Imarc

What Engineers Like About Craft

Shawna O'Neal, Web Engineer
Posted on Jul 27, 2016

Sometime in 2013, Imarc’s engineering team went through an exploration of available content management systems (CMSs). While many of the tested systems proved to be terrible, there was one which caught some attention.

We decided to test it on a small client site and, over time, Craft CMS has become our go-to for projects that warrant using an outside CMS.

What is Craft?

Craft is an open source CMS that was created by Pixel & Tonic . It’s built on the popular and widely supported Yii framework, giving it a high performing foundation that is both clean and feature-rich. Those experienced with Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture will find Craft to be a familiar fit.

The basic version of craft is free to use, however localization, multiple user accounts, and CDN support is only available in the paid version. That being said, Craft’s pricing (a maximum one-time fee of $299) brings with it a lot of built-in features that you’d otherwise expect to use a plugin for.

Starting out with a blank slate

Unlike other CMS tools, Craft starts out as a blank slate. Its out-of-box existence is one that allows us to quickly build tools that integrate with each other without needing to coerce the native API to behave unnaturally. This gives us the ability to implement the features we need, ignoring the ones we don’t, in order to achieve a clean and easily navigable UI for the client.

Craft’s Default Features Include:

  • Versioning/Drafts
  • Advanced Customizable Fields
  • Powerful Localization Features
  • Advanced Permissions
  • Automated Updates (Or Manual, if your prefer)
  • Live Previewing of Pages, Posts, etc.
  • More...

Building up, instead of breaking down

A fresh installation of Craft CMS provides an array of advanced fields, content types and tools that are easily configurable to meet most site requirements. To get started, we determine what section type is applicable to the components of our new site. From there we build entries and define entry types, creating fields as we go. In what seems like no time at all, we have a basic skeleton of our site without touching any code, manipulating features, or implementing any plug-ins.

As a site develops further, the extent of Craft’s customizability becomes apparent. By utilizing its matrix capabilities, we can implement block tools quickly and easily that allow the client to customize their content on the fly. Additionally, Craft’s open source nature also allows us to integrate and manage existing plug-ins easily while also providing the support necessary to build our own.

Security Conscious

Because it doesn’t rely heavily on plugins to operate effectively, Craft is inherently more secure than CMSs that do. Most features that would require plugins in other CMSs have already been built into Craft by Pixel & Tonic developers, greatly reducing the number of potential vulnerabilities, necessary updates and potential breaks that would otherwise be introduced by having a large quantity of plugins. Craft also doesn’t have the high profile status that attracts scripted threats the way that WordPress, Drupal or Hubspot do.

Craft’s foundation Yii, is generally lauded as being a secure starting point, and Craft continues that trend through each new build. Regular updates, that highlight security concerns when necessary, allow site administrators to stay on top of current industry threats. That being said, we always advise looking carefully at any plug-ins before installing them and keeping on top of updates as they become available - no matter which CMS you are using.

Active Support

When something goes wrong, Craft lets us know that we are not alone. When a site administrator logs into the admin panel of any Craft site, they have instant access to the support widget. It may look like one of those “maybe we’ll get back to you someday” email boxes, but don’t let it mislead you. The Craft support team typically gets in touch within 24 hours, although you’ll immediately get an email that includes your support ticket and a link to monitor it. Additionally, the included checkboxes allow you to choose whether to automatically send a copy of the error logs, your template files and/or a copy of the database with your request.

It’s also worth mentioning that Craft has a very healthy community over on Stack Exchange. A lot of nitty gritty questions have already been asked and answered, and responses are typically pretty quick. For guides, tutorials and plug ins, you can also check out https://straightupcraft.com/.

The right tool for the job

Here at Imarc, we pride ourselves on building custom solutions. For some applications, a custom built CMS offers clear advantages in giving site administrators control over their content's appearance and workflow, especially when dealing with a variety of integrated systems, business logic or high volumes of content. For others, Craft can save time and sanity, while still retaining enough customization to keep both clients and site engineers happy.

Craft’s ability to scale-up both cleanly and quickly makes it a great candidate for brochure sites, while its friendly interface and clean infrastructure make it a preference for sites that the client will be maintaining themselves. While we definitely recommend craft for sites with small to medium amounts of content, with careful development it can be an optimal solution for enterprise sites as well.

Have a question about Craft? Have a favorite feature we didn’t mention?
Tweet us @imarcAgency and let us know!