Sufyan bin Uzayr December 10th, 2012

WordPress or MODX? The Winner Is…

WordPress and MODX are two of the most popular Content Management Systems. Each has its own loyal user base and audience, and both WP and MODX are amazing tools when it comes to website management. However, how do the two perform against each other? Alternatively, what are the similarities and dissimilarities between WP and MODX? We are going to answer these questions in the following article.

WordPress And MODX: A Comparison

Before going any further, allow me to clarify: I use both WP and MODX, and I find them great! I like the ease of use that WordPress brings to the table, and I appreciate the customization prowess that MODX offers. In this article, I will refrain from comparing mainstream features such as interface and layout. Why? Simply because if you have used WordPress for a long time, you will probably find MODX confusing. On the other hand, if you have been a loyal MODX user, you will not be able to operate WP with eyes closed either. I feel that this concept applies to every CMS (or any other software for that matter) out there. Agreed, some CM systems are more user-friendly than others, but this very word ‘more’ is subjective. What I find user-friendly, may not feel the same to you, and vice-versa. I have been a Linux user for almost a decade now, and even though I have used Windows in the past and I’m not a stranger to it, I find the command lines and desktop environments in Linux to be easier to use as compared to the Windows Taskbar. Yet, I know that any Windows user will find the migration to Linux extraordinarily confusing, but that doesn't stop me from feeling more at home with Linux as compared to Windows! But I digress. My point behind the above example of operating systems is simple: usability is a subjective concept, and if we are to compare two CMSs in a free and fair manner, we need to get rid of the usability rhetoric. That said, let’s focus on certain specific playing grounds and assess the performance of both WP and MODX.

Target Audience and User Base

WordPress began as a simple blogging tool. Even though right from its inception WordPress was being used for a wide array of websites, its primary purpose was to facilitate easier blogging. However, trends changed, and during the past few years, WP has evolved into a full-fledged CMS. Yes, blogging still continues to be in the driver’s seat, and WordPress.com still proudly proclaims on its homepage: “Get A Free Blog Here!” However, WordPress, as a software, is no longer a bloggers’ monopoly, and if Matt Mullenweg’s statement at State of the Word 2012 is anything to go by, almost 66% of WordPress users use WP as a pure CMS, and not as a blogging tool.  Still, all said and done, WordPress enjoys maximum usage amidst a particular section of users:
  • Portfolio purposes (artists, designers, photographers, etc)
  • Corporate/Business websites (you know, homepage with a big slider and 3 widgets and a separate blog page)
  • News/magazine websites (though most of the time, I feel WP shares this position with Drupal, Joomla!, Expression Engine and of course MODX)
  • Blogging (obviously)
While the above list is not absolute, it does provide us with a fair idea about WP’s primary user base. MODX, on the other hand, has never once projected itself as a simple and nifty blogging tool. It was, and still is, a pure CMS that can cater to a wide range of users. It brings a lot of customization and tweaks to the table (we shall turn our attention toward this factor in the next sub-head), and in proper hands, MODX can power virtually any genre of websites, including blogs. However, with that said, MODX does not find much love among the casual users: if you are looking to create a simple and nifty photoblog, in all likelihood, you will prefer WordPress over MODX. MODX surely has the ability to please everyone, but it is mainly employed by those who are looking for either great customization abilities or high-scale security, or both.

Administration and Security

This is where the difference between the two CMSs becomes manifest. WordPress has a structure that, if put to proper use, can let you do big things with your website. For instance, you can use custom post types and post formats to create a portfolio or corporate website. In fact, almost all the portfolio and business WP themes on ThemeForest have the same formulae beneath them: custom post types and post formats. Such customization suffices for the intermediate to the novice level of users. Assume for a moment that you do not know much about coding. Now, purchase a portfolio WP theme and use it to create your online portfolio. Most likely, the theme will make use of a separate Portfolio post type to distinguish your portfolio items from main blog posts. Now, some days later, what if you decide to change the theme to a regular one? Once done, your portfolio post type will be gone! Of course, the handles and other details will still continue to exist in the database, but as a non-coder, you will be left without your portfolio items. Not a happy experience, is it? This is where MODX establishes itself. As a casual user just wanting to create a gorgeous portfolio, you’ll probably find MODX to be overkill. But as someone wanting to do more with his/her website, you’ll love the control MODX offers you over your website. In MODX, your customization skills do not start with that of your theme or template -- instead, you decide the way you’d like to do things! When it comes to security, I often find almost half of the internet criticizing WordPress. I am, however, not in agreement with the criticism: yes, WP websites get hacked a lot, but that is, in my opinion, because WP is more popular than any other CMS. Since WordPress websites are easier to come across, they become handy targets for malicious minds. Poorly coded plugins and themes don’t prove much useful either. However, even if it isn’t WP’s fault per se, it all boils down to the practical fact: WordPress-powered websites are often targeted by hackers and crackers alike. On the contrary, MODX projects itself as super-secure. It probably is, but there is a double-edged sword attached: considering the fact that MODX gives the customization ability to the user, the user himself needs to be pro-active. If your coding skills are limited, your MODX website will suffer.

Addons and Community

WordPress has WordCamp. MODX has MODXpo. WordPress offers WordPress.com as well as VIP Hosting. MODX offers MODX Cloud. But if you judge things at numerical value: WordPress has way more extensions and themes than MODX. In fact, even if MODX were as popular as WP, I don’t think the number of themes and addons would’ve risen. The reason is simple: MODX puts the power in your hands: you decide which editor you’ll use, and you get to decide the template. When it comes to MODX, the concept of a plugin repository becomes almost defunct. The fact that WordPress powers a good number of casual users has led to many interesting concepts, the latest being the rise of Managed WP Hosting. Hosting firms such as WP Engine and ZippyKid have come up, which offer specialized WP hosting, along with security and updates. Since the user base of MODX has little to no casual or novice users, such innovations are rare. On the other hand, MODX “learning resources” such as books and documentation are a class in themselves.


And now, let's sum it all up!


  • Detailed abstraction with almost no need of further tweaking if you’re a casual user.
  • Ideal for blogs and even medium-sized news websites.
  • Less work to do: numerous ready-made themes and plugins.
  • Too many plugins = a bloated back-end.
  • Security woes.
  • Advanced users: Abstraction may leave you feeling handcuffed.


  • Great scope for customization.
  • Ideal for medium- to large-scale websites.
  • Less security issues.
  • Loads of work in customization: not ideal for casual users.
  • Fewer third-party goodies.
  • Little help beyond the official docs and forums (not many third-party blogs and magazines).
Which CMS do you prefer? WordPress or MODX? Have your say in the comments! (dpe)

Sufyan bin Uzayr

Sufyan bin Uzayr is a contributor to a variety of websites and blogs about technology, open source, web design, content management systems and web development. He is a published author, coffee lover.


  1. MODx is still really for developers with design skills. People with no development skills can readily learn and use WP. This is not true for MODx because many addons require “developer-level” knowledge and skill (try MIGx and see for yoursefl) and because despite recent efforts, documentation remains uneven, particularly for addons per se. Lastly, many addons are incomplete — for example, MODx does not yet have a working usable e-commerce addon because e-commerce is just soooooo hard to do properly and securely. Oh, did I mention that user security is way harder in MODx?? This is an acknowledged fault of MODx, not my complaint. WP it’s just a few mouse clicks, done…

    1. MODx + FoxyCart = e-commerce made easy. I have it running on two Evo builds and the setup was less that an hour.

  2. I am a huge fan of WordPress, and I see a lot of comparison with Joomla, Drupal, Expression Engine, etc, but never heard of MODx mentioned before. So is this a infomercial?

    1. Hi,
      Hah…no, this is not a infomercial.
      Agreed, WP is popular, and so are Drupal and Joomla! But MODX is a renowned CMS in its own right. :-)

  3. Bias alert (MODX Staff)

    Very good compare and contrast of WordPress and MODX. As you have highlighted, MODX is designed to give those who want complete control and flexibility over design and implementation. This currently comes at a price in that you need to be a skilled web worker to build and implement. This includes front end developers, intermediate and higher site builders and programmers.

    I’d disagree with Tom on the skill level needed to start with MODX as my background is as a Front End Dev with very rudimentary PHP skills (which is typical of most web developers); However, he’s on the money with the complexity of some of the things other CMSs do easily such as user permissions (which he referred to as security). MODX follows an enterprise-like ABAC to allow you to give near infinitely granular control over security. The key thing is that it makes it very hard to accomplish things done commonly in other CMSs by default. On the flip side, if you do learn the system, few CMSs can provide the level of control. We are actively looking at bridging the gap for people starting out to allow them to more easily accomplish their security needs while maintaining the granularity needed in larger more complex projects.

    On quantity of Add-ons (Plugins in WP) in MODX: many WP plugins are single-purpose driven and often very rigidly which means there may be 20 that can to some degree fulfill your need; however in MODX there may be one add-on that could fulfill 20 needs. This is not always true and the sheer popularity of WP in the Small Biz, DIY and Hobbyist space leads to a huge volume of work product being returned to the WordPress ecosystem.

    Again, nice to see people shining a light on the merits of MODX with balance and understanding.



    1. Hey,
      Glad you liked the article. :-)
      I agree, WP plugin repo is full of many plugins that perform just one basic function. Plus, there are many plugins that have by now become useless because WP itself offers the same functionality. Luckily, MODX (and even Concrete5 for that matter) doesn’t suffer from this. However, in a practical world, there are many users who’d really want to quickly install a plugin instead of digging the code, and this is where WP helps them.

  4. I think the views that WordPress is insecure are outdated. It used to have a number of security vulnerabilities that it just doesn’t have anymore because the developers found them and squashed them. Today, any given new WP install should be perfectly secure from the get-go.
    Also, I think you’re understating how incredibly unfriendly Modx is. I had to use it for a client once and had a terrible time. The menus are difficult to navigate and the page management structure is slow and awkward to use.
    And somewhat more of a statement: I think that managed hosting is very good. Running your own networks and servers can be incredibly complex. I think that most developers aren’t well versed in the nuances of Apache or Tomcat and would be better off leaving those tasks to experts in that field.

    1. Hey,
      MODX is “incredibly unfriendly”? Not sure about that. You’re mentioning that WP isn’t insecure anymore owing to updates, but overlooking the fact that MODX isn’t unfriendly to users anymore owing to updates. I personally feel that MODX has one of the best management structures, though I do agree, it can confuse a WP user a little bit. But the inverse is also true: a MODX user will find WP confusing as well.

      1. I actually used ModX before WordPress and still didn’t like it. Does it still separate “snippets” and “chunks”? I never understood the difference…

    2. To your latest comment. The difference between Chunks and Snippets is pretty clear from the get-go. Chunks act as HTML includes and Snippets act as PHP includes. Chunks cannot process PHP code, Snippets can. I don’t really think it’s that hard to comprehend.

  5. I’ve never heard of Modx before reading this. I would of thought a comparison between WordPress and Drupal would of been a better comparison. Saying that I can see that this is an article written with a bit of bias to Modx and by someone how doesn’t really understand the improvements to WordPress.

    I don’t understand how too many plugins can be a con for WordPress. This is the power of the community. The problem is not the amount of plugins it’s the amount of poorly developed plugins in the repository which they are currently working through to improve the quality, with the plugin review team.

    The security problems that come with WordPress are a thing of a past, it has no more security risks than your average website. The problem with security in WordPress is the owner of the site not updating to the latest version of WordPress and plugins.

    WordPress is great for all sized websites from small to large. You can use it for a personal website or on a massive website getting millions of visitors a day.

    1. Hi,
      Umm….MODX is probably not as popular as WP or Drupal, but it is a wonderful piece of software in its own right. However, I’m not commenting to defend MODX. I’ll just justify my stand:
      1. “comparison between WP and Drupal”: Yes, agreed. In fact, I already did one sometime back, for a separate publication: http://www.linuxforu.com/2012/05/winner-takes-all-wordpress-vs-drupal-vs-joomla/
      2. “someone who doesn’t really understand the improvements to WP”: Ehm…not sure about that. If you do read the above link, you’ll notice that I placed WordPress over Drupal in most aspects. I do like WP, in fact, most of my websites run WordPress; yet, I feel there are areas where WP lacks big-time.
      3. “Too many plugins”: I personally feel this is just a notion. Irrespective of the number of plugins, at the end of the day, only a given sub-set of them are useful. What do you use for SEO? All in One SEO or Yoast? You’ll find 10 plugins on SEO, all with a high rank, but only 2 of them are worth the name. For spam-fighting? AntiSpamBee or Akismet or Mollom? Again, 15 plugins, but very few worth the name. Still, I must clarify: I did not criticize the huge plugin repo for WP. I know that WP has an audience that relies on plugins, and a huge plugin repo is a plus for that. I just feel that if MODX (or even Joomla!, for that matter) were to be as popular as WP, its plugin repo would’ve still remained small, simply cuz the target audience for MODX doesn’t rely much on plugins.
      4. “Security probs”: Like I said, I don’t agree when WP is criticized for security. I also added that even MODX is only as secure as the user’s skills. If you don’t take security seriously, your site will suffer, no matter which CMS you use.
      5. “WP is great for all sites”: Yes agreed. WP powers all kinda sites, whereas MODX will probably not be ideal for a small personal portfolio. True that. But just cuz WP powers all kind of sites doesn’t mean WP can satisfy anyone’s expectations and website needs. If you seek the ability to customize things to the core, MODX wins over WP, no debates. My opinion. :-)

    2. The plugin problem is not good. There is a plugin for everything. When I look at a WordPress powered website, I see bloated, messy, non standard, crap code everywhere. While plugins are good for someone that doesn’t know a thing about website development and or how important the code is, it is terrible for people that like to have clean, understandable, and clear code. Plugins are killing WordPress rather than making it better.

      I have used MODx for the past two years and have tried to play more and more with WordPress, but I can only really see WordPress being used for a micro site in the end. It just doesn’t give me the control that MODx does.

    3. yes but wordpress not have a faceted search without plugins, wordpress is based y posts dated system.
      Yes you have millions of visitors per day in a clustered network of computers and using cache plugins for wordpress like w3 total cache. You really need a custom config and modding plugins, themes and core files too, for speed, seo, clean html and much more

  6. I tend to go by the if WordPress + Plugins do about 93% of what you need to do, and absolute control over the structure of the content and accuracy of the markup isn’t critical go with WordPress. The things it does it does very well.
    I often find myself needing something that gives me for creative freedom in yes content and markup of sites but actually even more so how the are optimized and cache.

  7. I have explained in a comment to a former post of yours, Sufyan, why I think that MODX is the right solution in comparison to WP if you’re doing any site that is not a simple blog with a simple css/html template found on the internet.

    If you’re doing any kind of site of your own, irrespective of its site (it may be a small personal blog – but your blog), then go with MODX!

    I am a non-developer, non-coder, non-web-professional. I know rudiments of css and html. I run a WP site and am fond of WP’s publishing features: writing is made very easy and quick in WP, that’s by far its main strength.

    Be warned: WP is seemingly easy – but only seemingly, believe a non-coder! If you want to create your own templates, you’ll have to code within php files, and first of all, find them in the tree through ftp. And you’ll have to understand how these files are related to one another to produce what you see on the screen! And that’s a big, big challenge for a non-coder! Because none of these is explained in the backend, it’s all in the php files.

    I had to do that for a friend’s site: change the way a single box and its content showed up in the front-end. I spent hours understanding how the php files were related to trigger what I saw in the front-end, trying not to mess up the php that I did not understand.

    Plugins are WP’s blessing and damnation. Why? Because you just spend your time testing them. I have a WP site as a teaching platform. I spend hours testing tens of plugins to see whether one of them will fit one of my need. And no one does, naturally: every case is different.

    And, for sure, plugins represent a tremendous security issue in WP, because no one is taking responsibility for the impermeability of the code in third-party extras.

    In MODX you just don’t search for the proper extras. You just write them from scratch, this is hundred times easier and faster (not for very complicated ones, like e-commerce, for instance, I agree). MODX has its own IDE in the backend: no need to ftp files! You just edit all your files right from the backend. You write plugins and php-snippets in the backend, no need to search for the relevant files in your server tree, they are all in the database, just organize them as it fits you. The same for the templates: write them from the backend, edit the corresponding css from the backend.

    When I say that MODX is made for non-coders, non-developers, I do mean it. I think you’re wrong in this point, Sufyan. MODX will teach you php by doing. You’ll write your first php-snippets naturally, first to execute simple front-end tasks – typically: modifying the output of content fields set up in the templates; or getting content in a special way. Bob Ray and Mark Hamstra are your friends here. Then come plugins (hooked to system-events), and finally full-fletched extras. Nice learning curve!

    In this sense, MODX offers a way to learn, to grow, to deepen your knowledge of the web. WP doesn’t do that: WP says to you: “You know nothing, and that’s good so, others are thinking for you, don’t bother!” MODX tells you: “You know nothing. So come along! We’ll learn together!”

    1. Hi,
      I feel that if you want proper control over your website, MODX is a better tool than WP.
      I use WP on my personal blog and a news mag that I run. Why? cuz WP is ideal for quick publishing, when all you need to do is share an article, attach a featured image, probably upload a video or two, and that’s it. No hassles. Quick and easy.
      But for any project of mine that I’m *really* serious about, such as heavy customization , including one that I’m currently working on, I opt for anything except WP: generally MODX, Concrete5, TXP, Habari or, if I’m high on caffeine, even Zikula.
      I agree… like I said, MODX documentation is awesome, and that is just a small preview of how you can learn and explore a lot many new things by working with MODX. WordPress, even though it’s an awesome software, now has a zillion readymade themes and plugins, and that limits your “learning” chances anyway. Still, reason why I say that MODX requires a slightly steeper developing knowledge than WP is cuz there are times, when readymade stuff like plugins and themes are needed. For my personal website, that gets a view only if some reader on Noupe or other blogs clicks on the link in my bio, I’d rather upload a theme by Konstantin Kovshenin than work on coding one myself. For my news site, that is a not-for-profit venture, I’d rather upload a theme by Devpress than spend time writing one myself. However, for a project that I’m planning to develop as an earning model, I’d want a better deal of control, and I’m willing to spend time tweaking things: I’ll go with MODX.
      I’ll be blunt here: I find WP easy to use and deploy. “easy” in the sense that it doesn’t require much tweaks. But I find MODX more powerful, but the setup process is time-consuming for me, and I’ll surely use the CMS for anything that I really am serious about, but not for casual side-projects.

    1. Hey,
      LOL…yes it is. But if that is to be a criterion, I guess Drupal is the most *politically correct* CMS in USA? Ref: website of White House. ;-)

  8. Uneducated, self-taught half-blind grandmother’s input here…I will first freely admit that I’ve been a freelance web developer using MODx for eight years now. Yes, I have from time to time tried other systems. I’d like to make a couple of points in response to some of what I’ve seen here.

    1. MODx Cloud is a managed MODx hosting system. One example of its benefits? I have one “production” and three “development” sites at the moment. There was a new version of MODx the other day. A few mouse clicks to open the site toolbars and click “Upgrade” and they were all upgraded in less than 30 seconds. Another advantage? A couple of mouse clicks to create a snapshot of a development site and load it into a production site. While these may not be advantages to the casual single user, for web developers it’s a real time (and pulled hair/aggravation) saver.

    2. There are plenty of add-ons that will take care of very nearly every need you might have (yes, e-commerce is sadly lacking; this will be addressed in the next few months). To be honest, I haven’t needed to code anything more serious than a few adjustments to an existing add-on for years. And you can install these add-ons with a couple of mouse clicks via the Package Manager from the MODx repository site, or from your site’s local filesystem in the case of downloaded add-on packages. No add-on in any way modifies core code, so you never have to worry about not being able to upgrade either MODx or any of your add-ons. For example, don’t want to get into the admittedly complicated user management/security system? Try the simple PageLocker add-on for password protecting your pages.

    Really, it’s a case of horses for courses. Causal personal or small-business users will probably find WP (or any number of other systems) easier to initially set up and use. But if you want anything different, even with minimal HTML/CSS knowledge you’ll find MODx much easier to work with. Of course, it really comes into its own for any kind of web designer or developer, from freelance individuals to major development houses.

  9. Thanks for the excellent writeup. These types of articles usually end up being horridly biased or based on all sorts of strange misconceptions.

    I think much of what you wrote could also be said of Drupal and other larger scale CMS’s when compared with WordPress.

    There are movements afoot to allow for heavier customisation within WordPress and there are tools available to improve this right now such as the Posts 2 Posts plugin.

    Another major criticism I would level at WordPress is performance and out-dated legacy code. In it’s pursuit of backwards compatibility and stability, WordPress has amounted a sizeable proportion of old code which is inefficient and old fashioned. The stability is good, but there are definite tradeoffs in this approach, which other CMSs such as Drupal do not have (I’m not sure about MODx).

  10. Thanks for the article. I too had not heard of MODx and will add it to my list of possible tools for future projects.

    A couple of misrepresentations on WordPress, though.

    (1) “Too many plugins = a bloated back-end” – this simply isn’t true. A hundred focused, well written plugins may be just fine, or one poorly written plugin could bring your site to a crawl. There is very little overhead in activating a plugin, it’s what the plugins do which may or may not add bloat.

    (2) “Most likely, the theme will make use of a separate Portfolio post type to distinguish your portfolio items from main blog posts.” It’s true many themes do this, ideally custom post types would be implemented as a plugin, so that the content does not disappear if you change themes. That many themes do this perhaps highlights the sometimes unstructured nature of the WordPress community rather than core flaw in WordPress architecture.


    1. Hi,
      1. “hundred focused plugins…”: Agreed, but I’ll also add that sadly, hundred focused and well-coded plugins are nowadays pretty hard to find.
      2. “custom post types..”: Correct, should be implemented as a plugin, but look up ThemForest. 99.9% of themes implement custom post types to distinguish your portfolio from your blog. Use the theme and all’s fine. Change the theme and silently weep.

  11. The key different is this. If I want to make a customization to a template in WordPress, I have to open code in an editor. With MODx, I can do it in the browser. Simple difference that saves huge amounts of time when your are iterating a design.

    WP- hate the plugin ghetto
    WODx – documentation is horrible. Try building a gallery and see for yourself.

  12. Sufyan, you gotta expand the paragraph breaks in your comments. Without spaces between the paragraphs, comments are too hard to read and scan.

  13. Eventually WP users want to extend their WP sites and they wind up hacking – WP’s term, not mine – their Theme files to get it to do what they think they want it to do.

    Of course, there’s no going back to the way things were. I hate, absolutely freaking HATE WP with my entire soul because EVERY.SINGLE.TIME someone asks me to help out with their WP install “Fuck you Jason Coward and MODX for being so damn brilliant!!!” automagically escapes my lips.

    That’s because, invariably, what I’m asked to do in WP will take me oh, 15 minutes max, if that, in MODX, and in that time I can simply login to their WP site, export the XML file, create a new Cloud in MODX Cloud, import the XML file, and then spend another 15 minutes WHO-HAS-GOT-TIME-FOR-THIS!!?? doing what they want.

    In another 15 minutes I can edit every single page with custom meta descriptions and keywords, too, if it needs it.

    Meanwhile you gotta go search for various WP butt-plug, I mean, Plugins and figure out which ones work, which ones are secure, which ones open your site up for various attacks.

    Get the MODX Cloud already.

  14. In other, shorter sentences:
    WP makes you do things its way.
    MODX allows you to do things your way.
    It is limited by your imagination.
    Hence the MODX slogan: Creative Freedom.

  15. I have used both systems for loads of jobs, and have written brief articles comparing them. The articles are somewhat dated, because I’ve gone almost exclusively to WordPress now, partly because of not being able to get enough work with MODx. I didn’t care for the interface of MODx 2 very much. I’ve also just always had more fun using WP. Also the community for WP is gigantic and constantly growing, and MODx’s community is much smaller and slower growing. There are also loads more excellent WP premium themes, frameworks, plugins, and other tools that I can get support for. This matters to someone who has had questions go begging on free software forums. I also love using WP’s programming hooks. This allows me to do lots of PHP functionality while actually writing just small amounts of PHP.

    It’s interesting to see several comments touting MODx as being more for developers. It’s certainly great for developers. But in a certain way, a more designer-ish person may like MODx better – you can almost get away with theming MODx without using any PHP at all as long as you’re handy at CSS. You really can’t get away with that using WP, unless maybe you can get what you need using Headway or another code-generating system. For anything heavily customized in WP, you’ll have to write PHP.

  16. I’ve been using MODX exclusively for my CMS for over 6 years now. I think I could get more work if I knew WP (and I’m tempted to learn it for that reason alone), but man, the level of ease of customization in MODX is so freaking awesome. I’ve taken so many sites and quickly built them into MODX and the level of control you can offer to your clients is really amazing. I know very little PHP and my strength is in front end development. MODX allows me to build whatever I want based on how I want to learn it. My biggest gripe with MODX is the manager. It’s pretty heavy and sluggish in Revolution, but from what I understand, it runs fast in the MODX cloud (which I need to start using). Yes, the plugins aren’t as numerous in MODX, but as I’ve learned using some of the WP plugins, you have a lot of plugins out there that can end up being written poorly causing security holes in your site. I’ve gotten a lot of jobs just from this alone. Someone has a WP site launched only to get hacked over and over. They come to us, we slap it on MODX and they’re rock solid. I have installed a few MODX plugins that were stinkers, but this has only happened a few times.

    I hear all the time that people that use WP love the easy to use UI. Honestly when I get in and look around, it’s confusing and unorganized to me. But I know someone that has used WP mostly when they get into MODX feels the same way. It’s just a matter of having to learn a new system. I launched a site for a client a few months back that has mostly used WP and they freaked out when they saw the backend of MODX. I explained that yes, there is a small learning curve. After playing around with it for awhile and actually giving it a try, they quickly feel in love with it. I think WP definitely shines there: low learning curve on the admin area. But while WP has that easy to use initial admin area, there are limitations. With MODX, I can expand out a site quickly and easily to match the client’s demands.

    I guess the best thing to do when approaching a site is to use the best tool for the job. Really small sites I think WP has the upper hand out the gate. But once you need a medium to large sized site with high levels of customization and advance architecture, MODX really shines.

  17. Great article thanks for that, just one thing. You noted that a Con of WordPress was too many plugins, and a con for MODX is not enough third party goodies.

    Surely the fact WordPress has a burgeoning community of developers offering plugins both free and commercial is a massive boost for WordPress?

    I have used MODX I quite liked it personally, I do not wish to get into an argument or some kind of flame war over the two which is better etc. (which you have skillfully avoided doing BTW).

    I do not agree that WP has a bloated back end, it has an excellent array of features on a standard install and marry this to a range of plugins to extend functionality and you have a potential beast of a website for the masses.

    1. Hi.
      Let me clarify.
      1. Con of WP is not too-many-plugins, but instead, too-many-bad/crappy-plugins. Agreed, there are many good ones out there, but for each good plugin, there are 10 poorly coded ones.
      2. MODX: Not enough third-party stuff: yes, in COMPARISON to WP, that is. MODX doesn’t have ThemeZilla coding stuff for it, for eg. :)
      3. WP does not have a bloated back-end. Not by virtue of its own. But add multiple plugins, and the performance goes down. Add 3-4 plugins, and you’re stuck with a bloat. My opinion/experience.
      4. “WordPress has an excellent array of features”: Oh yes, it does! No doubts. I agree, absolutely. :D

  18. I persisted with Modx for many years thinking it was the developers dream and had always turned my nose up to WordPress. In the end though I wanted to make money, and ModX was wasting too much of my time. WordPress is just so polished these days, easy to setup and demand from clients and other dev companies is high. Support resources are 100 times more available. E-commerce solution with support. WordPress absolutely smashes ModX.

  19. Hi, Nice comparison between two nice web building tools, (though it’s my first day of installing MODx on my system, but first look gave me a nice impression to try it). I am a fighting (poor in quality) theme developer of WP, recently started Drupal today I got MODx.
    In my opinion, WP is not super handy as a CMS, there’s a ton of hassle to make it CMS like (not pure though) as Drupal offers. But MODx seems to be more handy at both Theming and making it customizable. When templating is so easy, it must going to be more handy for developer. I want to add here. We got many client who come to us with their Premium Theme to make it in their way. That’s bit more painful to customize others code.

    Anyway, thanks, coz your article has given me a new hope to build up a CMS development career.

  20. I used MODx 2 years ago and it caused me the greatest server pain I ever experienced with any CMS. To be true, I still try to wrap my head around that such things can even be possible, but with MODx they seem to.

    I always compare anything with the attached support. MODx has a bunch of arrogant forum core members that, should you really get stuck, can make you feel like, really bad. WP? Even the dumbest appearing questions get attention. No discrimination like in the MODx forum.

    Too many add-ons at WP and too many crappy one? Yes. But as I mentioned, just ask a question and you’ll be fine. Ask the same Q at the arrogant MODx camp? Yeah, right. Why you ask, are you too dumb to figure it out? Often times I really wonder why MODx even has a forum.

    MODx or WP?

    I think the answer in too obvious ;-)

    1. I have to say, I have had nothing but postive experiences with the MODX forums. After reading many, many threads, I have seen some of what you’re referring to, but it is extremely infrequent. I continually get great responses, suggestions, and clarifications about how to do all kinds of things by posting in the MODX forums.

      As for servers, one DOES have to be careful about selecting a hosting service that has all the right software and hardware to run MODX Revolution properly. You can’t just slap a Revolution site on any $2/mo hosting service and expect it to run well, or even at all. One thing that is important is that php on the server (and thus the MODX software) runs as the account user, not as “nobody”, or else clearing caches and file management can be a problem. I ran into problems with that at one host.

      There are many services that have what MODX needs (check the configuration requirements on the MODX site), and quite a few that actively set up their servers with MODX in mind and know how to address any potential server problems quickly.

  21. I’ve used WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Modx – I can see why Modx appeals to designer types but Modx tests my patience every time I have to work with the damn thing.

    Ever tried moving Modx from one server to another, like dev to staging to live – good luck.

    ModX puts its cache files in core – seriously!!! And then regularly refuses to clear them when you use the clear cache function. Oh and because of the way it caches things your PHP debugging becomes much harder as the PHP file that runs isn’t the one you wrote so your line numbers with your errors don’t correspond with what you were writting.

    Sorry starting to rant!

    After much experience with the above, use WordPress for smaller projects and Drupal for bigger ones, but as in all things evaluate what your project needs and choose the CMS that best addresses those needs.

  22. I’ve been using Modx for at least 6 years now. You’d have to pry it from my cold dead hands. Modx has always complemented my projects as I most often find clients that want tools that go beyond the plugins you find in WP and Drupal. Rather than hack away at the CMS core, using Modx to build custom sites is quite elegant. It is way more stable than using a myriad of WP plugins and hoping the accompanying JS doesn’t cancel each other out. For the guy above that doesn’t understand the difference between chunks and snippets? …stick with WP buddy. LOL..

    I’ve had the “pleasure” of working with WP sites and am only impressed with the ease of adding posts or installing a pre-built template. Moving a WP site to another host or domain just sucks. Why does WP index full URLs for photos? Unlike Stu above, I am able to move a website in modx considerably easier than WP, plugins or not.

    I think the bottom line is this: if you are familiar with WP and you know the site you’re about to create can be done with a plugin or two, then go with it. Same for Drupal. But if you’re building out something other than a brochure with a signup list, Modx offers the most scalable and flexible environment possible. The community has never failed to respond quickly and reliably.

  23. i choose wordpress, i think if every platforms have their vulnerability, but inform of open source, it will develops by itself

  24. Some says MODX and most say wordrpess.I had better go with wordpress as I don’t have enough tech. skill.
    A question to the experts-what skills do I need to continue with MODX?Thank you

  25. The fact that, as you say, WordPress is commonly attacked by hackers, makes MODx our choice of CMS platform. In the same way PC’s are attacked more than Macs, because of the popularity of PC’s means they aren’t as safe to use as Macs unless you secure them. WordPress sites can also be secured, but most people don’t and that is why WordPress sites are such a big problem when it comes to hacking.

    I do agree that MODx isn’t for the beginner though, and does require a lot more skill to set up than a WordPress does, which can be set up within a couple of minutes by a real novice.

  26. I use Modx Revo for lower budget websites and ExpressionEngine for bigger budegts. I love Modx but the only drawbacks are slack slack slack documentation…why put so much work into an Extra and document it so poorly. Come on Modx wake up. WordPress just breaks my heart when I really need to customise. I actually built a large golfcourse website with Modx and Babel worked well for multi languange aspects . I also like being able to duplicate contexts and duplicate the navigation tree. It has many advantages navigation wise over ExpressionEngine. All said once u get used to Modx and figure out and experiment with the slack documentation it really does rock! Be willing to put in the time. WordPress is fine for small budget sites where client has basic needs.

  27. One of the things about ModX is that it’s over-reliance on inline Snippet tags to generate content using a tag based structure and manually typed parameters, leaving a snippet prone to typo errors (eg. typing parameters wrongly). This is because Snippets are convenient to create, and many addon developers rely on these a lot.

    Why not have metatagged/commented variables in a Snippet with some information on the variable type and possible values, allowing a standard ModX GUI to be hooked into every snippet? That way, a GUI could easily be plugged into the snippet system, allowing more user friendly drag-and-drop into post-box kind of functionality. Parameters like ‘docid’, ‘parents’,etc. could use a common GUI to select from existing ModX resources. It’s amazing that after all these years, people are still using primitive tag declarations and hand-coding the parameters manually within an HTML/Content document (without type-checking!), and for snippets with lots of parameters, you get a long string of parameter-dependant text!. I understand that having such a manually-typed-text system allows for flexibility, but if you adopted a metatag scanning system for Snippets (maybe even var documentation, though that might bloat snippet size so an external http link would be more reasonable for such a case), you still get flexibility, and manual text edits could be a last fallback. Likewise, Chunks should have a “Rollover it” to check what it outputs, rather than having to refer to the Chunks folder and wonder if anyone mistyped the chunk name. Why can’t there be broken links reported for chunks/snippets/snippet parameters too? Why can’t ModX resolve such links? Additionally, if certain parameters are no longer used in later versions of Snippets, the metavar tracking GUI system can give warnings on unused/redundant parameters within a Snippet tag. (eg. browsing a site while logged in developer/admin in a special mode could give warnings of pages with broken snippet/chunk links).

    I find that WordPress has more user-friendly on-board plug-n-play features for generating common things like menus, galleries and such. Not so with ModX, which requires linking chunks with snippet declarations, and manually checking that your parameters are correct within a snippet call. Changing a chunk name doesn’t resolve any snippet parameter that may rely on that chunk by that name, without any form of binding between them. Thus, Modx can appear more ‘backward’, even if it’s deemed more ‘flexible’.

    WordPress has a sidebar on the left for users that immediately want a “click to start application” kind of approach (Mac). Modx doesn’t, and assumes end-user admins are smart enough to navigate a folder structure, click on relavant parts, right-click and perform actions an experienced user should, following the system’s “convention” (Windows Explorer/Windows Shortcuts/DOS).

    Good thing about Modx (in particular, Revolution) is that it has good built-in output filter capability to handle most use cases. Though at times, one may wish to simply just have PHP and hack their way in cases where Modx output filtering doesn’t seem sufficient enough, very seldom this is the case. Modx is a great tool for designers that don’t know much PHP, and don’t mind taking time to learn a tag-based structure (that may not necessarily be easier than PHP all the time, actually), but works quite well, providing a standardized, cleaner and far more dynamic content approach compared to writing templates with PHP codes found in Joomla and WordPress.

  28. I like Modx , because it so easy to use for me. Creative freedom , and you can create your own style website. If you like some gallery or some plugins script, You can easily change the snippets in modx . It is so useful for me.

  29. Of recently, I have started using WordPress. This is the only CMS/blogging software I have been using, and can therefore not judge whether MODx is better or worse than WordPress.

    The things that have made me choose WordPress are quite simple: number of downloads, bigger than any other CMS! Does it mean that it is better than any other CMS, from a technical viewpoint? Most probably not. Look at Windows: most widely used OS for PC’s, laptops,… Does it make it the best OS? Hell, no! Between the GPF’s that plagued the early versions, the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” (that apparently still exist in Windows 8) and other “security vulnerability patches”, it is amazing that it is still the OS of choice for many electronic devices.

    But the widespread use ensures a few things:
    1) If you are stuck on something, chances are that someone else will have been stuck on the exact same thing before you… and will have come up with a solution. Quite an advantage when time is of the essence (nothing worse than having to spend your nights debugging an issue a few days before the deadline because you do not find anything when googling on that issue…)
    2) If there is a very common task that a large number of sites need to do, chances are there will be an add-on (plugin) that someone will have developed to simplify or automate that task.
    3) Bigger market.
    4) Development base growing bigger and quicker than any competitor (although that point may be debatable).

    When it comes to simplicity, the ease-of-use for “simple” sites is certainly not overstated. It is also “relatively” simple to hand-over to end-users once the design is completed, at least for simple tasks. On that basis as well, I have not regretted the choice.

    But, from a web designer/developer perspective, the discussions about “ease-of-use” vs “flexibility” remind me very much of my previous life as an IT consultant on a well-known ERP system. Flexibility always comes at the cost of increased complexity, and, no matter what anyone says, when you want ultimate flexibility, there is no substitute for detailed knowledge of the system you are working on AND of the programming paradigm(s) it relies upon.

    In the case of WordPress, the beauty of it is indeed its simplicity, allowing pretty much anyone who can fiddle enough to create a MySQL database (without any knowledge of DDL or SQL, mind you) to be up and running with a site or blog virtually in minutes. But, if you do not want to settle for common themes that anyone can download, then you had better understand what “The Loop” is, how Themes are organised (ie, know the Templates Hierarchy) and be confident with HTML, CSS at the very least, PHP being a huge plus. If you do invest in mastering enough of these “languages”, though, chances are there won’t be many requests that you won’t be able to satisfy.

    And if you address clients requests in a sensible way, you will still be able to hand-over in a way that your customer can manage the day-to-day maintenance.

    The added benefit that I see in a system like WordPress is the “structure” it sets around your work: it does provide for extensive customization without the need to “hack the core” (Child Themes, Action and Filter Hooks,…), and somehow enforces some discipline and methodology on how to do things “the proper way” (even advocating the use of Object-Oriented PHP for the development of plugins). For people who do care about “doing it right”, that is (no pun meant at anyone here, just a statement).

    In other words, for the sake of the argument, I would pose that, even for “more advanced users”, assuming a decent level of knowledge of HTML, CSS and PHP on the part of web developers/designers, said developers/designers would also be better off with a system like WordPress: quite a few things for which you do not have to “reinvent the wheel”, systematic framework, fair amount of decent documentation, wide user community, yet still massive possibilities for customization… All things that tend to shorten lead times, lower total cost of ownership, and reduce your headaches as a developer/designer.

    But, as said in the introduction, not having worked with MODx, I cannot say that MODx is not such a system, other than judging by the comments posted.

    On another note, I would also argue, for the sake of the discussion, that the combination of the designer and developer roles in one and the same person is probably “not a good idea” in most cases. By that is meant that a designer should ideally be more of the “creative” type, while a developer should more of a “logical” type. Quite rare to find people who can be good at both.

  30. I have been with MODX for about 2 years now, used it to set up 3 private projects and one forum solution (integrated into one site with Discuss). I also have minor experience with Joomla, and I was extremely disappointed with it as I was struck by a bug in Joom!fish that caused me to return backup for a client. I also had minor experience with WordPress, tho I assume it has gotten more slick and powerful in the last two years.

    MODX is a great CMS for my purposes (not a web designer but I can code), has a fast, good looking and sensible back-end and the synax is logical and natural.

    But there are a few grips with it, that are seriously making me reconsider it:
    – It’s buggy. I have gotten used to it being so buggy, that whenever something does not work I start fearing for a core bug. I have submitted 11 bugs myself with 2 accounts in this time, and probably could find 10 more at this instant, that I have managed to work around. Especially problematic was the use of SQL Server as the database, as I was an early adapter and got pretty poor support for my problems on their forum then. I got the feeling that core team did not want to work with that database, and did it only for sponsorship or something similar. Again, in the last year things have probably gotten better with it. Another problematic extension is Quip, used for comments on pages and I have yet to see my project with it where it actually works.

    – There are no themes to work from. Yes, you can use bootstrap theme and what not, but forget about choosing a theme online and going from there. Pity, as the themes in MODX could be super-easy to customize (presentation is well separated from logic) and would be like editing .html files with variables. But you have to start from scratch, and it’s a waste of time. I guess it’s not a fault of core team, but it is a thing to consider.

    – Community is busy. Some people got helped on public forum, I mostly wasn’t. MODx is a commercial project with premium support options and I’m sure these people are making a living supporting clients for cash. A person above said he got arrogant replies. I got no replies.

    – TinyMCE caused me so many woes it’s ridiculous. Use CKEdit instead.

    – Documentation is lacking for some plugins (these are still made by core team), can be unclear if you have no experience with other plugins, as they assume you know certain things.

    – There are two versions Evo and Revo, and most of the time when googling the problem I got to evo pages.

    That’s about it. I hope core team takes into consideration correcting bugs prior to making new features available, and even if this is an open-source project people are expecting a quality product. Also MODX team prides itself with great community, but perhaps it may be a great community for a team that works with it. For people just entering, it might not be so great. I don’t care for MODX cloud and such, what I personally care about is these things working when they say they will work.

  31. I used both but WordPress is more user friendly and also developer friendly too. I’m fun of WordPress development due it’s less required modification and just follow the instructions also it’s update is just a click a head unlike ModX currently suffering from getting the related products features because the older version is not compatible on the new version and it has a lot of config to do with more settings that some are not easy to understand. I made lot of WP Plugins and integration unlike with ModX you must read lots of documentations and less forums to assists.

    For me as a developer and designer I recommend WordPress over ModX.

  32. few weeks ago I have decided I won’t start a new WP project ever and as an alternative I chose MODx. It took me some time to get used to it but know I really enjoy development and can’t believe the speed of progress is made. I must say I’m graphic designer first, coder second and I’m learning PHP along developing my first MODx site so I encourage everyone who haven’t tried it yet.

    1. Me too! It´s flexible and it´s what you develop is what you get!!! No pre-defined templates!!! Modx means freedom in terms of some of the most common CMS! I just recommend this CMS over WordPress!!!

  33. Wow this is turning out to be a popular post.
    Well i’m no developer, i don’t know PHP or Javascript but I’m a proficient HTML/CSS coder and i’ve been using MODx for about 5 years.
    I agree it has a steep learning curve but once the fundamentals and terminology are grasped it really is a great platform for designers and front-end developers…and nothing to be scared of.
    I’ve used WordPress and in fact wrote a blog post about a recent project I undertook using a pre-made theme (http://9thwave.co.uk/blog/2013/05/21/wordpress-website-experience-working-with-templates/). It is very good for an out-of-the-box solution but it always feels a little claustrophobic in the back-end and just not as scaleable or user friendly as MODx. The plethora of add-ons for WordPress are ridiculously simple to use and the you’d be hard pushed to find a more comprehensive blogging platform. For me it suits a low budget project and MODx is more suited to a bespoke website.
    To conclude I would recommend any designer/front-end developer to get their hands dirty with MODx and not give up too early.

    1. I totally agree!! I guess we just have to have the patience to understand the basics, the the things start beeing so obvious!!! I just use MODX in my projects!!! I don´t need more than that because i don´t believe that exist a CMS like this one!!!

  34. WordPress is a blogging tool. You can also make it work like a CMS. Tons of plugins.

    MODx: Its a clean slate. Total creative freedom. Top 10 ad-dons is all you need to get what you want. Someone who have used MODx would really understand what “Creative freedom” is.

    I have developed 1000+ websites for 12 years using Joomla and WordPress.

    MODx is the NEXT BIG THING.

  35. Thank You for the good article!I like how you have taken the ‘user’ personal preferences out as much as possible.

    I found this article as in the near future I will be required to create an involved website which has been requested to be built in WP. Creativepact has used MODX for most of our CMS sites for the past few years and to be honest I would prefer MODX for this site. Ie would require a solid arguement to change their mind.

    Thanks Again!

  36. Just installed MODx 3 days ago and set it up to handle multiple domains. Have 1 domain all done (thenannyconsultants.com) and in progress on doing the layout and blog for my main domain. I agree the documentation is not the best but a little thought and testing breaks through. I am not an experienced web designer. I went to MODx because I couldn’t make thenannyconsultants site wotk on WordPress and Concrete 5 was just too hard for me. On MODx I set up multi domains and ported the html site with complex wayfinder and UltimateParent menus set up and debugged inside a day. The other site has taken 2 hours to get the back end and coding working now only needs css cleaned up. Folks I am not a developer, I know enough html and css to get into trouble and how to scan the net for solutions when stuck. A little patience and push makes MODx work for even novices. I love it.

  37. WordPress vs Modx, try to perform the simple task of generating a compliant menu without any added bloat html for example. In WordPress you need to change the atributes in the call, but where is the call, in the header.php, nope…. in the sidebar.php aha, then add a custom walker to you functions.php , you will pull your hair out if you want to create something simple. Only to find out that you actually broke the theme and that your widgets are no longer working… pfff In Modx, menu you say no problem, place your call, follow this template or tpl and voila…there are many other practical cases where you will find yourself messing with php and loops to get WordPress to do something. In Modx, you want something, you know exactly where to find it and how to get it done… all while the code generated follows your nicely made html template…

  38. Good article, I’ve been using MODX for the past 5 years – think when I was making the move to a CMS I looked at WP, Joomla and WP and came across MODX.

    At first it was so frustrating, would seem that all the documentation was around 90% with the critical 10% that you needed to complete the job not there, or written in such a way that you had to be extremely technical to work it out. In fact I think on the forums it’s almost an unwritten rule to give a complete answer / solution to the Original Post letting the OP having to figure the final 1% out !!

    But the above is a good thing as you end up having to learn what you can do.

    I’ve finally moved to REVO only last week, and at first it seemed I was having to start all over again, having to read between the lines in the documentation, but I have to say I think I’m now ahead of where I was with EVO and the ease of the package manager is great.

    Where MODX scores so highly is enabling me to meet the requirements of the client, in what he wants to do with the design and functionality, as we all know clients can be a freakin nightmare, wanting the tiniest of changes – with MODX I can do this really quickly.

    If its a new client and he doesn’t know what he really wants, I tell him to go to Theme Forrest, look at the templates, select the one that he wants, and then advise him that it’s not cast in stone as I can change what ever he does not like.

    I download the template and can have a working site in under a couple of hours – job done!

  39. Five years ago, I built my first-ever site of about ten pages. Its use of server-side scripting was minor, limited to PHP include() calls for navigation. Even at that, I understood that there had to be a better way to go. One rainy weekend’s Googling lead me to MODX. It was a steep but worthwhile learning curve. I’ve done a site that now contains 2000+ pieces of content. I can’t imagine doing a site of more than five pages without it.

    Pay heed to Gavin Bayliss’s post of 2013-09-28. He slipped something by that is subtle but powerful: MODX’s “site templating system” is one or more static HTML pages and their associated CSS. (Alternatively, maybe it is equivalent to say that MODX doesn’t have a templating system at all.) See a design you like? Buy it or scrape it off of the Web. Then replace its content and navigation with MODX snippet calls. Bam! Instant content-managed site. Then login to the MODX Manager to add and organize content.

    The MODX “snippet” concept reminds me of the old Cold Fusion idea, except that it allows for extending and writing ones own functions in a well controlled, secure way. MODX includes a nice O-O API to back that up.

    MODX may not be “the only way to go,” but it’s pretty darned good.

    I’d like to see more WP vs. MODX discussion with regard to underpinning technologies. For instance, how do their plug-in facilities work, and what does that imply? MODX offers fine-grained caching control that can be applied to make many sites, even quite large ones, run like blazes. How does WP’s caching work?

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