Whether you’re a front-end web developer, designer or marketing professional at a midsize business, choosing the right web content management system (CMS) for your specific needs is overwhelming. The hardest part just may be that many CMSs are great solutions when implemented safely and properly. But as Matt explained last week, at SCG we have a new favorite—and it’s Craft. While Matt walked through this CMS from the perspective of a content creator, I’m going to tell you why it’s also so great from a developer’s perspective.
But first—it’s pretty much impossible to write an article about CMSs and not mention the most popular kid in the classroom: WordPress. So let’s get that out of the way. At SCG we love WordPress and pretty much live and breathe it on a day-to-day basis. For many web projects it’s our go-to platform.
Okay, done. Let’s move on to why Craft is our CMS of choice for many website projects.
Editing Content and Creating Page Layouts 🚀
At SCG we are laser focused on solving problems for our clients and simplifying the complex. It’s no wonder I would like to first give praise to the content editing experience with Craft.
- As mentioned by Matt, Live Preview is by far one of Craft’s most killer features. It allows content managers to preview updates and custom page layout building nearly in real time.
- The UI of the Craft control panel is very intuitive and has virtually no learning curve. Training is a breeze every time and, in some cases, not even required.
- Craft is fast. And I mean crazy fast. This goes for the front end as well as the Control Panel and tops the many reasons for choosing a modern CMS over an older one.
- Nearly all content is in one place: Entries. Editors love this and can easily find what they’re looking for.
- Fine-grained user permissions and group management allow publishing workflows across different departments and individuals. And no, you don’t need a plugin for this.
Killer Craft Features and Look Mom, No Plugins! 👋
The Craft CMS features you get out-of-the-box are incredibly useful for both web designers and developers alike. The functions and options developers have to work with before installing any plugins are astounding. Here is a partial list of features for which many other CMSs require plugins, but Craft offers immediately after a fresh install:
- Multi-site, multilingual capabilities and any combination of the two. You can manage all of your brand sites under one roof and localize them where needed. This is an epic headache with the majority of other CMSs.
- Page layout building with Matrix. If your site calls for it, editors can add content blocks of any type to build one-off pages or sections, all while staying consistent with the site’s custom design and branding.
- Single-click updating. Just like WordPress, you can easily update Craft core and plugins with the click of a button.
- Robust custom fields for full control over your content and design.
- Robust sitewide search capabilities and content indexing
- The aforementioned Live Preview while editing (very few systems if any implement this as wonderfully as Craft)
- A gorgeous image editor with the ability to rotate, resize, re-crop and even set an image focal point for automated image crops and transformations.
- A bonafide easy to learn PHP templating language with a cute name: Twig. This allows for 100% control over your HTML/CSS/JS etc. In fact, there are no pre-designed or built themes for Craft—it’s bring your own markup no matter what. Front enders love this.
- A Plugin Store with many awesome free and paid options
Killer Craft Plugins and Look Mom, Plugins! 🤘🏼
While Craft gives you a ton of awesomeness without plugins, just as with any CMS, extensibility through add-ons or plugins is essential. At the time of this writing the store has nearly 400 plugins, mostly built by awesome agencies and developers that actively use and maintain them. I also now count a whopping 28 first-party plugins by Pixel & Tonic, the company behind Craft CMS. In addition to the exceptional quality of these plugins, the best part just may be that the payment and licensing for them is all managed in the same place you manage your Craft license using Craft ID. No more third- party systems and worrying about expirations and renewals from a multitude of plugin vendors. Some favorites of ours include SEOmatic for comprehensive SEO implementation, Feed Me Pro for content migrations and feeds, Freeform Pro for web form management and form building, and the Super Table for when you need matrix-in-matrix I N C E P T I O N on your site.
Craft is a Modern Choice and Age Matters ⌛
You betcha it matters. With Netflix, PBS, Salesforce, Duck Brand Duck Tape, Moz and countless other brands running Craft websites, it’s clearly a mature and road-tested content management system. At the same time, one of the most wonderful things about Craft is that its age makes it a far more modern solution. Built on the Yii framework, it uses the latest and greatest in modern PHP development and was conceived in a time where web content management systems were well established, solving countless issues that many older systems are still plagued with.
To give you an idea of the age differences: Craft was first introduced in 2012, making it about 6 years old at the time of this writing; WordPress was first introduced in 2003 as a blogging platform pushing sweet sixteen; and Drupal’s initial release was in 2000 making it three times the age of Craft at 18. Craft has no technical baggage, so to speak. Craft has no need to keep up with backwards compatibility for hundreds of thousands of websites. Using modern dev technologies allows it to be ridiculously fast, flexible, secure and customizable to specific website and content needs.
First Party Support and a Friendly Community 🆘
Another huge win for Craft CMS is the fact that with your license you get first-party support directly from the developers Pixel & Tonic. This is huge. Really huge. If something goes wrong or you’re stuck on an issue, you can create a support ticket directly from the Craft Control Panel Dashboard. Couple this with a helpful and friendly community of over 7,000 developers and users on Slack and over 3,000 accounts on Craft’s Stack Exchange forum and you have an award-winning cocktail of technical support. I speak firsthand when I say that the Craft CMS community is kind, welcoming and very helpful—mighty brainy to boot!
TL; DR ✌🏼🚪
Have I convinced you yet or did you just scroll here to see the big finish? The bottom line is Craft is an affordable, modern, open-source CMS with stellar security and first-party support. The features and flexibility it offers out of the box, along with its content first approach, make it our go-to for nearly every custom web project. It’s a vital part of our web design and development capabilities. Intrigued? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk about how it can make your site great.
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