Contao vs. Pelican: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Powerful Content Management Systems

Contao vs. Pelican: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Powerful Content Management Systems


Welcome to this comprehensive comparison guide between Contao and Pelican - two popular content management systems (CMS). As digital leaders and decision-makers, you understand the importance of selecting the right CMS for your organization. In this guide, we will dive into the features and functionalities of Contao and Pelican to help you make an informed decision.

Contao, also known as Typolight, is a powerful open-source CMS that focuses on flexibility, usability, and security. On the other hand, Pelican is a static site generator that simplifies the process of creating and managing a website using plain text files. Both CMS have their own strengths and weaknesses, so let's explore them in more detail to understand which one might be the best fit for your organization.

Foundations of CMS

When it comes to the foundations of a CMS, Contao and Pelican differ in their approach. Contao is a database-driven CMS, meaning that it stores all content and configuration in a database. This allows for dynamic content generation, easy content updates, and user-friendly administration. Pelican, on the other hand, is a static site generator which means it generates HTML files that can be deployed to a web server. This approach offers security benefits, easier version control, and exceptional performance.

Contao's database-driven approach enables advanced features such as dynamic page caching, search functionality, and user management. It provides users with a traditional CMS experience that supports dynamic content generation, while Pelican's static site generator approach offers simplicity, speed, and the ability to host websites in any environment without the need for complex server configurations.

It's important to consider your organization's specific needs and goals when evaluating the foundations of Contao and Pelican.

In the next section, we will explore the Design & User Experience of both CMS.

Design & User Experience

Design and user experience (UX) are crucial factors when selecting a CMS. Contao offers a variety of pre-designed templates and themes that can be easily customized to match your organization's branding. Its intuitive interface allows users to manage and organize content efficiently. Contao also supports responsive design, ensuring that your website looks great on any device.

Pelican, being a static site generator, provides complete flexibility when it comes to design. It allows users to create their own templates using HTML, CSS, and Jinja templating. While this provides more control over the design, it may require additional technical expertise to create and modify templates. However, Pelican also supports themes that can be customized to suit your needs.

Both CMS prioritize user experience, but Contao offers a more user-friendly interface out-of-the-box, while Pelican's flexibility allows for more customization possibilities. Consider whether ease of use or design flexibility is more important for your organization's website.

Now, let's explore the Content Management capabilities of Contao and Pelican.

Content Management

A robust content management system is essential for efficient content creation and organization. Contao provides a comprehensive set of features for content management. It offers a structured content model, allowing you to create custom content types and define relationships between them. Contao's WYSIWYG editor enables users to create and format content easily. It also supports media management, version control, and content scheduling.

Pelican, as a static site generator, has a simpler content management approach. Content is organized into plain text files, and the use of Markdown syntax makes it easy to create and format content. However, Pelican does not offer a built-in editor or media management capabilities out-of-the-box. This means that content creation and organization might require more technical expertise, but it also allows for easy version control using tools like Git.

Consider your organization's content management needs and the technical expertise of your team when evaluating the content management capabilities of Contao and Pelican.

In the next section, we will delve into Collaboration & User Management features.

Collaboration & User Management

Collaboration and user management features play a crucial role, especially if your organization requires multiple users to contribute and manage content. Contao offers advanced collaboration capabilities, allowing multiple users to work simultaneously on different pages and sections of the website. It provides user permission levels, making it easy to assign different roles and responsibilities to team members. Contao also includes workflow management, which enables content creators to submit their work for review and approval.

Pelican, being a static site generator, does not provide built-in collaboration features. However, collaboration can still be achieved by utilizing version control systems like Git, which allows team members to work on different branches and merge changes. User management can be implemented by integrating Pelican with user authentication systems.

If collaboration and user management are critical for your organization, Contao's built-in features may be the better choice. However, Pelican's integration with version control offers flexibility and control over content changes, making it suitable for smaller teams or organizations with technical expertise.

Next, we will dive into Performance, Scalability, & Hosting considerations.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

Performance, scalability, and hosting are important aspects to consider when selecting a CMS, as they directly impact the user experience and accessibility of your website. Contao, being a database-driven CMS, relies on server-side processing to generate dynamic content. This can result in slightly slower page load times compared to static site generators like Pelican.

Pelican, as a static site generator, generates HTML files that can be served directly without the need for server-side processing, resulting in faster page load times. It also reduces the risk of downtime or performance issues during high traffic periods. Additionally, static sites are easily scalable as they can be served from content delivery networks (CDNs) globally.

When it comes to hosting, Contao can be hosted on any server that supports the required dependencies, such as PHP and MySQL. Pelican generates static files that can be hosted on any web server or CDN. This provides flexibility in choosing hosting providers and environments.

If performance and scalability are paramount for your organization, Pelican's static site generation approach might be more suitable. However, if you require dynamic content and more traditional hosting options, Contao can still provide a solid solution.

The next section will focus on Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Customization, extensions, and a thriving ecosystem are crucial for ensuring that you can tailor your CMS to your organization's unique needs. Contao provides a vast array of pre-designed templates and themes that can be easily customized to match your branding. It also has a wide range of extensions available, allowing you to enhance the functionality of your website.

Pelican offers great customization possibilities as it allows users to create their own templates using HTML, CSS, and Jinja templating. It also provides a range of themes that can be customized. However, the ecosystem and availability of extensions for Pelican are relatively limited compared to more popular CMS platforms.

If customization and a wide variety of extensions are important to your organization, Contao's ecosystem is likely a better fit. However, if you have the technical expertise and prefer the flexibility of creating your own templates and themes, Pelican might be a viable option.

The next section will focus on SEO, Marketing, & Monetization features.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

SEO, marketing, and monetization capabilities are crucial for organizations that rely on their website to attract visitors and generate revenue. Contao provides built-in SEO features such as customizable meta tags, clean URLs, and XML sitemaps. It also integrates with popular marketing tools and supports integration with advertising platforms for monetization purposes.

Pelican, being a static site generator, does not provide built-in SEO or marketing features. However, since static sites are inherently fast and lightweight, they can contribute positively to SEO efforts. Pelican can be integrated with third-party tools and services to enable SEO and marketing functionalities.

If SEO, marketing, and monetization are significant factors for your organization, Contao's built-in features and integrations provide a more comprehensive solution. However, if you have the resources and expertise to integrate third-party tools, Pelican's performance benefits may outweigh the lack of native features.

Let's now explore the Security & Compliance aspects of Contao and Pelican.

Security & Compliance

Security and compliance are essential considerations, particularly for organizations dealing with sensitive data or operating in regulated industries. Contao takes security seriously and regularly releases updates to address any vulnerabilities. It also provides robust user permission management and supports secure SSL/TLS connections. However, as with any CMS, proper configuration and maintenance are crucial to ensure optimal security.

Pelican, as a static site generator, has inherent security benefits. Since there is no server-side processing or database connectivity, the attack surface is significantly reduced. However, it's essential to ensure the security of the server or hosting environment where the generated static files are hosted.

For organizations with strict compliance requirements or a focus on security, Contao's comprehensive security features and regular updates may be preferred. However, if minimizing the attack surface and simplifying compliance requirements is a priority, Pelican's static site generation approach can be an advantage.

The final section will cover Migration, Support, & Maintenance considerations.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Migration, ongoing support, and maintenance are important considerations to ensure a smooth transition and continued functionality of your CMS. Contao provides a robust migration tool that simplifies the process of transferring content from other CMS platforms. It also has a large and active community, offering support through forums, documentation, and a marketplace for professional services.

Pelican, being a static site generator, does not have built-in migration tools since it requires content to be in plain text files. However, migration can be achieved by converting content into the required format. Pelican's community and support options are relatively smaller compared to more established CMS platforms, but support is available through documentation, forums, and online communities.

If migration, ongoing support, and a large community are crucial considerations, Contao's mature ecosystem provides a stronger foundation. Alternatively, if you have technical expertise and prefer a lightweight CMS that requires minimal ongoing maintenance, Pelican can be a viable option.


In conclusion, both Contao and Pelican offer unique features and approaches to content management. Contao provides a traditional database-driven CMS experience with a strong focus on usability, design, and a robust feature set. It is ideal for organizations that require dynamic content generation, advanced collaboration features, and a comprehensive ecosystem. On the other hand, Pelican's static site generator approach offers simplicity, speed, and security benefits. It is suitable for organizations with technical expertise, smaller teams, or those that prioritize performance and scalability.

Ultimately, the choice between Contao and Pelican will depend on your organization's specific needs, goals, and available resources. Assessing factors such as the desired level of customization, collaboration requirements, performance, SEO, and security will help guide you towards the CMS that best aligns with your organization's objectives. Consider conducting trials and seeking feedback from internal stakeholders to make an informed decision. Remember, a well-selected CMS can be the foundation of a successful digital presence for your organization.


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.