Hexo vs. Middleman: A Comprehensive Comparison of Developer-Friendly CMS

Hexo vs. Middleman: A Comprehensive Comparison of Developer-Friendly CMS


Welcome to our comprehensive comparison guide between Hexo and Middleman - two popular Content Management Systems (CMS) designed for developers. In this guide, we will dive deep into the features and capabilities of both CMS options to help you make an informed decision for your organization. Whether you are a digital leader or decision-maker, this guide will provide you with valuable insights to choose the CMS that best fits your needs. So let's get started!

Foundations of CMS

Both Hexo and Middleman are static site generators, meaning they generate static HTML files that can be deployed to a web server. Hexo is specifically written in JavaScript, while Middleman is built with Ruby. This difference in programming languages might influence your choice if you have a preference or are more comfortable with one language over the other. Additionally, Middleman offers more flexibility in terms of templating languages, with support for both ERB and Haml, whereas Hexo primarily uses EJS.

Hexo boasts a simpler setup process as it comes with built-in theme and plugin support. It also has an extensive list of themes and plugins available to choose from, allowing you to quickly customize your website's appearance and functionality. On the other hand, Middleman provides a more flexible and customizable approach, allowing you to build your website from scratch or integrate existing frameworks. This can be advantageous if you have specific design and development requirements.

In terms of ease of use, Hexo provides a more user-friendly interface with its command-line tool. It enables you to create and manage your content with simple commands, making it ideal for users who prioritize simplicity and convenience. Middleman, while offering a bit more complexity, provides advanced functionality and a robust framework for developers who want more control over their website's structure and workflow.

When considering the foundation of CMS, determining your preferred programming language, customization needs, and the level of complexity you are comfortable with will help guide your decision in choosing between Hexo and Middleman.

Design & User Experience

When it comes to design and user experience, both Hexo and Middleman provide attractive options that can be tailored to suit your organization's needs. Hexo offers a wide range of themes, allowing you to find a design that aligns with your brand and style. These themes are generally responsive and optimized for various devices, enhancing the user experience for visitors accessing your website from different platforms.

Middleman, as a customizable CMS, allows you to create unique website designs from scratch. With Middleman, you have complete control over the design process, which is advantageous if you have specific branding requirements or want to develop a completely custom user interface. By leveraging the power of frameworks and templating languages like ERB and Haml, you can build dynamic and visually appealing websites that meet your organization's design goals.

Both CMS options offer support for assets management, such as CSS and JavaScript, making it easy to optimize and enhance your website's performance. However, Middleman shines in this aspect by providing a range of asset management tools and pipelines. From bundling and minification to asset compression and caching, Middleman offers a robust set of features to optimize your website's load time and overall performance.

In terms of user experience, Hexo's simplicity continues to shine through its design and editing process. With its intuitive command-line interface, managing and updating content is a breeze. Middleman, on the other hand, offers more flexibility, but this comes with a steeper learning curve, making it ideal for developers and users with more technical expertise.

Content Management

Content management is a crucial aspect of any CMS, and both Hexo and Middleman offer powerful tools for organizing and managing your content efficiently.

Hexo provides a straightforward content management system with its command-line interface. You can effortlessly create new posts, pages, and categories, and manage them using simple commands. Hexo also supports Markdown, a popular markup language for content creation, making it easy to write and format your content with just plain text. Furthermore, Hexo provides an automatic deployment feature, enabling you to publish your website with ease.

Middleman, while offering more complexity, provides advanced content management capabilities for highly customized websites. With Middleman, you have the flexibility to structure your content exactly how you want it. You can leverage features such as data files and dynamic page generation to create dynamic content and manage it efficiently. Middleman also supports various markup languages like Markdown, ERB, and Haml, giving you multiple options for content creation and formatting.

Both CMS options allow you to organize your content using tags and categories, making it easier for your audience to navigate and discover related articles. Hexo and Middleman also provide built-in support for multi-language content, enabling you to create websites in different languages without much hassle.

Ultimately, when choosing between Hexo and Middleman for content management, consider the level of customization and control you require, as well as the preferred content creation and organization workflow for your organization.

Collaboration & User Management

Effective collaboration and user management are essential for organizations with multiple contributors and editors. Let's take a closer look at how Hexo and Middleman handle these aspects.

Hexo offers a straightforward collaboration workflow with support for multiple authors. Using Git, you can easily manage and merge changes made by different contributors. Hexo also provides granular control over user access via user roles. With user authentication, you can designate specific roles and permissions to each user, ensuring that the right individuals have the appropriate access levels.

Middleman, with its flexibility, allows for more complex collaboration setups. You can integrate Middleman with third-party services like GitHub or GitLab to manage versions and contributions effectively. Additionally, Middleman has features that enable easy content review and approval workflows, making it suitable for organizations with strict content governance policies.

Both CMS options offer the ability to preview content before publishing, allowing contributors and editors to review changes and ensure everything looks and functions as intended. This helps maintain a consistent and error-free website.

When it comes to collaboration and user management, consider the size of your team, the level of control you need, and the collaboration workflow that aligns with your organization's requirements.

Performance, Scalability, & Hosting

A fast and scalable website is crucial to provide an optimal user experience, especially as your organization grows. Let's examine the performance, scalability, and hosting capabilities of Hexo and Middleman.

Hexo is known for its excellent performance due to its static site generation approach. As there is no need to query databases or generate web page content on the fly, Hexo websites are incredibly fast. Additionally, Hexo leverages caching mechanisms and optimized asset delivery to further enhance performance.

When it comes to scalability, Hexo can handle high volumes of traffic without issues. As a static site generator, it can easily handle surges in visitors without having to worry about server load or performance degradation. Furthermore, Hexo supports content delivery networks (CDNs), allowing you to distribute your website's assets across multiple locations for even faster page loading times.

Middleman, being a dynamic site generator, offers flexible scalability options. By leveraging Middleman's asset management features, you can optimize your website's performance. However, as Middleman websites require server-side rendering, they may not achieve the same level of performance as Hexo for high-traffic websites. Hosting a Middleman website requires a server with PHP support, which might impact scalability if you have a significant increase in traffic.

In terms of hosting, both Hexo and Middleman are compatible with many hosting providers. They can be deployed on traditional web servers or hosted on platforms like Netlify or GitHub Pages. These platforms offer reliable and scalable hosting options, providing further flexibility and convenience.

When considering performance, scalability, and hosting, make sure to assess your organization's specific needs, traffic expectations, and available hosting options to determine which CMS aligns best with your requirements.

Customization, Extensions, & Ecosystem

Customizability and extensibility are vital considerations when choosing a CMS. Let's discuss the customization options, available extensions, and ecosystem of Hexo and Middleman.

Hexo offers a wide array of themes and plugins that allow for easy customization. With numerous themes to choose from, you can find one that suits your organization's branding and design preferences. Additionally, Hexo provides a plugin system that extends its functionality, enabling you to add features such as analytics, SEO optimization, and social media integration. The Hexo ecosystem is continuously growing, with an active community contributing new themes and plugins.

Middleman shines in terms of customization as it allows for complete control over your website's design and structure. You can build your layout, use custom frameworks, and structure your content however you prefer. Middleman also offers a variety of extensions and gems that further enhance its functionality. These extensions cover areas such as asset management, content modeling, and search functionality. With the flexibility of Middleman, you can truly create a unique website tailored to your organization's needs.

In terms of the ecosystem, both Hexo and Middleman benefit from vibrant communities. Hexo has a larger user base and more readily available themes and plugins due to its popularity, making it easier to find solutions and get support. Middleman, while having a smaller community, has a solid following among developers and provides a wide range of resources, including documentation, tutorials, and ready-to-use configurations.

When it comes to customization, extensions, and available ecosystem, consider your organization's specific requirements and priorities. Determine whether you prefer ease of use and a vast library of themes/plugins (Hexo) or complete control and customization options (Middleman).

SEO, Marketing, & Monetization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), marketing capabilities, and monetization options are essential considerations for organizations aiming to build an online presence and generate revenue. Let's explore how Hexo and Middleman handle these aspects.

Both Hexo and Middleman generate static HTML files, which are inherently more SEO-friendly compared to dynamic CMS solutions. With static files, you have better control over metadata, headings, and other elements that impact SEO. Both CMS options also offer tools and plugins to automatically generate sitemaps, optimize URLs, and handle other SEO-related tasks.

In terms of marketing, Hexo and Middleman can integrate with popular marketing automation and analytics tools. By leveraging third-party services like Google Analytics or MailChimp, you can track website performance, analyze user data, and implement marketing campaigns effectively.

As for monetization, both Hexo and Middleman support various methods of generating revenue. You can easily integrate ad networks, affiliate marketing platforms, or e-commerce solutions into your website. With customization options and plugins available for both CMS options, you have the flexibility to monetize your website based on your organization's unique business model.

When considering SEO, marketing, and monetization capabilities, assess your organization's specific goals and requirements. Determine the level of SEO control you need, the marketing tools you rely on, and the monetization methods that align with your business model.

Security & Compliance

Ensuring the security and compliance of your website is of utmost importance. Let's discuss the security features and compliance considerations of Hexo and Middleman.

Both Hexo and Middleman benefit from the security advantages of static site generators. With no server-side code execution, the potential attack surface is significantly reduced. Hexo and Middleman websites are less prone to common vulnerabilities like SQL injection or Cross-Site Scripting (XSS). However, you should still follow best practices for securing your web server and ensure that you are using secure hosting options.

Both CMS options also provide mechanisms for restricting access to sensitive areas of your website. You can employ user authentication and user roles to control who can make changes to the website's content and settings.

In terms of compliance, Hexo and Middleman themselves do not offer specific compliance features. However, as static site generators, they facilitate compliance with certain regulations. By generating a static website, you have more control over the content and can implement compliance measures according to your organization's needs, such as GDPR, CCPA, or accessibility standards (e.g., WCAG).

When it comes to security and compliance, it is essential to set up proper security measures and adhere to the applicable regulations regardless of the CMS you choose. Consider your organization's security requirements and ensure you have a plan in place to address any compliance needs.

Migration, Support, & Maintenance

Migrating from one CMS to another, having reliable support, and maintaining your website are important factors to consider. Let's discuss the migration process, support options, and maintenance requirements for Hexo and Middleman.

Both Hexo and Middleman provide support for importing your existing content from other CMS platforms. While the process might require some manual configuration, there are plugins and resources available to ease the migration process. However, as both CMS options are primarily catered towards developers, some technical knowledge may be required.

Support for Hexo and Middleman comes primarily from their respective communities. Hexo benefits from a larger user base, making it easier to find online documentation, tutorials, and answers to common questions. Middleman, although having a smaller community, has dedicated users who actively contribute to its ecosystem. It's important to be aware that the level of support might differ, and you may need to rely on community resources for troubleshooting and assistance.

Regarding maintenance, both Hexo and Middleman require regular updates to their core software and any installed plugins or themes. This ensures your website remains secure and up-to-date with the latest features. As both CMS options have command-line interfaces, updating and maintaining the CMS can be straightforward by utilizing the available commands or package managers.

When considering migration, support, and maintenance, evaluate your organization's technical capabilities and available resources. If you have a development team or are comfortable relying on community resources, the migration process and support aspect may be less of a concern.


Choosing the right CMS for your organization is a crucial decision. Both Hexo and Middleman offer powerful features and capabilities, suited for different needs and preferences.

If you prioritize simplicity, ease of use, and a wide range of themes/plugins, Hexo may be the better choice. It offers a friendly user interface, extensive customization options, and a larger community for support.

If customizability, flexibility, and complete control over your website's design and structure are important, Middleman is a strong contender. It provides a robust framework, multiple templating languages, and the ability to build highly customized websites.

Ultimately, the decision between Hexo and Middleman depends on your specific requirements, preferences, and technical expertise. Consider factors such as the programming language, customization needs, collaboration workflow, scalability requirements, and available support resources. With this comprehensive comparison guide, we hope you now have the information necessary to make an informed decision that will best suit your organization's needs.


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.