Gatsby vs. Middleman: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Powerful CMS Platforms

Gatsby vs. Middleman: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Powerful CMS Platforms


Choosing the right Content Management System (CMS) for your organization is a crucial decision that can significantly impact your digital presence. In this comparison guide, we will analyze and compare two popular CMS platforms: Gatsby and Middleman. Both Gatsby and Middleman offer powerful features and capabilities, but they differ in various aspects such as design, user experience, content management, collaboration, performance, customization, SEO, security, migration, and support. By understanding the key differences between these CMS platforms, you will be able to make an informed decision that aligns with your organization's requirements and goals.

Foundations of CMS

Gatsby is a modern CMS built on React, a popular JavaScript library. It follows a static site generator architecture, which means it generates HTML, CSS, and JavaScript during the build process and serves static assets to the client. This approach allows for blazing fast performance, improved security, and better search engine optimization (SEO). On the other hand, Middleman is a Ruby-based CMS that also follows the static site generator model. It leverages the power of Ruby and numerous plugins to provide a flexible and extensible CMS solution.

Both Gatsby and Middleman have their pros and cons when it comes to foundational technologies. If your team has experience with React, Gatsby would be a natural choice. On the other hand, if you prefer Ruby and a vast plugin ecosystem, Middleman might be the better fit. It's important to evaluate your team's skill sets, development preferences, and long-term goals before making a decision.

In terms of community support and documentation, Gatsby has gained tremendous popularity in recent years, thanks to its vibrant community and extensive learning resources. Middleman, although not as widely popular as Gatsby, still boasts a dedicated community that actively contributes to its development and maintenance. Ultimately, both CMS platforms have a strong foundation that can power robust and efficient websites.

In the next sections, we will explore the specific features and functionalities of Gatsby and Middleman to help you gain a comprehensive understanding of their capabilities.

Design & User Experience

Design and user experience play crucial roles in engaging visitors and creating a positive impression. Gatsby provides an intuitive and modern approach to design with its wide range of starter themes and design frameworks. It also offers a vast collection of plugins that enable you to add animations, responsive components, and other interactive elements to enhance the user experience.

Middleman, on the other hand, provides flexibility in terms of design freedom. As a Ruby-based CMS, Middleman allows you to leverage existing Ruby gems and frameworks to create custom designs. With Middleman, you have complete control over the front-end development process, making it an ideal choice for organizations with unique design requirements.

Both Gatsby and Middleman support responsive design, enabling your website to adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes and devices. This is especially important, considering the increasing number of users accessing websites through mobile devices. Additionally, Gatsby and Middleman offer easy-to-use workflows and build processes that streamline the design and development phases, facilitating collaboration among team members.

In terms of user experience, Gatsby's static site generation approach ensures lightning-fast page load times, resulting in an excellent user experience. It leverages the power of React to provide interactive and responsive UI components, allowing for a seamless browsing experience. Middleman also offers efficient rendering performance, but it may not match Gatsby's level of interactivity out-of-the-box. However, Middleman's customizability allows you to implement tailored solutions to meet specific user experience requirements.

Content Management

A primary function of a CMS is to facilitate content creation, organization, and publishing. Gatsby provides a user-friendly content authoring experience through its rich text editor integration. With plugins like Netlify CMS or Contentful, you can easily manage and publish content, define custom content types, and collaborate with team members. The content is stored in a headless CMS, separate from the presentation layer, providing flexibility and decoupling of content from the website architecture.

Middleman offers content management capabilities through the use of static data files, which are written in various formats such as Markdown, YAML, or JSON. It allows you to structure your content using templates and build complex layouts easily. Middleman's simplicity and flexibility enable developers to create content-rich websites efficiently.

Both Gatsby and Middleman support content localization, allowing you to create websites in multiple languages. They provide internationalization plugins or integrated features to manage translated content and deliver a personalized experience to global audiences. Content versioning and revision history are other useful features available in both CMS platforms, enabling content editors to track changes, revert to previous versions, and collaborate effectively.

It's important to consider your organization's content authoring and editorial needs when deciding between Gatsby and Middleman. The choice will depend on factors such as the complexity of content types, editorial workflow requirements, and integration with other systems.

Collaboration & User Management

Efficient collaboration and user management features are essential for organizations with multiple content contributors and editors. Gatsby offers various options for user management, including integrating with popular headless CMS platforms like Contentful, Sanity, or Strapi. These platforms provide comprehensive user management features, allowing you to define user roles, assign permissions, and manage access to different parts of the CMS.

Middleman, being a static site generator, does not have built-in user management features. However, you can leverage third-party services or develop custom solutions to meet your collaboration and user management requirements. Organizations with small teams or simpler collaboration needs may find Middleman's flexibility suitable for their needs.

In terms of version control, Gatsby integrates well with popular Git-based services like GitHub or GitLab, enabling you to track changes and manage content revisions effectively. Middleman, as a static site generator, can also be easily integrated with version control systems, providing similar benefits.

Both Gatsby and Middleman offer features that support efficient collaboration and versioning. The choice between them ultimately depends on your organization's specific collaboration needs and the extent to which built-in user management features are required.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

Gatsby's static site generation approach inherently provides fast-loading pages, boosting website performance. With Gatsby, you can implement performance optimization techniques such as code splitting, lazy loading, and image optimization to further enhance the user experience. Gatsby also supports server-side rendering for dynamic content, ensuring search engines can crawl and index your website effectively.

Middleman, being a static site generator as well, shares many performance benefits with Gatsby. It generates a straightforward HTML, CSS, and JavaScript output that can be efficiently cached and delivered to users. However, Middleman may not offer the same level of optimization features and SEO capabilities compared to Gatsby, which may impact scalability and performance for complex websites.

Both Gatsby and Middleman can be hosted on a variety of platforms, including traditional web hosting, cloud platforms, or static site hosting services. Gatsby, in particular, has excellent integration with hosting services like Netlify, allowing for easy deployment, scaling, and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) workflows.

Scalability is a crucial consideration for organizations anticipating significant traffic growth or planning to handle large amounts of content. Gatsby's static site generation allows your website to easily scale and handle high volumes of traffic without compromising performance. Middleman can also scale well, but may require additional configurations and optimizations to maintain optimal performance.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Customization and extensibility are important factors to consider when choosing a CMS, as they allow you to tailor the platform to your specific needs. Gatsby provides a vast ecosystem of plugins and themes that enable you to extend its functionality and customize your website. Whether you want to add e-commerce functionality, implement contact forms, integrate analytics tools, or enhance SEO, Gatsby's plugin ecosystem offers a wide range of options.

Middleman also offers extensive customization capabilities through its wide selection of Ruby gems and plugins. As a developer-friendly platform, Middleman allows you to leverage existing Ruby libraries and frameworks to build custom features and integrations. This flexibility can be a significant advantage, especially if you have unique requirements or specific technology preferences.

Both Gatsby and Middleman offer excellent documentation and community support. Gatsby's popularity has resulted in a more extensive ecosystem, which means you may find more pre-built solutions and community-contributed plugins. However, Middleman's smaller but dedicated community still offers valuable resources and active support.

Ultimately, the choice between Gatsby and Middleman in terms of customization and extensions will depend on your organization's specific requirements, available resources, and development preferences. Taking these factors into consideration will help ensure that you can create a website that meets your needs while maintaining a high level of flexibility and extensibility.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), marketing, and monetization capabilities are essential for organizations looking to drive traffic, increase visibility, and generate revenue from their websites. Gatsby's static site generation architecture, coupled with its built-in SEO plugins and capabilities, ensures that your website is optimized for search engines. The fast page load times, clean HTML structure, and easy integration with marketing tools make Gatsby an excellent choice for SEO and marketing-focused websites.

Middleman also provides SEO-friendly features and allows you to optimize your website for search engines. However, compared to Gatsby, Middleman may require more manual effort to implement certain SEO features. It's worth noting that both CMS platforms can integrate with popular marketing and analytics tools, giving you the ability to track website performance, analyze user behavior, and make data-driven marketing decisions.

When it comes to monetization, Gatsby and Middleman offer flexible options. You can easily integrate e-commerce functionalities, advertising platforms, or subscription models with both CMS platforms. Gatsby's extensive plugin ecosystem provides various solutions for e-commerce integrations, while Middleman allows for custom-built monetization strategies.

In summary, Gatsby and Middleman offer solid SEO, marketing, and monetization capabilities. Gatsby's robust SEO features and seamless integration with marketing tools make it a compelling choice for organizations with a strong focus on optimization and marketing. Middleman, though may require more manual setup, still provides sufficient capabilities to achieve similar goals.

Security & Compliance

Ensuring the security and compliance of your website and its data is of utmost importance. Gatsby, being a static site generator, inherently provides increased security compared to dynamic CMS platforms. The absence of server-side code reduces the attack surface, and the use of pre-rendered static files minimizes the risk of server-based vulnerabilities. Gatsby also follows best security practices and receives regular security updates, adding an additional layer of protection.

Similarly, Middleman's static site generation approach offers enhanced security compared to traditional CMS platforms. However, it's crucial to ensure that you follow established security practices and keep the underlying libraries and dependencies up to date.

Both Gatsby and Middleman can be hosted on secure platforms, giving you peace of mind when it comes to compliance and data protection. Whether you choose traditional web hosting, cloud platforms, or static site hosting services, make sure to select providers with robust security measures, data encryption, and compliance certifications.

While Gatsby and Middleman offer solid security foundations, it's important to note that the security of your website ultimately depends on various factors including the hosting environment, your implementation of security measures, and ongoing maintenance.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Smooth migration, reliable support, and easy maintenance are essential factors to consider when adopting a new CMS. Gatsby provides extensive documentation and a large community, making it easier to find answers to your questions and troubleshoot potential issues. The Gatsby team actively maintains the CMS, releases regular updates, and provides long-term support.

Middleman, although not as widely popular as Gatsby, still has an active community that contributes to its development and maintenance. While the support and resources may be comparatively smaller, they are still valuable for organizations using or considering Middleman as their CMS.

When it comes to migration, Gatsby offers plugins or migration tools for importing content from various sources, including other CMS platforms. This simplifies the migration process and allows you to leverage your legacy content effectively. Middleman, being primarily file-based, may require a different approach to migration, depending on your current content storage and structure.

In terms of maintenance, Gatsby's automatic build process and code optimization features reduce the need for frequent manual intervention. However, regular security updates, plugin updates, and content updates are crucial to maintaining a secure and up-to-date website. Middleman's maintenance requirements are similarly straightforward, with the need for periodic content updates, maintenance of Ruby libraries, and dependency management.

Ultimately, considering migration, support, and maintenance as part of your evaluation process will help you understand the level of long-term commitment required for each CMS platform and align with your organization's capabilities and resources.


Choosing the right CMS for your organization is no easy task, but a thorough understanding of its features and capabilities can make the decision-making process more manageable. In this comparison guide, we explored the foundations, design, user experience, content management, collaboration, performance, customization, SEO, security, migration, support, and maintenance aspects of Gatsby and Middleman.

Gatsby offers a modern, React-based CMS approach with excellent performance, extensive customization options, and a vibrant ecosystem. Its static site generation architecture ensures fast page load times and enhanced security. Gatsby's user-friendly content management, collaboration, and marketing capabilities make it an ideal choice for organizations focused on scalability and digital experiences.

Middleman, on the other hand, provides flexibility and extensibility through the use of Ruby gems and plugins. It offers simplicity, control over design, and efficient content management. Middleman suits organizations with unique design requirements or development teams with expertise in Ruby and offers solid SEO, marketing, and monetization capabilities.

Ultimately, the choice between Gatsby and Middleman will depend on your organization's specific requirements, skill sets, and long-term goals. It is advised to assess your team's familiarity with JavaScript or Ruby, design preferences, content management needs, collaboration requirements, performance expectations, customization needs, SEO and marketing priorities, security and compliance considerations, and migration, support, and maintenance capabilities before making a decision.

By carefully evaluating these factors and considering the unique aspects of Gatsby and Middleman, you can choose a CMS that aligns with your organization's vision and empowers you to deliver exceptional digital experiences to your audience.


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.