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Directus - One year later. What I learnt

By Shash7. Posted on 8th Nov, 2023 - Updated on 8th Nov, 2023

Directus - One year later. What I learnt

I've been using Directus for more than a year in both personal, and business capacity, This is my honest take on what I've learnt from using Directus during this time.

Without further ado, let's rip in.

Where Directus sucks


I would like to say that the docs are bad, but they aren't - because they are non-existent.

Yep, that's right. Directus offers itself as a developer first CMS but to back that up, it needs:

  • Solid documentation of each field type, internal api, client sdk usage

  • Heaps of examples on using specific fields, sdk usage(caching, best practices, etc)

  • Recipes and cookbooks on usage in specific contexts, eg blogs, internal apps, SaaS, etc

And this is where it really fails. Directus has a huge lack of solid documentation.

In particular, documentation around frontend usage via the sdk, and extending directus via extensions, is really lackluster.

Backward compatibility sucks

Looking at my previous thoughts, I truly believed Directus would respect backward compat till a certain degree. I understand major version releases may break your code but the version switch from 9 to 10 is simply too big.

In particular, the docs need to showcase how to properly extend extensions and such. While v10 is pretty solid by itself, if you're on v9 and thinking of upgrading, know that its not a straightforward prcess(unless you're running a small blog or something similar)

No extension marketplace in sight

With adopting Directus, we knew that we will be writing a lot of code to cover basic needs(eg: SEO extension, modified content editor, app specific interfaces, etc).

An extension marketplace would've been made our life simpler. Heck, we're more than happy to pay a few bucks for paid extensions as long as we know they will be maintained.

But we ended up spending more time to write custom extension code than expected(mainly because of crap documentation). I truly believe that if Directus changed their focus from hosting to working on the extension marketplace, they would skyrocket.

As a small biz owner in a related field, I can confidently say that there's an easy $1 mil biz lying in the extension marketplace.

PS, there is a page for Directus marketplace, but hasn't been updated in ages.

Where Directus shines

Despite my crude tone, there are definitely some parts of Directus that I adore.

For instance, when we create a field, Directus will create a column with the name of that fields's key inside your sql db.

This is extremely well done and what makes long term sustainability of your project secure.

Other than that, the flexibility of the fields can be limiting but overall, really happy with how easy it is to setup fields.

Lastly, the team behind Directus doesn't have VC funding(according to my knowledge). They were an agency in the past, so they know and understand agency workflows. This is evident with how its built, features like Flow, importance of whitelabelling, small bits of details here and there, etc.

They have also been around for almost a decade, which gives me long term hope.

With Strapi and other VC backed CMSes, they will rapidly expand, and then start aggressively upselling their paid offerings in the future. I'm absolutely not a big fan of this playbook and I tend to avoid such products.

Having said that, here are some CMSes that nearly made the cut, but didn't work out for various reasons. Perhaps you'll find them more suitable for your needs.

  • DatoCMS - this is a really well made CMS. Solid UI/UX on the editorial side, solid docs(so far!) and a healthy extension store. Sadly, it is ridiculously expensive.Plus they don't have a self hosted version which means you're tied with them for like, forever.

  • Payload CMS - This is another well done developer oriented CMS like Directus. This one is even more developer friendly than Directus and personally, would've made the cut. Unfortunately, when we decided to go with Direcuts, Payload was very new, and I personally loath typescript. P.S, their Directus comparison page is a load of hogwash so feel free to ignore it.

  • Strapijs - I've tried it in the past and I've never been a fan of it. At one point, I did try to use it earnestly, but I got a lot of errors while setting up a basic website. Needlessly to say, I went back to Directus. Too bad, they have made heaps of progress over the last few years, and have pretty much overtaken Directus in terms of features.

Hope this helps you decide if Directus is right for you. I've written a previous, more in-depth article on Directus, worth a read if you're on the fence.