Contao vs. Middleman: A Comprehensive Comparison of CMS Platforms

Contao vs. Middleman: A Comprehensive Comparison of CMS Platforms


Welcome to our comprehensive comparison guide between Contao and Middleman, two popular content management systems (CMS) that cater to the needs of digital leaders and decision-makers. In this guide, we will explore the features and capabilities of both CMS platforms, helping you make an informed choice for your organization. Whether you prioritize user experience, content management, customization, or other factors, we have got you covered. Let's dive in and discover which CMS is the right fit for your organization's needs.

Foundations of CMS

Both Contao and Middleman have different foundational approaches to content management. Contao, a full-fledged CMS, provides a comprehensive set of features out of the box. It offers a user-friendly interface, intuitive navigation, and robust content management capabilities.

On the other hand, Middleman follows a static site generator approach. It generates static HTML files, enhancing performance and security. Middleman is ideal for organizations that prioritize fast-loading websites and simpler workflows. However, it may require technical expertise for customization and advanced functionality.

Understanding the foundational differences between the two CMS will help you determine which approach aligns better with your organization's goals and requirements.

Contao: Full-fledged CMS with a user-friendly interface and comprehensive features.

Middleman: Static site generator that generates static HTML files for enhanced performance and security.

Design & User Experience

When it comes to design and user experience, both Contao and Middleman offer compelling features. Contao provides a wide range of customizable templates and themes, allowing you to create visually appealing websites without the need for extensive coding knowledge. The built-in layout editor and drag-and-drop functionality make it easy to manage and arrange your content.

In contrast, Middleman relies on HTML and CSS, offering full control over the design process. This flexibility allows you to create unique and customized websites tailored to your organization's brand. However, it requires technical expertise or a dedicated team to handle the design and development aspects.

Ultimately, the choice between Contao and Middleman for design and user experience depends on your organization's approach, resources, and the level of control you require over the design process.

Contao: Provides customizable templates, drag-and-drop functionality, and a user-friendly layout editor.

Middleman: Offers full control over the design process, requiring HTML and CSS knowledge.

Content Management

Effective content management is key for organizations to efficiently create, update, and publish their content. Contao excels in this area, offering a user-friendly editor with a variety of content elements, including text, images, videos, and files. Its intuitive media manager allows you to organize and manage your assets seamlessly. With Contao, you can also create workflows and assign specific roles and permissions to different users, ensuring smooth collaboration.

On the other hand, Middleman, as a static site generator, doesn't have a built-in content management system. Content needs to be managed locally, outside of the CMS. While this may provide flexibility for developers, it can be challenging for non-technical users who prefer a more streamlined content workflow.

If efficient content management and collaboration are essential for your organization, Contao's comprehensive content management features might be the better fit.

Contao: Provides a user-friendly editor, media manager, workflows, and role-based permissions.

Middleman: Requires manual content management outside of the CMS.

Collaboration & User Management

Efficient collaboration and user management are vital for organizations with multiple team members involved in the content creation process. Contao offers built-in collaboration features, allowing you to assign roles and permissions to different users. This makes it easy to manage content contributors, editors, and administrators, ensuring a smooth workflow.

In Middleman, collaboration and user management need to be handled independently. While this allows for more flexibility in choosing the tools that best suit your organization's preferences, it can also lead to additional integration complexities and administrative overheads.

If streamlined collaboration and user management are a priority for your organization, Contao's built-in features can save you time and effort in managing different user roles and permissions.

Contao: Provides built-in collaboration features with role-based permissions.

Middleman: Collaborative and user management need to be handled independently.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

Performance and scalability are crucial factors to consider when choosing a CMS. Contao, being a full-fledged CMS, provides features and caching mechanisms that can impact performance. However, with proper optimization and cache management, Contao can deliver fast-loading pages.

On the other hand, Middleman generates static HTML files, which inherently results in faster page load times. This approach makes Middleman highly performant and suitable for organizations that prioritize speed and efficiency. Additionally, Middleman scales well, as it can handle high traffic without server resource limitations.

Regarding hosting, Contao works with a wide range of hosting providers and environments, offering flexibility. Middleman, being a static site generator, can be hosted on various platforms, including traditional web hosting, content delivery networks (CDNs), and even cloud storage services.

If performance, scalability, and hosting options are critical for your organization, Middleman's static site generation approach might be the better choice.

Contao: Requires optimization for performance but offers flexible hosting options.

Middleman: Generates static HTML files for faster page load times, scales well, and can be hosted on various platforms.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

The ability to customize and extend CMS functionality according to your organization's needs is essential. Contao provides an extensive set of customizable templates and themes, allowing you to create unique designs. It also has a rich ecosystem of both official and community-developed extensions, providing additional functionality and integration options.

Middleman, being a static site generator that relies on HTML and CSS, offers limitless customization possibilities. You can create and modify templates and styles to fit your specific requirements. However, compared to Contao, Middleman's ecosystem of extensions and plugins is not as extensive.

If extensive customization and a wide variety of pre-built extensions are crucial for your organization, Contao's ecosystem might be more suitable. However, if you prefer the flexibility of customizing every aspect of your website's design and functionality, Middleman provides the freedom to do so.

Contao: Provides customizable templates, themes, and a rich ecosystem of extensions.

Middleman: Offers unlimited customization possibilities but has a smaller ecosystem of extensions and plugins.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

Ensuring your website reaches its target audience, supports marketing efforts, and offers monetization opportunities is essential. Contao has built-in features to optimize your website for search engines, such as customizable meta tags, URL structures, and sitemaps. It also integrates with various marketing tools and analytics platforms, allowing you to track and measure your website's performance.

Due to its static nature, Middleman also performs well in terms of SEO. By generating static HTML files, Middleman enables search engine crawlers to easily index your website. However, it might lack some of the out-of-the-box SEO features offered by Contao.

In terms of monetization, both CMS platforms support integrating advertisements and e-commerce functionalities. Contao offers more pre-built features and extensions for e-commerce, while Middleman would require additional development work.

If robust SEO and marketing features, as well as extensive e-commerce capabilities, are important for your organization's website, Contao might be the more suitable choice.

Contao: Offers built-in SEO features, integrations with marketing tools, and comprehensive e-commerce capabilities.

Middleman: Performs well in terms of SEO but requires additional development for advanced monetization features.

Security & Compliance

Ensuring the security and compliance of your organization's website is of utmost importance. Both Contao and Middleman provide solid security foundations with regular updates and a community-driven approach.

Contao's full-fledged CMS approach offers features like user and permission management, logging, and secure authentication mechanisms. It also has a dedicated security team that actively monitors and addresses any vulnerabilities.

As a static site generator, Middleman's security largely depends on the hosting environment and deployment practices. Since it generates static files, the attack surface is reduced, decreasing the potential for security vulnerabilities. However, it still requires proper security measures to protect your website and data.

If your organization requires extensive security features, a dedicated security team, and compliance with specific regulations, Contao's comprehensive security capabilities might be more appropriate.

Contao: Offers built-in security features, a dedicated security team, and compliance-friendly options.

Middleman: Relies on hosting environment and deployment practices for security.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Migrating to a new CMS, receiving support, and managing maintenance tasks are important aspects to consider for any CMS implementation. Contao provides resources and documentation to facilitate the migration process, allowing you to import your existing content and manage the transition efficiently. It also offers a supportive community and professional support services.

Middleman, being a static site generator, requires more manual effort for migration. Content needs to be migrated separately, and the development team might need to adapt to the static site generation workflow. Middleman has an active community that provides support, but professional support services might be limited compared to a full-fledged CMS like Contao.

In terms of maintenance, Contao's feature-rich CMS requires regular updates, ensuring the platform remains secure and up to date. Middleman's static site generation nature makes maintenance simpler as you only need to update dependencies and republish the static files.

If seamless migration, extensive support options, and simplified maintenance are essential for your organization, Contao's CMS offers more comprehensive solutions. However, if you have a development team experienced in static site generators and prefer a simpler maintenance workflow, Middleman can be a viable option.

Contao: Provides resources for migration, a supportive community, and extensive support options.

Middleman: Requires more manual effort for migration, has an active community, and offers simplified maintenance.


After a detailed exploration of Contao and Middleman, we hope you now have a clearer understanding of the features and capabilities of these two popular CMS platforms.

If you prioritize a full-fledged CMS with robust content management features, user-friendly design options, and extensive ecosystem support, Contao might be the ideal choice for your organization.

On the other hand, if you value performance, security, and flexibility in terms of design and customization, Middleman's static site generation approach may fit your organization's needs better.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your organization's goals, requirements, and technical expertise. We recommend carefully evaluating each aspect discussed in this guide to make an informed decision that aligns with your organization's priorities.

Choose wisely, and may your CMS selection lead to the success and growth of your organization's digital presence!


Martin Dejnicki
Martin Dejnicki

Martin is a digital product innovator and pioneer who built and optimized his first website back in 1996 when he was 16 years old. Since then, he has helped many companies win in the digital space, including Walmart, IBM, Rogers, Canada Post, TMX Group and TD Securities. Recently, he worked with the Deploi team to build an elegant publishing platform for creative writers and a novel algorithmic trading platform.