Alternative to Directus

Payload is code-first, while Directus is GUI-based. Directus describes itself as an open data platform, similar to how database clients like PHPMyAdmin work, while Payload is a purpose-built developer-first headless CMS that features CMS-specific features like future versions, block-based layout editor, preview, and more.

Payload's Rich Text Editor

Payload has a true JSON-based Rich Text Editor

Directus uses TinyMCE, which stores content as a string of HTML. Payload provides 2 editor options - Slate or Lexical. Both editors store the rich text as JSON, which is extremely powerful and allows you to build custom elements directly into the Payload rich text editor with ease. Embed YouTube videos, add custom text treatments and effects, reference other documents, and embed media dynamically.

More Features

Payload supports many features that Directus lacks.


React UI

Payload's Admin UI is built with React, and you can easily swap out components with your own React components. Directus is built with Vue, which is significantly less popular and well-known.


Local Node API

Payload features a local Node API, which allows you to perform operations directly on your server, with no HTTP layer required. Directus's SDK relies on Axios to interact, which is significantly slower and less powerful.


Field Level Localization

Payload features deep field-based localization support. Maintaining as many locales as you need is easy. Only need to localize a few fields? No problem, all other fields will use your fallback locale.


Bring Your Own Express Server

Payload allows bringing your own Express server. It is passed through Payload but is still accessible to use how a developer would expect afterwards.


Powerful Hooks

Both document and field-level hooks expose a ton of potential. Customize output, sanitize incoming data, or easily integrate with third-party platforms. A truly-powerful pattern.


Database Flexibility

Payload gives you the choice of MongoDB or Postgres, both allow for a flexible document structure which is perfect for CMS-type applications.

Directus provides only one SQL-based database option which requires overhead like migrations and more.

Simple Concepts

Payload's magic is kept to a minimum so you can understand everything about your CMS.

Payload gives you everything you need, but then steps back and lets you build what you want in JavaScript or TypeScript - with no unnecessary complexity brought by GUIs. However, Directus abstracts away a lot of its inner-workings into a black box and makes it much more difficult for a developer to understand what is happening—and why.

Learn about Payload concepts
const Customers = {
// ...
hooks: {
beforeChange: [
// Before the Customer is created or updated,
// sync it to Hubspot
afterChange: [
// Send the new Customer a welcome email
// after it's successfully created
afterRead: [
// Dynamically append user's active subscriptions
// straight from Stripe

Open-ended access control

Build any type of access control pattern you can dream of with Payload.

Directus only supports role-based access control (RBAC) which limits you to only being able to control who can perform which actions to your data. However, Payload supports function-based access control which can be used on either a document or field-by-field basis to build any type of control that you can think of.

Learn about Payloads access control
const Orders = {
// ...
access: {
create: () => true, // Everyone can create
read: ({ req: { user } }) => {
if (user) {
return { // Users can only read their own
owner: { equals:, },
return false; // Not logged in? Can't read any
update: ({ req: { user } }) => {
// Only Admins can update Orders
if (user.roles.includes('admin')) return true;
return false;
delete: () => false, // No one can delete

Payload vs. Directus

Response times are critical and Payload's GraphQL API is 3x faster

We put in the work to give both a fair shake, and then we wrote a blog post about it. We think you should read it.