Following up on some feedback based on one of our previous posts, CMS struggles: Leaving ExpressionEngine for Craft, we wanted to highlight 10 specific reasons why we love Craft CMS, David Letterman Style. ::Drumroll::
Craft: A Primer
You might say - what is Craft? Craft is a PHP driven, licensed and supported content management system built by the guys over at Pixel and Tonic. It brings a fresh face to a otherwise bland and confusing landscape of content management platforms. If you'd like to learn more about Craft you can checkout Build with Craft.
Reason #1 - Support
Support is so important to Craft, they've built it right into the admin interface. Running into a problem, bug or can't quite figure something out? You can fill out a support form and it automatically creates a ticket that the Craft support staff will respond to.
I can't stress the importance of great support and that is why I made this reason #1 in why we love Craft. I have to say that I've submitted my fair share of support tickets and not only do they have a great response time, they've always been able to resolve my issues or push me in the right direction if I'm working on a custom plugin.
If nothing else, these guys need to be commended on how they handle support of their platform.
Reason #2 - Easy install and Blank Slate
Installing craft is very easy, the main directory contains two folders and a read me file. After you create a new database and update your databse config file (found in craft ~> config ~> db.php), you simply visit the /admin of the Craft URL and Craft will start the install process. Craft takes care of the rest.
After you first install Craft, the system is a blank slate. On the admin side there are two content types - a news "channel" and a single "homepage".
On the template side you're presented with 5 files: layout, 404, index, news index and news entry. There are no "themes", pre-set designs or hasty header injections junking up your code. Just a set of clean Twig (HTML) templates. But more about that later.
Reason #3 - Clean Admin Interface
Craft's admin UI is extremely simple and clean. There's priority given to typography and color with an emphasis on readability and hierarchy. Required fields are marked clearly with a red asterisk and fields are minimally styled.
As your content requirements grow and you add additional fields to each content type you can organize fields into different tabs and adjust the order in which they appear in each tab.
Reason #4 - The power of Twig
Craft's template system is powered by Twig. When I started working with Craft, over a year ago, I didn't understand why you would want to use a template engine like this but it quickly became clear.
Twig integrates with Craft really well and allows you to not only create layout based templates but reusable macros, template short tags (through plugins) along with template functions and logic. It's not quite as full featured as using straight PHP but it can keep your presentation layer clean.
And if Twig really isn't your thing, you can use plain old HTML.
Reason #5 - Built in Packages (CDN Files, User management)
Out of the box, Craft is 100% free to use. If the core features aren't quite enough, you only pay for the add-ons you need. It's great a la carte pricing. One of the best packages Craft offers called "Cloud" which allows you to send files to anyone of these CDN's: Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud files and Google.
You can read more of pricing here.
Reason #6 - Field Types & Content Flexibility
Let's move onto what really counts in a CMS - content.
In short, Craft handles content through sections, entries and fields. Sections can range from individual pages, a blog or any custom content type your site could need. Entries are individual entries organized under each section. Fields (or field types) are the containers for your actual content inside each entry.
The range of built in field types cover nearly every content scenario. Field types could easily deserve their own blog post but here's a list:
- Plain Text
- Rich Text (text area with editor)
These field types can be organized in field type groups that allow you to apply the same fields to many different content sections or create a unique group of fields for each section. The configuration options are endless.
Reason #7 - Solid foundation (Yii)
Although you never interact with it, it's worth noting that Craft is built on top of Yii, an established and secure PHP framework. The team has done a great job build and extending Craft, utilizing the power of Yii.
For us, it's great knowing that Craft utilizes such a great underlying platform. We've yet to have to reach down to the Yii level to fix anything. Craft is abstracted enough that you don't need to worry about all the behind the scenes work.
Reason #8 - Extendable
Now we're onto the real power of craft: Plugins. Plugins are extremely simple to create and allow you generate simple shortcuts to use as template tags or in-depth application type functionality. Over the past year we've used Craft plugins to create a voting system, custom location detection, a subscription service and event integration with Eventbrite.
Plugins can take on many different forms. From admin based functions, dashboard widgets to front-end functionality, plugins are a great way to extend the baseline functionality of Craft.
Reason #9 - Ongoing updates
Over the past year, Craft has gone through a ton of updates - currently holding at 1.7 updates per week, it's easy to say that they believe in on-going and active development.
The days of "boxed" software are over and I'm glad to work with a platform that belives in continually improving itself. If this is Craft's first year in the market, I can't wait to see what this coming year brings.
Reason #10 - The booze!
And finally... with a demo called "Gin and Tonic". What's not to love?
We are fully aware that Craft is not always the right solution for clients but so far we've found few exceptions.
Some might say that it's hard to draw a comparison between a platform that effectively just debuted vs. a platform with years of experience and community backing but Craft has placed themselves in direct competition with the rest of market.
The team behind Craft has built a solid foundation that they continue to refine and we can't wait to see what the future holds for the platform.