Gatsby vs. Refinery CMS: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide

Gatsby vs. Refinery CMS: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide


Welcome, digital leaders and decision-makers, to this comprehensive comparison guide of Gatsby and Refinery CMS. Choosing the right Content Management System (CMS) is crucial for your organization as it plays a vital role in managing your website's content and user experience. In this guide, we will delve deep into the features, strengths, and weaknesses of Gatsby and Refinery CMS, helping you make an informed decision for your organization's needs. So, let's explore these two popular CMS options together.

Foundations of CMS

Gatsby is a modern CMS that is built on top of React, a popular JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It utilizes GraphQL, a powerful query language, to retrieve data and build static websites. Gatsby's foundation allows for fast and efficient website generation, making it a popular choice for developers who value performance and scalability.

On the other hand, Refinery CMS is a Ruby on Rails-based CMS that focuses on simplicity and ease of use. It follows the convention over configuration principle, providing developers with a solid framework to build websites quickly. Refinery CMS is known for its intuitive admin interface and straightforward approach to content management.

Both CMS options have strong foundations, but their approaches differ. Gatsby's emphasis on modern technologies and static website generation appeals to developers seeking optimal performance, while Refinery CMS's simplicity and ease of use make it a reliable choice for organizations looking for a straightforward content management solution.

Is your organization looking for a modern CMS that prioritizes performance or a simple and user-friendly CMS? Understanding your requirements will help you determine which foundation aligns best with your organization's needs.

Design & User Experience

When it comes to design and user experience, Gatsby shines with its vast collection of customizable themes and plugins. Gatsby's themes provide a solid starting point for designing aesthetically pleasing websites, and its robust plugin ecosystem allows for the integration of various features and functionality. The responsive design options and seamless user experience make Gatsby an excellent choice for organizations that prioritize visual appeal and user engagement.

Refinery CMS, on the other hand, offers a more straightforward approach to design. Its admin interface is intuitive and user-friendly, allowing content editors to create and manage content with ease. While Refinery CMS may not have an extensive theme and plugin library like Gatsby, it offers enough flexibility to customize the website's design to fit your branding.

Ultimately, the decision between Gatsby and Refinery CMS in terms of design and user experience depends on your organization's specific requirements. If you prioritize customization and a wide range of design options, Gatsby may be the better choice. However, if simplicity and ease of use are your main concerns, Refinery CMS can provide a user-friendly CMS without overwhelming design choices.

Consider your organization's design preferences and the level of customization you require to determine which CMS aligns best with your design and user experience goals.

Content Management

Content management is a critical aspect of any CMS, as it directly impacts how efficiently your team can create, modify, and organize content. Both Gatsby and Refinery CMS offer robust content management features, albeit with different approaches.

Gatsby's content management capabilities are powered by GraphQL, allowing you to pull data from various sources, such as CMS APIs and Markdown files. This flexibility allows content editors to manage content efficiently, and developers can leverage GraphQL to create dynamic pages and retrieve data as needed. Gatsby's real-time preview feature gives content editors a preview of their changes, enhancing the content creation process.

Refinery CMS takes a more traditional approach to content management, offering a user-friendly admin interface where content editors can easily create, edit, and organize content. It provides features like versioning and content scheduling, allowing for effective content governance and planning. While Refinery CMS may not have the same level of flexibility as Gatsby in terms of data sources, it provides a reliable and intuitive content management experience.

Consider the complexity of your content management requirements and the technical skills of your team when choosing between Gatsby and Refinery CMS. Gatsby's flexibility and dynamic content abilities are ideal for organizations with more complex content needs, while Refinery CMS's simplicity makes it a suitable choice for organizations with straightforward content management requirements.

Collaboration & User Management

Efficient collaboration and user management are crucial for organizations with multiple content contributors and editorial teams. Both Gatsby and Refinery CMS offer features to streamline collaboration and user management, albeit with different approaches.

Gatsby is designed to work seamlessly with various headless CMS options, such as Contentful and WordPress. These headless CMS solutions provide advanced user management features, allowing you to assign roles and permissions to different users. This flexibility ensures that your team members can access and edit content according to their privileges. Additionally, Gatsby's integration with version control systems like Git enables collaborative workflows, making it easy for multiple users to work on the same project simultaneously.

Refinery CMS also caters to collaboration and user management needs. Its user-friendly admin interface allows you to manage user accounts and assign roles and permissions. Content editors can collaborate effectively using features like content versioning and workflow management. While Refinery CMS may not have the same level of integration with external systems as Gatsby, it provides a reliable solution for collaboration within the CMS itself.

If your organization requires extensive collaboration capabilities and integration with external systems, Gatsby's compatibility with headless CMS options may be the ideal choice. However, if you prioritize a user-friendly internal collaboration system within the CMS itself, Refinery CMS offers straightforward and reliable user management features.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

Performance, scalability, and hosting capabilities are vital factors to consider when choosing a CMS. These aspects determine how well your website performs under various traffic loads and whether it can scale with your organization's growth.

Gatsby's static website generation approach inherently makes it highly performant. By pre-building the website as static files, Gatsby significantly reduces page load times, resulting in a smooth and fast user experience. The use of modern technologies and the ability to leverage content delivery networks (CDNs) further enhances Gatsby's performance capabilities. Additionally, Gatsby's scalability is also commendable, as it can handle high traffic loads due to its static nature.

Refinery CMS, being built on Ruby on Rails, offers robust performance and scalability. With proper configuration and hosting, Refinery CMS can handle moderate traffic loads effectively. However, it may not match Gatsby's performance levels when dealing with extremely high traffic. Hosting options for Refinery CMS are more traditional, with numerous cloud hosting providers offering Ruby on Rails support.

If optimal performance and scalability are crucial requirements for your organization, especially for high-traffic websites, Gatsby's static website generation approach and performance optimizations make it a strong contender. However, if your website's traffic is not expected to exceed moderate levels, Refinery CMS can handle the load efficiently while providing more traditional hosting options.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Customization, extensibility, and a thriving ecosystem are essential factors for organizations seeking a CMS that can adapt to their specific needs and take advantage of third-party integrations.

Gatsby's vast ecosystem and plugin library make it highly customizable and extensible. Whether you need additional functionality for forms, e-commerce, or analytics, you can find a wide range of Gatsby plugins to suit your requirements. Additionally, with Gatsby's flexible architecture, developers can create custom plugins and themes tailored to the specific needs of their organization.

Refinery CMS, although more limited in terms of themes and plugins compared to Gatsby, still offers sufficient customization options. Its Ruby on Rails foundation allows developers to extend the CMS's functionality by building custom extensions or integrating existing Ruby gems. While the ecosystem may not be as extensive as Gatsby's, Refinery CMS's customization options can still adapt to the needs of many organizations.

Determine the level of customization and extensibility you require for your website by considering your organization's specific needs and future plans. If a vast ecosystem and extensive plugin library are crucial for your customization requirements, Gatsby's ecosystem would be the better fit. However, if you prefer a CMS that is more straightforward to customize and extend, Refinery CMS's Ruby on Rails foundation provides reliable customization options.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

For organizations focused on SEO, marketing, and monetization strategies, a CMS that ensures optimal website visibility, integrates with marketing tools, and provides monetization options is essential.

Gatsby is inherently SEO-friendly due to its static website generation approach and the implementation of best practices for web performance. It allows for easy optimization of metadata, heading structures, and other SEO elements. Additionally, Gatsby's integration with various marketing and data analysis tools, such as Google Analytics, makes it an excellent choice for organizations looking to track and analyze website traffic and user behavior. When it comes to monetization, Gatsby provides flexibility for integrating e-commerce solutions and advertisement platforms.

Refinery CMS also offers SEO optimization capabilities, although the level of control may not be as extensive as with Gatsby. It allows for adding metadata and optimizing content for search engines. Refinery CMS offers integrations with marketing tools like Mailchimp for email marketing campaigns and Google Analytics for website traffic analysis. While not as comprehensive as Gatsby, these integrations can still support many organizations' marketing needs. Monetization options can be implemented through custom extensions and integrations with payment platforms.

If your organization places a strong emphasis on SEO, Gatsby's SEO-friendly nature and extensive marketing tool integrations make it a suitable choice. Additionally, if you require comprehensive monetization options, Gatsby's flexibility in integrating e-commerce and advertisement platforms can cater to your needs. However, if your SEO and marketing requirements are more moderate and you prefer a simpler integration process, Refinery CMS can still provide adequate support.

Security & Compliance

Security and compliance are critical considerations for any website, especially those handling sensitive user data or operating within regulated industries.

Gatsby's static website approach offers inherent security benefits, minimizing server-side vulnerabilities. However, proper security measures, such as secure coding practices and regular updates, are still essential. Gatsby's active community ensures continuous security updates and the resolution of any potential vulnerabilities.

Refinery CMS also provides security features, such as user role management and password encryption, to protect sensitive information. Being built on Ruby on Rails, Refinery CMS benefits from the security measures and best practices of the Rails framework. Regular updates and security patches further enhance Refinery CMS's security capabilities.

Consider your organization's specific security and compliance requirements when comparing Gatsby and Refinery CMS. If you prioritize a server-side secure environment and continuous updates, Gatsby's static website approach combined with robust security practices can be advantageous. Alternatively, if you prefer a CMS built on a reliable and secure framework and can adhere to the best practices within that framework, Refinery CMS provides a secure solution.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Migration, support, and ongoing maintenance are crucial aspects of choosing a CMS, as they determine how smoothly the transition will be and the level of assistance available after implementation.

Gatsby's static website approach can present migration challenges, especially if you are transitioning from a traditional CMS. However, Gatsby's community offers extensive documentation and resources to assist in the migration process. Additionally, Gatsby's popularity ensures active community support, with developers readily available to help resolve any migration or implementation issues. Gatsby's frequent updates and versioning practices provide a reliable maintenance experience, with regular access to new features and bug fixes.

Refinery CMS's migration process is relatively straightforward, especially if you are familiar with Ruby on Rails. Documentation and community support are available to assist with any migration-related questions or concerns. Refinery CMS's community, though smaller than Gatsby's, is still active and supportive. Regular updates and bug fixes ensure ongoing maintenance and support for the CMS.

Consider the migration process and ongoing support needs of your organization when comparing Gatsby and Refinery CMS. If you value comprehensive documentation, extensive community support, and frequent updates, Gatsby's thriving community and development practices make it an ideal choice. Alternatively, if you prefer a straightforward migration process and reliable ongoing support, Refinery CMS offers a strong support structure despite its smaller community.


As we conclude this comprehensive comparison guide, it is important to note that both Gatsby and Refinery CMS offer unique strengths and cater to different organizational needs. Gatsby's modern, performance-focused approach makes it ideal for organizations seeking a highly customizable and visually appealing CMS with extensive integration options. On the other hand, Refinery CMS's simplicity, user-friendliness, and Ruby on Rails foundation provide a reliable and straightforward content management solution.

To make an informed decision, assess your organization's specific requirements, such as design preferences, content management complexity, collaboration needs, performance scalability, customization goals, marketing strategies, security and compliance needs, and migration and ongoing support considerations. By aligning these requirements with the strengths of Gatsby and Refinery CMS, you can determine which CMS is the best fit for your organization.

Remember, choosing the right CMS is a strategic decision that can greatly impact your organization's digital presence and success. Take your time, conduct thorough research, and consider consulting with your development team to ensure you make the best decision for your organization's long-term goals.


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.