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AEM vs Contentful: What are the differences?


In this article, we will discuss the key differences between Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Contentful, two popular content management systems used for building and managing websites.

  1. Hosting and Deployment Model: AEM is a self-hosted system, which means that it needs to be installed and managed on-premises or on a private cloud. On the other hand, Contentful is a cloud-based system that is hosted and managed by Contentful itself. This means that Contentful takes care of the infrastructure and server management, allowing users to focus solely on managing their content.

  2. Ease of Use and User Interface: AEM has a steeper learning curve compared to Contentful. It offers a wide range of features and functionalities, but this complexity can be overwhelming for non-technical users. Contentful, on the other hand, has a more intuitive and user-friendly interface, making it easier for content creators and marketers to manage and publish content without extensive technical knowledge.

  3. Customizability and Flexibility: AEM is highly customizable and provides extensive capabilities for creating complex web experiences. It offers a wide range of tools and features for developers to build custom components and integrations. Contentful, while not as flexible as AEM, still offers a good degree of customization through its API and webhooks. It allows developers to extend its functionalities using JavaScript and provides a marketplace for pre-built integrations.

  4. Scalability and Performance: AEM is designed to handle large-scale enterprise-level websites with complex content structures. It is built on top of Apache Sling and Apache Jackrabbit, which provide high performance and scalability. Contentful, being a cloud-based system, is also highly scalable and can handle large amounts of traffic. It uses a content delivery network (CDN) to ensure fast and reliable content delivery to users across the globe.

  5. Integration Capabilities: AEM offers seamless integrations with other Adobe products, such as Adobe Analytics, Adobe Target, and Adobe Campaign. This allows users to leverage the full suite of Adobe marketing tools for their websites. Contentful, on the other hand, offers integrations with a wide range of third-party tools and services, including digital asset management (DAM) systems, localization services, and e-commerce platforms.

  6. Pricing and Cost: AEM is a more expensive option compared to Contentful. It requires upfront licensing fees and ongoing maintenance costs. Contentful, on the other hand, operates on a subscription-based model, with pricing tiers based on usage and features. This makes Contentful a more cost-effective choice for small to medium-sized businesses or organizations with limited budgets.

In summary, AEM is a powerful and feature-rich content management system that is ideal for large-scale enterprise websites with complex requirements. It offers extensive customizability, seamless integrations with Adobe's marketing tools, and high scalability. On the other hand, Contentful is a cloud-based solution that provides a user-friendly interface, good customizability through its API, and a wide range of third-party integrations. It is a more cost-effective option for smaller businesses or organizations with limited budgets.

Advice on AEM and Contentful
Kamil Debbagh
Product Manager at Wooclap · | 8 upvotes · 113.8K views
Needs advice

Hi StackSharers, your help is dearly needed as we're making a move to which we will commit for the next few years.

Problem: As our Marketing team gets growing needs to publish content fast and autonomously, we're trying to add a CMS to our stack.


  • This CMS should have fairly advanced marketing features: either natively built, and/or be open source, so we can either find third parties' plugins suiting our needs or build our own plugins homebrew.

  • "Advanced marketing features" like these: Non-devs should be able to handle content autonomously, Should have a non-dev friendly interface, should allow creating a library of reusable components/modules, should show the preview before publishing, should have a calendar with all publications, should show the history/tracking, should allow collaborating (Google Docs like), should display characters limit optimized for SEO.

Solution: We're considering an SSG + Headless CMS combination. We're fairly confident for the SSG (Gatsby), but we're still uncertain which CMS we should choose.

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Replies (3)

Of all the content management systems out there, contentful seems to be the most flexible. It consist of an user interface with an API a front end app can retrieve data from.

It makes no assumptions about how your data is presented or structured, and you can form any kind of content in the interface. Architectural portfolio with square footage attributes? Check. Carousel section on a page? Check. A blog? No problem. Entire landing pages consisting of sections that have child items in them and attributes for each child? Not an issue. Image hosting / cdn and resizing? No problem. Character limits? Widely supported. Multilingual? Easy peasy

There are two parts of the interface. Content types and content items. Content types is just a definition of how a content item is structured, you can add fields such as title, unique id, image, rich text, lists of child content items, etc. And then the API will just return a list of content items in JSON array or object format.

There is service integration with common apps, or data sources.

Because it’s just an API call, you can use literally any tech stack with it. It won’t stop you from using MySQL or any other technology alongside it. No messing about compilation, Java, maven, like with AEM. No being constrained to the CMS’s programming language or hosting environment like with Wordpress (to an extent, wp has an API too). You can integrate it with any app, whether it be serverless, on a vm, or inside a docker container.

Downside is the front end is really up to you. It’s just a cms for structuring your data. No preview though. How you present it is not handled by contentful. It is it’s greatest strength and not a weakness though

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Krassimir Boyanov
Independent IT Consultant, CEO at KBWEB Consult · | 3 upvotes · 71K views

Hi Kamil, Have you considered Adobe Experience Manager (AEM)? It is not completely open-source but is built on top of many open source modules - like Apache Sling, Apache Felix, has a great deal of open-sourced core components, supports SPA - React and Angular Recently and can be deployed as a cloud service. Good luck in your search!

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Gagan Jakhotiya
Engineering Manager at BigBasket · | 1 upvotes · 59.2K views

I'd like to share my experience for a similar use case.

A couple of months back I was in a similar place while facing some similar set of challenges within our SEO and Content Team. We were working with WordPress at that moment and for some parts - we still do. While WordPress is a very fast, intuitive and comprehensive tool to power static pages, it's not ideal for: 1. The content team as it requires some level of technical skills 2. Code reusability perspective - impacts performance in a longer run 3. Performance and user experience can easily go for a toss considering content team may not be diligent with everything outside the scope of the content

While evaluating we were looking at these key criterias: 1. SEO, Performance and UX 2. Ease of use for Content Team, developer independence 3. Learning Curve for devs and more importantly content creators 4. Support for complex design cases 5. Cost

Being part of a small org on a tight budget our natural inclination was for open-source solution, Strapi, and so we gave it a go for a smaller project before jumping the marketing wagon.

Strapi is a great tool, easy to learn and pick up. You get most of the design use cases out of the box baked for you. It's a Node.js service so you'll need to manage the service (meaning you'll have to handle monitoring, logging, cdn, auth, etc) and DB - which requires quiet some dev bandwidth. Now Strapi is still very young in term of DB migrations (not a seamless deployment yet - no schema diffing mechanism), setting up different environments required effort and you can do content modeling only in development environment (the db migrations complexity) - which becomes really critical when you want devs, design and content to collaborate simultaneously and don't want repeated work for modeling. Over a 5-6 weeks of use we realised that more and more dev bandwidth is required to do progressive addition of new content and hence we did another PoC with contentful.

Comparing this with contentful - which is a managed service, comes with inbuilt environment and preview setup, gives on-the-fly content modeling (replacing all the dev bandwidth dependency for managing migrations, cdn, auth, service, etc) gives a huge advantage of speed and developer independence at a very moderate price. Plus, the UI is very intuitive (taking some concepts from Tag Manager).

Few other thing to highlight: - Both Strapi and Contentful have plugins for common tooling. - Both the dashboard supports custom data type and UI extensions. I found Contentful UI extensions much more easier to implement. - Contentful has only US based availablility zone. Simple in-memory caching can be used to improve costing and SLA.

Hope this helps!

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Maxim Filimonov
Needs advice

Hi Community, Would like to ask for advice from people familiar with those tools. We are a small self-funded startup and initial cost for us is very important at that stage. That's why we are leaning towards Sanity. The CMS will be used to power our website and flutter cross-platform mobile applications.

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Replies (1)

Former developer here. If you want something robust vs "looks good from a distance," I would recommend Contentful. They are the biggest for a reason. Their CMS handles a lot of use cases and has great documentation. will work well in simple blog-esque use cases. Their more complex features break easily and their documentation is confusing. It has fallen quite a distance behind Contentful. Sanity appears to be a much newer CMS and you might come to regret the lack of features, but I've only briefly reviewed their product.

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Pros of AEM
Pros of Contentful
    Be the first to leave a pro
    • 30
      API-based cms
    • 17
      Much better than WordPress
    • 11
      Simple and customizable
    • 5
      Images API
    • 3
      Free for small projects
    • 1
      Extensible dashboard UI
    • 1
      Super simple to integrate
    • 1
      Managed Service
    • 1
      Tag Manager like UI

    Sign up to add or upvote prosMake informed product decisions

    Cons of AEM
    Cons of Contentful
      Be the first to leave a con
      • 5
        No spell check
      • 5
        No repeater Field
      • 4
        No free plan
      • 3
        Slow dashboard
      • 2
        Enterprise targeted
      • 2
      • 2
        Limited content types
      • 1
        Not scalable
      • 1
        No GraphQL API

      Sign up to add or upvote consMake informed product decisions

      What is AEM?

      It is a web-based client-server system for building, managing and deploying commercial websites and related services. It combines a number of infrastructure-level and application-level functions into a single integrated package.

      What is Contentful?

      With Contentful, you can bring your content anywhere using our APIs, completely customize your content structure all while using your preferred programming languages and frameworks.

      Need advice about which tool to choose?Ask the StackShare community!

      What companies use AEM?
      What companies use Contentful?
      See which teams inside your own company are using AEM or Contentful.
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      Sign up to get full access to all the companiesMake informed product decisions

      What tools integrate with AEM?
      What tools integrate with Contentful?
        No integrations found

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        What are some alternatives to AEM and Contentful?
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        Drupal is an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications. It’s built, used, and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the world.
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        Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.
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