When new clients come to us, the first question they usually ask is, “hey, is your web developer related to Ryan Gosling? He looks like Ryan’s more attractive brother”.
The next question is what system we’re going to use to manage the content. For 95% of situations the client needs a Content Management Systems (CMS) for, the solution is Craft CMS.
Most tech-savvy people have heard about WordPress and ExpressionEngine, but very few have heard of Craft CMS. Craft, our preferred CMS, is a relatively new platform, and one that has changed the way we’ve developed websites.
Craft is for people who like to take their time and do things right, building out their HTML, CSS, and JS by hand. There are no themes, and you won’t find any flashy UI tools full of sliders and other gadgets that will help you “design” your website in minutes.Craft's Official Documentation
Craft offers a blend of flexibility, speed and scalability without compromising on usability (and while we’re just firing off buzz words here, it also helps with synergy, logistics and management solutions). We love Craft, our clients love Craft and once we’re done converting you, you’re going to love Craft, too. Come and drink the (metaphorical) Koolaid with us.
Two essential parts to picking a CMS are flexibility and scalability. With Craft, we’re able to design and build websites, and then form the CMS around it like a snuggie. We're not limited to any containers or restraints - we're only limited to the boundaries of our imagination.
Craft flexes on other CMS' with its backend flexibility. For instance, we’re able to decide how all of the content is structured and categorized to make it as clean as possible. Here’s an example of how all of the entries (pages) can be categorized within Craft.
You have standalone pages (singles), and pages that have similar content structures (channels). With this structured layout, you can make your CMS scalable to grow with your evolving content.
Custom templates for WordPress typically rely on a blend of hooks and PHP. With Craft, you use a PHP framework called Yii, paired with a template engine called Twig. These tools allow our code to be more simple and less prone to syntax mistakes.
Here’s an example of the different languages - which would you prefer to look at?
Craft comes pre-installed with the following plugins out-of-the-box:
In the most extreme use case, we have 10 plugins installed on a website, but they are all designed to do one specific task (redirect, transform images, display form submissions) which reduces redundancy and increases speed.
Even better, updating the system is easier than a zebra coloring book. No more wasted time re-registering, backing up, updating, bug-fixing, re-updating and crying over clunkier CMS’. Craft has one-click updating with an automatic backup - and if there's a problem it will automatically revert to the previous version. Neat.
Also worth mentioning that a good portion of the plugins are completely free, built by the Craft community.
One benefit of fewer plugins is the reduced amount of trips to the server the webpage has to make. This speeds up the site which makes both the users and Google very happy. Some services that claim to be “optimized” for your CMS exist, putting out some fairly convincing messaging. However, the truth is that all database-driven sites function primarily the same.
Since Craft is lightweight and open source, we’re able to crank our speed up to 11.
Here’s an example of a website that’s been optimized for WordPress, as scanned by Google’s PageSpeed tool.
Name has been changed for protection of the business in the example and because my boss told me to.
Because Craft is such an open CMS, we’re able to utilize caching, image optimizations, lazy loading and more to optimize the site without having to use 3rd party plugins.
At some point, I’ll write a blog post all about SEO - but today is not that day. Basically, here’s what gets taken into account for your Search Engine Ranking:
Relevance is the content of the website, how good it is, how much it gets linked, the quality of websites linking to it, and how long it has been around for -- you know, relevant things.
Usability is measured by both the search engine and by the end users. Valid HTML, good title tags, fast speed - all of these factor into how “usable” a website is.
So with that in mind, here’s a secret SEO companies DON’T want you to know: having a CMS does not mean you’ll have quality SEO. Search engines don’t know which CMS you’re running and frankly, they don’t care. They see if your site is relevant and usable, and that’s it. What your CMS *can* help with is streamlining how content is displayed so that search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo can navigate your site faster.
The tool we use to do this successfully is called SEOMatic. It provides a nice way to add a title, site tags, site descriptions, Twitter cards and more on both a site-wide level and an individual, page-by-page level.
It works by outputting something like:
<meta name="twitter:title" content="Masonry - What to Know About Google’s Universal Rollout of the New AdWords UI ">
In this example, this is the title that Twitter will read and embed in any individual tweet when you post a link to your article. That’s something you can type up by hand but ain't nobody got time for that. I want my CMS to do it automagically.
Our favorite part about Craft is that it makes it (almost) impossible for a client to make mistakes. The end user is never able to touch code in the admin area (unless you want them to), and still has control of all content, thanks to individual fields within the pages you set.
Craft may not have the flashiest control panel, but it has the most simple user interface. Mobile-friendly and hyper-efficient, you can use this in any way, on any device, from anywhere.
For example, here’s a screenshot of an average dashboard setup within Craft:
Additionally, Craft utilizes versioning and live previews to prevent oopsies from happening. In an ideal world, your developer would make your website very difficult for you to mess up, but sometimes mistakes still happen, which is why Craft’s page versioning is prettttty, pretty good.
Craft was originally a passion project made by developers who loved ExpressionEngine but felt like it lacked a few modern features that other CMS's had.
This passion for developing has since transferred over to Craft -- and their devs are still accessible in places like their publicly-listed Slack channel or Stack Overflow.
Craft is by far one of the most usable, fool-proof and dev-friendly websites on the market. It grows as you grow, and functions as you designate it to. If you’ve made it this far and you still have questions about Craft CMS or maybe just don’t believe us quite yet, you can check out the demo on Craft's website.