Craft CMS describes it self as a faceless CMS. What they mean by this is that there are no templates or default front-end out of the box. And this is a good thing; It allows us to tailor your site and guarantees that we have control over everything that happens.
Developers love it, as we don't have to struggle with obsolete and redundant code. There is actual building, as opposed to modifying.
Content creators love it because the structure and available options are suited to their needs. The easy to learn interface and great user experience when working with content is a breath of fresh air compared to several other CMSes.
What does Craft CMS bring to the table?
Pixel & Tonic, the company behind Craft CMS, spent years developing extensions for the renowned CMS ExpressionEngine. Several of their extensions were very popular, and so they decided to simply build a CMS based on their experience with ExpressionEngine and these extensions. The result is a flexible content and assets management system most people seem to love.
The live preview functionality is a useful and time-saving feature. It allows the content creators to preview the page as it's being built without switching tabs or going back and forth.
The unpublished entry can also be shared using a unique URL, for input, feedback or approval before publishing.
Support for multiple languages, or hosting of multiple similar websites
Image editing tools
The built-in image editing tools with focus point, make sure all the image transforms respects what you'd like to be visible in the images as they are automatically scaled, cropped and adjusted for your smashing responsive design.
Pixel & Tonic frequently release updates and consider security seriously. So while other, often free and community-driven CMSes may experience problems keeping up with critical vulnerabilities swiftly, Craft CMS handles these issues faster than you can wrap a taco.
Pixel & Tonic has also developed a commerce plugin for Craft CMS. This ensures a fully embedded commerce experience. That means; If you're accustomed to creating entries and working as a content creator, you'll feel right at home navigating the commerce section.
Curious about the whats and hows? Please check out their docs 🤓
Simple and intuitive
Pages, entries, entry types, categories, etc. are all clearly separated. Dynamic fields, such as images, enables the creator to add or upload an asset right here and there.
The Control panel is responsive and will not stop you from making that one adjustment using your mobile while your trip to Bali 🏖
Images and other files
Files are easily maintained by the assets library. But, as mentioned earlier, assets are mostly handled then and there when you're creating the content. But it's good to know you could also use the library to search for, edit, update, delete and upload files.
Dynamic pages using (building)blocks
Craft CMS has always had the Matrix field as one of its key features. This field enables the content creator to tailor each entry, by telling a story using the right tools. While standard WYSIWYG fields give you a false feeling of control and sense of how your content is presented, a page generated using blocks allows you to be in charge! (Oh, btw; The odds are, that when somebody talks about "components" or "modules" on a page they mean the same thing as a Block.)
We usually identify which blocks are needed for you, during the (service) design phase. Since your site then consists of several smaller components rather than larger whole-page templates, it's easier to keep track of development status and maintaining the original estimates. And should the need for a specific component reveal itself, estimating that specific component and implementing it is a much leaner approach.
As a result of using smaller components like this, we reduce the number of required page templates. This equals fewer files to maintain and update, and fewer instances where old-should-have-been-updated code occurs. An added bonus is that you can insert a newly created block where you would like. In multiple entries, and in between whichever other blocks you'd like.
In Craft CMS 3 (released early 2018), they also added support for a plugin-store. Within the first year, more than 500 plugins has been added. What Pixel & Tonic want, is for the plugin developers to charge for their plugins, in exchange for updating and maintaining them. This results in a high-end plugin store, with stable and quite useful and relevant plugins. And don't worry, there are several useful and handy plugins that won't cost you a dime as well.
As for extending Craft with any custom integrations or special needs, we achieve that by writing a plugin or module in PHP. Here at Norse, we excel in PHP, so you'll be in good hands. There is also a very helpful and eager community available on Discord, should we need some pointers in the right direction 🥰They even have their own conference for developers called .all!
Some of our favorite plugins
We use a plugin to handle all the modern and best practices when it comes to SEO. It will handle your site keywords, generate social tags, JSON-LD structured data tags and sitemaps. The plugin is flexible and allows general rules for automatic fetching of content, so you don't have to spend unnecessary time on SEO yourself. But should you need to override the content for one specific entry, it allows you to do so. It also has social posts previews so you can tailor how you appear to the world.
When you want full control over your forms, submissions and keep it GDPR compliant with auto-purge after X number of days, we've found a plugin to handle this! You generate the forms you need and insert them where you need using a form block.
While Craft CMS is not natively set up as a headless CMS (yet?), there are some viable options;
You can be inspired by Nate Ilers in his talk from the Dot All conference; How to create a full REST API with Craft 3
That said, currently, using the CraftQL plugin will not be compatible with the Live Preview functionality 😔. Not until this enhancement is implemented at least.
UPDATE! As of version 3.2.0-alpha.6, it says "Headless content previewing is now possible". So prepare for 🥳 when this hits the stable release.
Who should use Craft CMS?
You have something important to tell the world and need a CMS tailored to your needs. A CMS that is easy to work in, even for non-techy content editors.
Of course, there are other options out there, but our axiom here at Norse, is that right now; Craft CMS is one of, if not the best option for most use cases.
Craft Usage Statistics
The popularity of Craft CMS has skyrocketed the last couple of years! This is a sign of an increasing number of sites enjoying the user-friendly environment Craft conveys. So that's a fact that might comfort you further.
Now, if you'd like to test the experience by your self, there's a demo site that can be set up for you within a couple of minutes, right here: https://demo.craftcms.com/
Do you have a question that was not handled in this article? Or would like to contact us about creating your next site with Craft CMS? Just send an email to Espen Falkevik, our COO, for a helpful chat.