First things first: what's a CMS?
On the surface, a content management system—CMS—is an easy way to update the content on your website. A bit below the surface, a CMS is an approach to organizing website content, managing website features, and connecting to third-party tools and services. Essentially, your CMS is the operating system for your website.
Okay, got it. So what's Craft CMS?
Craft CMS was created by the team at Pixel & Tonic, a software development company previously known for creating premium ExpressionEngine add-ons. It was the team's work in ExpressionEngine that sparked the idea of a new type of CMS led by a philosophical approach that put authors at the forefront of every decision. Craft CMS launched in 2010 (coincidentally, the same year Mostly Serious was founded) and has steadily expanded adoption, with over 70,000 websites now using it.
Mostly Serious & Craft CMS
Our team began using Craft CMS around five years ago alongside our own home-grown custom solutions in addition to Wagtail and WordPress. We quickly fell in love with the ease-of-use, content editing tools, quality plugins, embrace of custom design, and ability to expand to meet our client's specific custom needs. Craft CMS has been our CMS of choice ever since, leading us to become one of the first Craft Verified Partners.
The Craft team has steadily improved the core features while also delivering significant expansions, including the addition of Craft Commerce, world class localization, a plugin marketplace, and a curated, highly active community. But what's most appealing to our team is their dedication to deliver on their original philosophy of building a CMS that makes life better for content authors (aka our clients).
That philosophy is realized through these 5 buckets:
- Ease of Use for Clients
- From Simple to Complex
- Superior Flexibility & Extensibility
- Industry Leading Security & Support
- Completely Customizable Design
1) Ease of Use for Clients
Summary: The number one reason we love Craft CMS is because our clients love Craft CMS.
Craft's philosophy centers on creating a great experience for content authors, so it's no surprise that the thing Craft CMS does best is the overall authoring experience. No other CMS comes close.
The experience starts with simple, intuitive, and beautiful control panel. It's frustrating when a CMS feels more like a junk drawer than organized content (ahem, we're looking at you, Wordpress). Craft CMS delivers a streamlined experience and, while we provide tailored CMS training and documentation with every project we build, most of our clients can find their way around within just a few minutes.
But what about actually managing content?
It only gets better. Craft CMS breaks content into Fields and Section Types, with Sections acting as a collection of Fields. With the addition of Categories and Tags to organize content and Relations to connect entries, tags, assets, users, and more, Craft CMS's philosophy around content comes to life. This allows our team to build powerful page layouts that are easy for our clients to manage and expand.
The result is page management that's easy and highly customizable at the same time. The power of Craft CMS's page creation comes to life in marketing landing pages for individual campaigns, which can be set up in minutes yet look as if each were custom designed and coded to meet a specific need.
Powerful Editing Tools
In addition to brilliant page management, Craft CMS comes equipped with powerful editing tools like version control, built-in image editing, asset management, and live preview (to see what users will see while editing content) that deliver a best-in-world editing experience.
Advanced features like built-in localization and multisite extend beyond basic content needs and create powerhouse tool without relying on plugins to accomplish these basic needs.
2) From Simple to Complex
Summary: Craft CMS's superpower is in its ability to remain simple enough for anyone to pick up quickly while offering deep complexity as projects require.
We work with a wide variety of clients, ranging from state non-profits to regional healthcare systems to international manufacturers. Which means our clients' needs vary greatly depending on the primary objectives of each project. Craft CMS is perfectly positioned to flex as needed, meeting the most basic needs for one client while seamlessly integrating with proprietary software for another.
Some popular management systems provide every native feature regardless of whether you actually intend to use the feature or not, leading to unnecessary bloat and a congested control panel. Craft CMS (and the right agency partner) can refine the solution to only include what is needed on the project or by the individual user, which ultimately limits the number of pointless distractions.
However, Craft CMS doesn't constrain projects that need more than what is provided out of the box. This thoughtful approach leads to extensibility that doesn't feel like we're bending or breaking the system. Craft CMS even makes management of structure, fields, and forms possible without ever touching code, providing a key advantage over off-the-shelf solutions like Wordpress.
What our clients get is a system that feels custom-built to meet their needs without the massive investment of building a content management system from scratch. We don't know of another platform that accomplishes this as effectively.
3) Superior Flexibility & Extensibility
Summary: Through plugins and custom development, Craft CMS offers flexibility and extensibility to meet nearly any need.
While Craft CMS meets many of our clients' needs with an expansive list of built-in core features, it is not uncommon for our clients to need something that extends beyond the basics. Craft CMS provides a toolkit that allows every aspect of the system to be extended, hooked into, or completely replaced. As Craft puts it, "if you know PHP, you can build anything you want with it."
There are two primary ways to customize Craft CMS: by building a plugin that can be installed from the high quality Plugin Store or through custom development through what is called a Module.
Craft Plugin Store
If you've heard of Wordpress, you've likely heard of plugins. Plugins are CMS-specific add-ons that extend the system to do something that it doesn't do out of the box.
Craft maintains one of the highest quality plugin stores of any CMS available. Plugins can be viewed and installed from the store, then managed within the Craft CMS control panel. We have our favorite plugins that we recommend on most websites, such as SEOmatic, but we also look to plugins to solve common needs without more costly custom development.
Craft API & Yii Framework Modules
But what if there's no plugin for a specific requirement? Craft makes it easy for the right developer or agency partner to build custom solutions that meet nearly any need, from simple updates to the control panel dashboard to integration with a client's proprietary internal software solution.
Craft CMS is built on the Yii Framework, a well-known PHP framework that is fast and powerful. While Plugins are Craft-specific, Yii uses a concept they call Modules, which provide full access to both Yii and Craft APIs.
Determining Which is Right
How do you determine if your website needs a plugin or a module? If the solution already exists within the Plugin Store, our recommendation would likely be to use what's already built. If the solution doesn't already exist, and you don't intend to allow others to install the plugin, a module is likely the right choice.
Trying to determine how to make Craft CMS extensible for your needs? We're happy to help.
4) Industry-Leading Security & Support
Summary: Craft CMS is backed by an expert team, a vetted plugin marketplace, and responsive customer support.
Security is a top priority at Mostly Serious. Over the past decade, we have built websites that handle sensitive healthcare information, deliver delicate documentation to our client's customers, and process over a million dollars of donations over a single 24-hour period.
We're trained on web security best practices and demand that the solution we leverage on behalf of our clients take security as seriously as we do. As Craft puts it on their Security FAQ page:
"We take security very seriously at Pixel & Tonic, and work to ensure Craft provides a safe and secure platform for all who use it. As a result, Craft CMS is trusted by corporations like Microsoft, Apple, Reddit, Adobe, BigCommerce, Netflix, AT&T, McDonald’s, and Dell, plus numerous government, financial, and educational organizations."
In addition to Craft's dedication to security, Mostly Serious provides ongoing hosting and maintenance agreements for our clients that ensure your website and CMS are kept up to date, plugins are updated and tested, and security issues are addressed by professionals as they are identified.
5) Completely Customizable Design
Summary: Customization on the front-end and a modular approach to page building is the perfect compliment to the award-winning website design and content our clients demand.
We view every partnership as an opportunity to deeply understand their organization, history, team, and the value they deliver through their mission. We want to understand so that we can help tell that story to their audience. Craft is an excellent tool to support storytelling and brand positioning.
Starting at sitemapping and wireframing, Craft CMS allows our team to focus on solving difficult problems and making information as accessible as possible. This allows us to put our clients' needs at the center of our decision making, rather than the restrictions of the tools we use.
Similarly, as we move into website writing and user interface design, Craft CMS supports our team's ambition to craft engaging websites that elevate our clients' brands. Our clients demand much more than template designs and, like our earlier user experience design, we place the specific goals of each project as the center of our writing and design efforts.
As a result, our custom websites often receive recognition, from our own website's Awwwards Mobile Excellence award to a Webby nomination for our work on Project Shift. When we need to break outside of the box, Craft CMS makes it easy.