Grav vs. Refinery CMS: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide

Grav vs. Refinery CMS: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide


Welcome to our comprehensive comparison guide of Grav and Refinery CMS, two popular content management systems. Both CMS systems have their own unique features and benefits, and it's important to understand their differences before making a decision. In this guide, we will explore various aspects of both Grav and Refinery CMS, including foundations, design and user experience, content management, collaboration and user management, performance and scalability, customization and extensions, SEO and marketing, security and compliance, and migration support and maintenance. By the end of this guide, you will have a better understanding of which CMS system is the right fit for your organization.

Foundations of CMS

When it comes to the foundations of a CMS, both Grav and Refinery CMS have unique approaches. Grav is a flat-file CMS, which means it does not require a database to store content. Instead, it uses a file-based structure, making it lightweight and fast. Refinery CMS, on the other hand, is built on Ruby on Rails framework, providing a robust and scalable foundation.

Grav's flat-file structure makes it easy to install and manage, especially for smaller websites or blogs. It eliminates the need for database setup and simplifies the deployment process. Refinery CMS, with its Ruby on Rails foundation, offers a more comprehensive framework for larger and more complex websites. It provides a wide range of features and can handle high volumes of content with ease.

In terms of ease of use, Grav's flat-file structure makes it more accessible for users with limited technical knowledge. It has a simple and intuitive interface, making content creation and management a breeze. Refinery CMS, although more complex, provides extensive documentation and a supportive community for users who are willing to invest time into learning the system.

In summary, if you are looking for a lightweight and easy-to-use CMS for smaller websites, Grav is a good choice. However, if you require a more robust and scalable CMS for larger projects, Refinery CMS is a solid option.

Design & User Experience

Design and user experience are crucial aspects of any CMS, as they directly impact how your content is presented to your audience. Both Grav and Refinery CMS offer customizable design options and user-friendly interfaces.

Grav provides a wide selection of themes and templates that can be easily customized to match your brand's identity. It uses the Twig templating engine, which allows for flexible and efficient design customization. The overall user experience in Grav is smooth and intuitive, with a clean and modern interface that is easy to navigate.

Refinery CMS also offers a range of design options, including pre-built templates and a flexible template engine. It provides a powerful drag-and-drop interface for designing and building pages. Refinery CMS focuses on providing a user-friendly experience, with features like inline editing, which allows users to make changes directly on the page.

When it comes to design and user experience, both Grav and Refinery CMS offer impressive options. Grav's focus on simplicity and flexibility makes it suitable for users who prefer a straightforward and customizable design approach. Refinery CMS, on the other hand, provides a comprehensive set of design tools, making it an excellent choice for users who value ease of use and a visually appealing interface.

Content Management

Content management is at the core of any CMS, and both Grav and Refinery CMS excel in this regard. Each CMS offers unique features and functionalities to efficiently create, organize, and publish content.

Grav's flat-file structure allows for a streamlined content management process. Creating new pages and managing content is as simple as creating or editing a text file. Grav also provides a powerful media management system, allowing users to easily upload and organize their media files.

Refinery CMS, with its robust framework, offers more advanced content management capabilities. It provides a hierarchy-based content organization, allowing users to create complex structures and relationships between different content types. Refinery CMS also offers version control and workflow management features, making it easier to collaborate on content creation and ensure the accuracy and consistency of published content.

Overall, Grav is an excellent choice for users who value simplicity and ease of use in content management. If you require more advanced content management features, Refinery CMS provides a comprehensive set of tools to manage complex content structures and workflows.

Collaboration & User Management

Collaboration and user management are important considerations for organizations with multiple content creators and editors. Both Grav and Refinery CMS offer features to facilitate collaboration and efficient user management.

Grav allows for multi-user collaboration by providing user account management and permissions settings. You can set different levels of access for each user, restricting their ability to edit or publish content. Grav also offers user-friendly collaboration tools, such as a built-in admin panel that enables efficient communication and content workflow.

Refinery CMS takes collaboration further with its advanced user management capabilities. It allows you to manage user roles, permissions, and access levels in a granular manner. Refinery CMS also provides workflow management features, allowing for efficient content review and approval processes. Users can leave comments on specific content elements, ensuring clear communication and collaboration between team members.

Both Grav and Refinery CMS offer solid collaboration and user management features. Grav's simplicity and user-friendly interface make it ideal for small to medium-sized teams. Refinery CMS, with its advanced user management options and workflow features, is a better fit for larger organizations with complex content creation and approval processes.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

Performance, scalability, and hosting are crucial factors to consider when selecting a CMS. The ability to handle high volumes of traffic and accommodate future growth is essential for the long-term success of your website.

Grav's flat-file structure provides a lightweight CMS solution, resulting in fast page load times and improved performance. As it does not rely on a database, Grav can handle a significant amount of traffic without sacrificing speed. Grav is also compatible with various hosting environments, including shared hosting, making it easy to deploy and scale.

Refinery CMS, built on the Ruby on Rails framework, offers scalability and high performance. It can handle large volumes of content and traffic, making it suitable for enterprise-level websites. However, due to its more comprehensive framework, Refinery CMS requires a more robust hosting environment with scalable infrastructure.

When it comes to hosting, both Grav and Refinery CMS are flexible and can be hosted on various platforms. Grav's lightweight nature allows it to be easily deployed on shared hosting, while Refinery CMS may require more powerful hosting solutions.

In summary, if you are looking for a CMS that offers excellent performance and easy scalability, Grav is a solid choice. If your organization requires a more robust CMS solution that can handle high traffic and complex content structures, Refinery CMS is a better fit.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Customization, extensions, and the overall ecosystem of a CMS play a significant role in its flexibility and ability to meet unique business requirements. Grav and Refinery CMS provide different approaches in this regard.

Grav's flat-file structure allows for easy customization and extension. It has a wide range of themes and plugins available that can be easily installed and customized to fit your needs. Grav's ecosystem is active and supportive, with a growing community contributing new themes and plugins.

Refinery CMS, built on the Ruby on Rails framework, offers a more comprehensive ecosystem. It provides a variety of extensions and integrations, allowing for deeper customization and functionality. Refinery CMS's ecosystem is also well-maintained, with frequent updates and additions from the community.

Both Grav and Refinery CMS offer excellent customization options and extensions. Grav's straightforward customization approach makes it ideal for users who prefer simplicity and ease of use. Refinery CMS, with its extensive ecosystem and solid framework, is better suited for users who require advanced customization and integration possibilities.

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

SEO, marketing, and monetization features are vital for organizations looking to maximize their online presence and generate revenue. Grav and Refinery CMS offer various tools to aid in these aspects.

Grav provides built-in SEO features, allowing you to optimize your content for search engines. It offers customizable URLs, metadata management, and image optimization options. Grav also integrates with popular marketing tools like Google Analytics, making it easy to track and analyze website performance.

Refinery CMS offers similar SEO features, including customizable URLs and metadata management. It also provides built-in tools for marketing campaigns, such as email newsletters and analytics tracking. Refinery CMS's integration with external marketing tools further expands its capabilities.

When it comes to monetization, both Grav and Refinery CMS provide options to integrate payment gateways and e-commerce functionality. However, Refinery CMS's more robust framework and ecosystem make it a better choice for organizations with complex monetization needs.

In summary, if SEO and marketing features are your primary focus, both Grav and Refinery CMS offer solid options. Grav's simple and intuitive interface makes it suitable for users who value ease of use, while Refinery CMS's comprehensive ecosystem provides more advanced capabilities in this area.

Security & Compliance

Security and compliance are top priorities for any organization, especially when considering a CMS. Both Grav and Refinery CMS take security seriously and offer measures to ensure the safety and integrity of your website.

Grav's flat-file structure makes it inherently more secure, as it reduces the attack surface compared to a traditional database-driven CMS. However, it still provides features like password protection, two-factor authentication, and support for SSL/TLS encryption to further enhance security.

Refinery CMS follows best practices for security and provides regular updates to address any vulnerabilities. It offers advanced user management features for controlling access and permissions. Refinery CMS also provides options for SSL/TLS encryption and supports other security measures, such as Single Sign-On (SSO) integration.

Both Grav and Refinery CMS prioritize security and provide measures to ensure compliance with various regulations such as GDPR. Grav's flat-file structure offers inherent security advantages, while Refinery CMS provides a comprehensive set of security features for enterprise-level websites.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Migrating from one CMS to another can be a challenging process. Grav and Refinery CMS provide tools and resources to simplify the migration process and ongoing support for maintenance and updates.

Grav offers a migration plugin that makes it easier to import content from other CMS systems. The Grav community and documentation provide valuable resources for support and troubleshooting. Grav also provides regular updates and bug fixes to ensure the stability and performance of the CMS.

Refinery CMS offers a migration guide to assist with transferring content from other CMS systems. It has an active community and dedicated support channels to address any queries or issues. Refinery CMS also provides timely updates and maintenance releases to ensure the reliability of the system.

Both Grav and Refinery CMS provide migration tools and ongoing support. Grav's straightforward migration process and supportive community make it suitable for users looking for simplicity and ease of use. Refinery CMS's comprehensive support options and regular updates are ideal for organizations with complex migration and ongoing maintenance requirements.


In conclusion, Grav and Refinery CMS offer unique features and approaches to content management. Grav's flat-file structure, simplicity, and ease of use make it an excellent choice for smaller websites or blogs. Refinery CMS, with its robust framework and comprehensive feature set, is better suited for larger projects and organizations with complex content management needs.

Consider your organization's specific requirements, such as the size of your website, collaboration needs, customization requirements, and performance scalability. Evaluate the different sections discussed in this guide to make an informed decision. Remember to consider the importance of design and user experience, content management capabilities, collaboration and user management, performance and scalability, customization and extensions, SEO and marketing features, security and compliance measures, as well as migration support and ongoing maintenance.

By thoroughly analyzing these aspects, you can determine whether Grav or Refinery CMS is the best fit for your organization. Both CMS systems offer robust features and have supportive communities, allowing you to create and manage your content efficiently and effectively.


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.