CMS Options and Recommendations

May 17, 2023

When choosing a website CMS, there isn't a single best solution that fits everyone. Here are the options we choose most often, with a special focus on their suitability to mainland China.


Commercial, cloud-based, enterprise-level


Contentful is a commercial cloud-based CMS. This means that hosting, maintenance, security, and support are all provided by Contentful as part of the service.

It offers clients an excellent content editing experience for clients, and is also developer-friendly, boasting well-tested functionality and comprehensive documentation.

Contentful excels in handling multilingual content, allowing for customization at a field level within a single entry.


Cloud-based infrastructure means no direct data access or control over hosting locations, which can be problematic in China.

Contentful loads slowly in China, as it is hosted on their international CDN, though this can be mitigated on the user side through static site generation.

It is the priciest option we work with, starting at $300 USD/month for the basic tier, with custom pricing for enterprise clients.


Open source, established and popular


WordPress is an open source CMS, meaning it is free for commercial use and can be installed on any server. It is the most popular CMS globally, based on number of installations. These points lead many clients to believe WordPress is the best option for them.

While core WordPress is fairly minimal, its functionality can be extended through the use of plugins, or add-on programs.

WordPress runs on PHP and MySQL, making it compatible with most server specifications in China, and relatively easy to deploy.


A typical WordPress setup may involve multiple plugins from different developers, requiring thorough compatibility testing. Maintaining a WordPress website can be complex, with updates potentially causing conflicts between plugins.

WordPress lacks built-in multilingual capabilities, necessitating the use of plugins which may not offer optimal user experiences.

WordPress stores its data in a proprietary format based on posts and metadata, making it challenging to migrate data in or out of WordPress.


Open Source, modern, developer-friendly


Like WordPress, Payload is open source, which means it is free to use and can be self-hosted.

Its admin panel, built with Node + React, provides a modern, responsive content editing experience.

Developing with Payload is intuitive, with schema configuration provided in JavaScript, enhancing development speed and transparency.

Like Contentful, Payload supports multilingual content with field-level customization.


As a relatively new CMS, clients may be drawn towards more established options like WordPress or Contentful.

Payload offers fewer features compared to other CMS platforms, though new features are in development.

Deploying Payload requires a host server running Node and MongoDB, which are less common in China.

More Options

  • Decap CMS (previously Netlify CMS) is a file-based CMS which tracks all changes in Github, ideal for small sites with a simple structure.
  • Strapi is the most popular open source JavaScript CMS, with more features than Payload but a less-polished overall experience.
  • Directus is another open source JavaScript CMS, capable of being added as a layer over an existing database such as MySQL.
  • Prismic is a commercial cloud CMS similar to Contentful, with fewer features but a lower price.


At Lantern, we have experience working with all of the CMS platforms mentioned above.

While there is no "best" CMS that we recommend for everyone, we tend towards Payload, WordPress, and Contentful.

In practice, we work with our clients on each individual project, and make a recommendation based on their specific needs and preferences.