When it comes to Content Management Systems, our options are plenty. On one hand, we have the ultra popular and robust options such as the likes of WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! and Expression Engine, whereas on the other hand, we have the equally powerful and slightly lesser known, yet praiseworthy, contenders such as MODX, SilverStripe, Ghost, PyroCMS, and so on.
Today, in this article, I shall be taking a closer look at one such Content Management System that enjoys a good deal of popularity and respect with web designers and developers, and has its own loyal community and user base — concrete5. However, instead of following the Wikipedia model and giving generic info such as “How-to” and usage tips, I will be analyzing concrete5 as a potential CMS that you can use, either as a primary tool, or as a secondary option to your existing CMS solution.
concrete5 — CMS With Front-end Editing
concrete5 is an open source CMS written in PHP. It projects itself as a CMS made for marketing, but built for geeks. As such, concrete5 intends to cater to the needs of developers and designers alike. Templating concrete5 is pretty easy and requires barely a few lines of code.
For advanced needs, concrete5 offers a set of Enterprise Solutions as well, which include, but are not limited to, web hosting.
Usage and Customization
concrete5 aims to be a simple and versatile solution when it comes to managing your websites. It features drag and drop support along with single-click inline editing of content. While I am personally not a fan of drag and drop interfaces, a good number of users out there do prefer it, and concrete5 does well to cater to the needs of the majority.
As such, the USP of concrete5’s interface lies in the ‘live editing’ model that it brings to the table. You can assess the importance of live editing from the fact that WordPress 3.9, scheduled to be released sometime later this year, is focusing heavily on live editing of content.
In terms of customization, though, concrete5 tries its best to offer everything under the sun that the average user might need — statistics and reports, file manager, sitemap, SEO tools, and so on! However, concrete5 does appear to be more of a designers’ tool than a developers’ weapon. If you are someone who loves CMSs that require a lot of customization, concrete5 will disappoint you.
As a rule of thumb, concrete5 has introduced a high level of abstraction in its interface. Unless you are really keen on tweaking it to the optimum, concrete5 will simply work out of the box, sans any customization tweaks. This is obviously a plus point for most users, but also a negative point from the perspective of the advanced user — if you are a person who likes tweaking CMSs in order to get them to work (say, a user of MODX or Drupal, for that matter), concrete5 will suffocate you, simply because it refuses to be flexible enough for high-end customization.
Community, et al
concrete5 has a very loyal community and user base, and the level of activity in the official forums, chat groups and newsletters is praiseworthy. The documentation too is well populated, so you will not feel lost if you ever need help.
While there are a good number of addons and themes available, the quality of themes surely needs work. Of course, since concrete5 is not WordPress, you cannot expect premium theme shops to come up — supply shall happen only if there is ample demand, after all.
Yet, the themes in the concrete5 official repository disappoint a lot, and seem horribly dated. Again, you can always code and design a template yourself, and it is not really too much of a task since concrete5 makes it too easy, but at the end of the day, since concrete5 aims to cater to the needs of the end users (and thereby relies of drag and drop and inline editing), it badly needs better addons and themes. The average end user does not know how to design a template.
Worth A Mention
The theme structure in concrete5 is pretty similar to that of WordPress — upload, activate, and for customization, better use a child theme. Furthermore, the front-end editing model of concrete5 reminds one of Drupal, though concrete5 feels way less bloated and much faster.
A good point worth noting here is that concrete5’s target audience shares a lot in common with that of WordPress. The majority user base for both CMSs includes end users who just seek a simple solution to manage their content, alongside a generous sprinkling of designers and developers. This is precisely why concrete5 has been growing at a steady pace — much like WordPress, concrete5 too offers an easy to use interface with a good level of abstraction. Thus, while the likes of Joomla! and Movable Type seem to be struggling to find ground against WordPress, concrete5 enjoys an unthreatened growth rate.
To help you fully assess the viability of concrete5 as a CMS, let us enlist some pros and cons:
- Inline content editing
- Front-end editing
- Good level of abstraction
- Features such as sitemap and analytics are native
- Easy learning curve
- Not as powerful as, say, MODX or Drupal
- Less number of premium themes and addons
concrete5 is not a CMS that can suit everyone’s needs. If you are looking for an advanced CMS that has an easy learning curve, you should consider giving it a spin. Similarly, if you are fond of front-end editing and/or need a good level customization ability but an equally good deal of abstraction, concrete5 might just be the CMS you are looking for! On the other hand, if you need a tool to manage a dedicated site from a particular niche, or have advanced usage needs and like digging deeper into code in order to tweak the CMS to suit your needs, concrete5 may fail to make you happy. Lastly, if the lack of numerous readymade templates and addons is a factor that you cannot tolerate, concrete5 might again not be suitable for your requirements.
With that, we come to the end of this article. I have intentionally avoided details such as ‘how-to-do-this-in-concrete5’ and ‘how-to-install-concrete5’, simply because such info is abundant on the internet, and rightfully belongs in the official documentation. If you are keen on giving concrete5 a shot, you can learn usage tips and installation ideas from here, and grab the latest release of the CMS from here.
Have you ever used, or are planning to use, concrete5? If yes, feel free to share your thoughts with us using the comments below!