When choosing a website CMS, there isn't a single best solution that fits everyone. Here are the options we choose most often in 2023, with a special focus on their suitability to mainland China.
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.
Contentful has the best content editing experience of any CMS we've worked with, making it easy to recommend to clients. It's also developer-friendly, with well-tested functionality and comprehensive documentation.
We especially like Contentful's handling of multilingual content, which can be customized at a field level and displayed within a single entry.
Being cloud-based means there is no direct access to data, or control over where it is hosted. This is especially a concern in China, where companies may be required to store their data on local servers.
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.
Contentful is also the most expensive CMS we currently work with, with a basic tier at $300 USD/month and custom quotes for enterprise clients.
WordPress is an open source CMS, meaning it is free for commercial use and can be installed on any server. It's the most popular CMS globally, based on number of installations. These points make it easy for agencies to recommend WordPress, and for clients to choose it.
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 website may involve multiple plugins, all created by different developers, which then need to be tested for compatibility with each other.
Maintaining a WordPress website can be challenging. Installing the latest version of WordPress may break existing plugins. Updating any single plugin may lead to issues with others.
By default, WordPress doesn't include any multilingual content capabilities. Though there are plugins for this too, the most popular (Polylang and WPML) are dated and user-unfriendly.
WordPress stores its data in a proprietary format based on posts and metadata, making it challenging to migrate data in or out of WordPress.
Like WordPress, Payload is open source, which means it is free to use and can be self-hosted.
Built with Node + React, Payload's admin panel offers a modern content editing experience that is quick to load, clean, and responsive.
Like Contentful, Payload has built-in multilingual capabilities and field-level customization, though separate entries are required.
Payload is a relatively new CMS. Clients may find it safer to go with a better known option such as WordPress or Contentful.
Payload has fewer features than other CMSes we use, though new features are currently under development.
Deploying Payload requires a host server running Node and MongoDB, which are relatively less common in China.
At Lantern, we have experience working with all of the CMS platforms mentioned above.
While there is no single "best" CMS that we can recommend for everyone, we tend towards the first three (Contentful, WordPress, Payload).
In practice, we work with our clients on each individual project, and make a recommendation based on their specific needs and preferences.