourself constrained by technology that no longer meets your needs. That’s where we come in. 

Because of our expertise with Craft, we’re often approached by organizations pushing the boundaries of their Craft installations. These companies have reached an inflection point where their once ideally suited content management system is now hampering their team’s ability to grow. 

These organizations face the question, “Should we stay on Craft?”

In these instances, we often lead discussions exploring the pros and cons of remaining on Craft or migrating to cloud-native headless platforms such as Contentful. Like other composable, MACH technologies, Contentful is, by design, a highly adaptable and scalable solution. But is it right for your business?

Here are a few of our talking points from recent conversations:

Experimentation & Personalization

For many companies, experimentation and personalization have long been difficult or costly to implement. Organizations tend to provide “best fit” experiences designed to work generically for the average site visitor. As individuals, we want tailored experiences, experiences that are hyper-personalized for us. As professionals, we compromise and deliver "one to all" experiences that are often hindered by false consensus bias, limit our work's effectiveness, and stifle our attempts at reaching the very business objectives we set out to achieve.

While Craft provides some tools for experimentation and personalization, the simple reality for many is that meaningful traction requires better, easier to adopt Technology. Using Contentful means gaining access to an ecosystem of integrated technologies. With that, we see an opportunity to maximize Time to Value when climbing the first rungs of the personalization and experimentation ladder. 

Thanks to native integrations with platforms like Ninetailed and Amplitude, marketers can define audiences, experiment with A/B testing, create personalized experiences, analyze results, and then iterate directly within Contentful. 

If your organization would see meaningful revenue growth through experimentation or tailored site experiences, now may be a good time to consider leveling up and migrating to a composable content platform such as Contentful.

Interoperability of MarTech Platforms

Many businesses, especially those experiencing rapid growth, find that past technology decisions hamper their ability to grow and adapt. We recently consulted with a SaaS company facing this exact situation.

Their expanding global footprint demanded speed, agility, and scalability – qualities their current Craft implementation struggled to deliver. Craft, while a great CMS, is not built with a focus on seamless third-party integrations.

The business needed the ability to pick the best-fit technology solutions for its current state of growth. Yet, their ability to quickly and seamlessly integrate those technologies with their Craft implementation kept the small marketing team from keeping up with the demands of the business.

In one example, the coupled and non-composable nature of their Craft implementation made it cost-prohibitive to implement the desired combination of Search (Algolia), Personalization (Optimizely), and translation (Smartling) in a reasonably manageable manner. The lack of viable API-first options for integrations between the four platforms meant the implementation was unnecessarily fragile, difficult to maintain, and cumbersome to use.

Localization and Translation

Translation is the process of changing written words from one language to another. In contrast, localization ensures that the experience we deliver to our audience is tailored to their context and culture. 

Direct integrations with Lilt and Acclaro (among others) mean that Craft can provide content editors and translators with efficient translation workflows. Craft’s handling of translated entries means that we have a means of not only translating but also localizing content. 

However, Contentful takes this a step further by providing multiple means of localization, including field-level and entry-level localization. Both of these methods support a cascading fallback feature whereby untranslated content falls back per a pre-defined fallback chain. 

For example, we could have a fallback chain defined as Spanish (US)(es-US) -> Spanish (Mexico)(es-MX) -> Spanish (Spain)(es-ES) -> English (US)(en-US). That means, if U.S. Spanish is unavailable, the user would see Mexican Spanish. If that was unavailable, they would see Spanish from Spain, and finally English. 

While this chain may seem complicated to some, localized experiences positively influence consumer’s user experience and, ultimately, their buying decisions. A CSA Research report found that organizations failing to localize the buying experience risk losing 40% or more of the total addressable market. 

Contentful and the broader MACH ecosystem allow organizations to efficiently and effectively handle localization and translation at scale.

Content Editing Experience

When advising organizations, we’re often asked to address the publishing experience of designers and marketers. It’s true that Craft's content publishing experience shines relative to many comparable content management systems and the first iteration of headless platforms, but how does Craft stack up to modern visual CMSes and experience builders?

Contentful represents a paradigm shift in content management and delivery, so their content-centered approach to modeling and publishing can feel at odds with those of us who have spent years publishing content from a page-centric perspective.

The rise of drag-and-drop visual editors has empowered marketing teams to build sites with less reliance on developers, but often with great technical restriction. 

Contentful solves both sides of this challenge with Contentful Studio. Contentful Studio is a tool that allows digital teams to visually assemble experiences at scale while maintaining a well-thought-out content model and headless API that supports content reuse and modern content delivery. 

Additionally, the use of a design system and design tokens (pre-set fonts, colors, etc.) within Contentful Studio provides a necessary balance of flexibility and adherence. It gives teams what they need to do their best work while preventing them from veering off brand. In the words of Contentful, "Companies that adopt both structured content and a mature design system can move faster at scale without sacrificing quality or consistency." Add to that a visual editor integrated with underlying structured content and a managed design system and your digital team is poised to run at an unencumbered and unparalleled pace.

We'll dive deeper into this topic in a future post.

Developer Pool and Capabilities

We've encountered numerous Craft sites built as though they were an insurmountable challenge to solve, with solutions reminiscent of a late 80s MacGyver episode. (If the reference is unfamiliar, MacGyver was known for his ability to solve complex problems with everyday items like bubblegum and paper clips.) 

Many of our discovery calls start with marketing leaders describing how their Craft site is intricate and unconventional. They share with us the unique solutions their prior agency or in-house team devised to overcome these challenges and ask us how we can simplify their site(s) while solving performance issues, layering in testing, improving design systems, and generally making the site more reliable and easier to improve. In short, these marketers come to us struggling with difficult-to-maintain sites and growing maintenance costs that limit the marketer's effectiveness in their role.  

It would be unfair to pin the state of these sites entirely on Craft itself, though I think there are two reasons worth noting in the context of this blog post. I briefly covered one of the reasons in the opening "Technical Compatibility to Meet Business Objectives" section—namely, that we're perhaps overreaching as we push the boundaries of Craft.

Secondly, Stack Overflow's "2023 Developer Survey" and Blue State's "CMS trends: looking beyond PHP" note what may be an important trend – developers prefer to work with non-PHP-based CMSes. We've seen this in our own experience. 

With Craft job posts, applicants trickle in, and only a tiny fraction of those developers have the true full-stack chops necessary to fulfill the total project requirements. Post a React job, and candidates seem to roll in like water at the mouth of a mighty river. Are all of those candidates qualified? Absolutely not. Does the candidate pool's size matter when finding the talent to run business-critical projects? Absolutely. 

That is perhaps where the challenging truth lies for an organization weighing Craft vs. Contentful. Because Contentful is a managed headless solution requiring a decoupled front-end that typically delivers through developer-friendly platforms like Netlify, it is actually easier to find the necessary talent to build a high-performing site. As you think about your site's longevity and ability to adapt with you over time, this will be an important factor to consider.

Food for Thought

Craft is a very effective CMS solution that works well for many organizations. That being said, growing organizations, those looking to scale rapidly and build for the future, should strongly consider a move to a composable offering, such as Contentful. Not sure where you stand? Send us a message! We can assess your current solution and recommend the best product to help your business grow.

Great things start with a conversation

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