Beyond WordPress and Drupal: This site is powered by Craft CMS!
My old static site, lovingly built with these two hands, had served me well. But it was time for a content management system. Join me on a journey, a journey of choosing the right CMS.
The future. It's here.
Hang on there, cowboy. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with WordPress or Drupal. I recommend them often, when they are the right solution.
Content management systems. When you're as long in the tooth as I am (hey, I never promised that I wouldn't use cliches) you'll remember a Time Before CMS. Back in my day we would build a CMS for each project.
Yes, building a custom CMS to power a website was a lot of work, but it meant that it was always tailored to the project, the site, and the client. And besides, there weren't many CMSs to choose from.
Then along came the Joomla's, the Website Bakers, WordPresses, Drupals, and all the rest. And web designers and developers like us were forced to shift our specialization. It no longer made sense to build a CMS every time. Not only are WP and Drupal free, extensible, and stable, they are open-source (and of course, there are other CMSs, but WP and Drupal are popular). This means that they are always being improved, and they continue to evolve as requirements change and online behaviour evolves.
And, of course, there is another breed of CMS. The SaaS (software as a service) style CMS: all-in-one, drag-and-drop, served and hosted by the provider. Squarespace seems to be the strongest leader in this landscape, although again, it's not the only one. Squarespace has created a top-notch user experience in the administration interface and onboarding. Got a credit card and a computer? You can actually have a beautiful website up and running within hours.
We've come a long f*cking way. A long way from building the interface for a custom CMS for every single site.
But where's the fun with using something mainstream? I've been in the web industry for a long long time, and I've been part of hundreds of website launches. The process gets pretty routine.
The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.
Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
Half of the fun in launching my own websites is in figuring out the design.
But the other half of the fun is figuring out how I'm going to do it. I'll try out a CMS or templating system or html framework just for the sake of trying it. I've got a pet project that I've built five different times as an excuse to try something new. (That pet project is my little collection of words).
For the relaunch of my own site, I couldn't get excited about choosing a mainstream CMS like WordPress or Drupal. I wanted to see what else was out there. And why not? You can try something new, and as long as your design and information architecture is thoughtfully designed, you can migrate to a different platform later.
I researched some of the other CMS tools out there. There are flat file CMSs, like Grav, which have no database. There are headless CMSs, like Contentful, where the front end is decoupled from the database and admin. I didn't spend a lot of time looking SaaS CMSs like Squarespace; I wanted something that gave me full control over the front end.
Enter Craft CMS.
Craft is a content-first CMS that aims to make life enjoyable for developers and content managers alike.
Here are some of the things I love about Craft CMS:
- Minimal features out of the box; add what you need as you need it
- Extremely flexible; tailor content types and fields to fit your content perfectly
- Version control; track changes
- Approachable templating with Twig; take charge of the front end with intuitive Twig syntax
- Light and clean admin UI that you can customize; arrange the order of fields, sort them into tabs
- Smooth installation; up and running within a few minutes
What shines through in Craft CMS is the "content-first" part. This is a CMS made to work with all shapes and sizes of content. If I want to add a custom field to a content type, I don't need to add a plug in or change the database or write any custom code. Craft has clearly embraced the fact that content comes in a variety of forms. Not everything is as simple as Title, Summary, Body, Feature Image.
It turns out that Craft is a great fit for an eccentric little site like this, where I have long-form writing, weird pull quotes, and side projects.
(The jetpack guy is from the illustration of a 1928 Amazing Stories cover. For a little more jetpack history, here's a gallery from Time magazine.)