We’ve built a lot of websites over the years, and in that time we’ve had the chance to work with many different technologies. From ExpressionEngine to Wordpress, we’ve worked with it all, and through everything we have settled on Craft as our go to Content Management System (CMS).
It’s common to use a CMS as a backend for many websites due to their ease of use, customization options, and ability to easily update and manage a website’s content after launch. It’s a great way to keep websites updated as time goes on. Instead of having to get down and dirty with the source code of your website, all you have to do is login to the site’s dashboard and you’re off to the races.
With all of the various tools we’ve worked with over the years, we’ve always had to make certain compromises when it came to the design, development, or functionality of a project. Then we discovered Craft. It’s an incredibly flexible CMS with an entire community of dedicated developers and companies behind it. Gone are the days of compromise.
So why do we love building websites with Craft? Because it does everything we want and more.
When you think of a CMS what comes to mind? Blogs and content-focused websites? My guess would be Wordpress. Wordpress has been the ruling power over that category of websites for years. Why? Because of it’s ubiquity, number of out-of-the-box themes, and the sheer amount of content that has been created using it.
That being said, Wordpress has its drawbacks. Modification of themes requires a fairly substantial understanding of PHP, and if you want to modify the way your theme looks, you’d better know HTML and CSS, too.
This is where Craft comes in. Content publishers can create great looking articles, restructure pages, and customize their content to their heart’s content, without needing to consult a third party to handle the details.
When you login to your admin panel, you’re greeted with a beautifully simple interface that lets you dive right into your work without having to navigate through several menus and submenus in order to get where you’re going.
Need to make changes on the go? The control panel is fully responsive, so you can manage your websites wherever you are on any device.
With Craft you can store as many different types of content that you want within the vast array of entries and templates that you have at your disposal. Wordpress, on the other hand, requires you to create a custom post type for each type of content on your website. That’s a hassle.
Craft allows you to create different Entry Types within a single section, which let’s you better control how content is displayed on your page. Let’s say you want a section at the bottom of an article that pulls info from a selection of other articles on the website. Craft makes that easy. All you need to do is configure an Entry Type for the links and pull it into the article. It’s that easy.
Craft handles live previewing changes better than anything we’ve ever used. You’re able to update content, drop in or remove components, and generate private, shareable URLs all live and before publishing.
The flexible nature of Craft’s content system means that you can integrate content from across your site in unique and interesting ways, creating relationships between content and elements that would have otherwise been completely separate. Whether you’re working with assets, entries, globals, or fields, Craft provides you with a consistent experience across its platform to create relationships within your website.
Unlike so many off-the-shelf CMS’s, Craft offers a straightforward and simple configuration to get your projects up and running with little to no fuss. Just a few clicks and you’re ready to go. There’s no need for a ton of third-party plugins or addons just to get your project going. That’s not to say that there isn’t a wealth of plugins for everything from contact forms to search fields—you just don’t need them for every site you build.
But it doesn’t end there. Because of its flexibility and ease of use, Craft gives designers the creative freedom they need to create unique and interesting experiences and layouts for your websites. No longer do designers have to design content around rigid templates that don’t leave much room for creativity. Craft opens the doors when it comes to creative freedom both on the design and development side of the spectrum.
Pixel & Tonic (the team behind Craft) built the Matrix add-on for ExpressionEngine way back in 2010. It was revolutionary for the EE community and platform, and it’s even better in Craft. When you configure a Matrix, you define all of the possible blocks contained within the Matrix. Each on of these blocks can contain as many custom fields as you wish, providing infinite customization options. Then, when implementing a Matrix on your website, you can configure those blocks in any order you would like. You can leave blocks out or multiply them. The choice is yours.
For the elements on your website that don’t warrant a full entry, there are globals. Globals are their own set of fields that you can configure to be reused across your website. At Authentic, we typically use globals for UI elements like navigation menus and footers. You can configure globals just like you would an entry, and call it in a similar manner from anywhere on your site.
Twig is the best templating language that I’ve ever used: hands down. It’s straightforward syntax and awesome documentation make picking it up a breeze. The best part? It’s easy to extend and tailor it to whatever your project calls for. Another great aspect of Twig is that the HTML you bring is 100% your own. You don’t have to deal with generated components or classes. You’re in control of your code.
Craft is a balance between structure and flexibility. It optimizes your code for efficiency, and helps you write better code in the process. Craft only gives you what you need and the resources to find anything you might need in the future and then gets out of your way. With Craft, gone are the days of just making it work. This is the age of making it awesome.
Craft’s built in fields and entry types allow you to build the content of your website and your interface in a way that would require multiple plugins if you were utilizing other popular CMS’s. Instead of using external plugins that are often complicated and expensive, all you have to do is write a few simple lines of code to tailor your website to the demands of your specific content structure.
In addition to the awesome community of sites like Straight Up Craft and the Craft CMS Stack Exchange page, Pixel & Tonic are constantly working to make it better and support the people and companies using their product.
Have a problem? You can reach out to the Craft team directly and they’ll help you work through whatever might be holding your project back. There’s a form right on the dashboard that will contact their support team directly.
We’ve used many different Content Management Systems and tools to build websites over the years, and it’s been our job as a strategy, design, and development agency to recommend the best CMS for our clients.
In the majority of cases, we’ve found that Craft is the solution our clients are looking for. If this article hasn’t convinced you, you can go ahead and try Craft for yourself. It’s free!
The Craft community is constantly growing, too, and we here at Authentic are active members of the Craft community ourselves. Agencies and companies around the world are starting to see the benefits of Craft more and more, and it will continue to grow with every new developer that sits down and takes the plunge into the world of Craft.
Have we convinced you yet? Let us help you make the transition!
Earlier in 2015, at their annual React.js conference, Facebook made an exciting announcement with the release of React Native: a platform bringing the brilliance of React JS to the process of developing native apps. For years web developers and designers have looked for a platform allowing them to use their web-based skills to create mobile apps, the question remains, is React Native the platform to bridge this gap? Furthermore, is it a game-changer in the landscape of platform architecture and development?
In this article I want to provide an introduction to React JS, for those of you interested in the latest and greatest, but potentially a little hesitant to jump into something so new and different.