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Craft CMS – the power of three. By Graeme Leslie, Designtastic

Content management systems (CMS) are software programmes that help users create, manage, and modify content on a website without the need to write and edit code also referred to as the back-end of the website, which looks a bit scary to many of us! There are many CMS on the marketplace, all with their own pros and cons. As with most things in life, it all comes down to personal preference.

If you’ve heard of Joomla, then you might agree it can give you a bit of a headache and I don’t really have anything positive to say (sorry to the Joomla fans). With its lack of a decent template engine, it’s hard to separate functionality from display. It’s also not the most user friendly and can be complicated for both the designer and client. Joomla is often an easy target for hackers and the same can be said for WordPress. While WordPress offers a plethora of plugins, which is one of its main selling points, they often conflict with one another and severely clutter the editing interface.

Then I was led to Craft. I’m not a brand ambassador for Craft and this isn’t an ad. I just want to talk through the benefits of using Craft CMS and why it’s great to use from the perspective of the graphic designer (that’s me btw), the web developer and the client to give you the full picture – don’t say I’m not good to you!

Benefits of Craft CMS – The web developer

A developer works on the back-end, creating the coding and doing the magic that creates how the website loads and runs. We work closely with Stonehaven based Web Integrations Ltd, so I took the opportunity to quiz their MD, Ewan Duthie, about the benefits of Craft from his perspective. Here’s his run-down of its plus-points:

  • Re-usable components: One of the biggest benefits is using the Matrix field type, or Neo plugin. This creates page components that can be used again and again, in turn reducing development time and giving webmasters more control over page layout.
  • Lightweight and fast: Unlike other content management systems, Craft isn’t bloated (hate that feeling) with unnecessary features you might never need, helping to build highly responsive sites with faster load times.
  • Efficient templating system: Built upon the Twig PHP templating language (quick Google – twig compiles templates down to plain optimised PHP code). Craft helps us to keep our code and front-end logic separate, placing no restrictions on design and layout.
  • Wide range of plugins: The Craft plugin store features hundreds of high-quality plugins for SEO, eCommerce, form creation, image manipulation, social feed, and a whole lot more, meaning site owners can take advantage of functionality without the need to develop from scratch.
  • Strong documentation and community: Craft’s documentation is exceptionally high-quality, and with a strong and active developer community as well as commercial support, help is always on hand.

Benefits of Craft CMS – The graphic designer

Oh, that’s my cue! As a designer we create and maintain the visual, customer-facing end of a website. We are all about the style. My top three benefits of Craft CMS are:

  • The front end is 100% customisable: I can create a design for showcasing a company without compromising on brand aesthetic with a pre-designed template.
  • Security, flexibility, and scalability are built-in: We have used it for sites with hundreds of pages and complex functionality, and for sites with just a few pages that have grown in scale and functionality over time. It is a flexible website solution tailored around current and future business offerings.
  • Editable structure: I can structure content however I want, safe in the knowledge it can be supported by a back-end that makes managing and publishing content a doddle.

Benefits of Craft CMS – The client

Finally, I asked Kathryn MacKenzie, Communications Manager at Sparrows Group about the benefits of using Craft CMS from a client’s point of view. Our clients want to make simple edits to text, upload images or files. Let’s look at what she had to say:

  • Easy: Craft is easy to get to grips with. Creating new pages and adding in content areas is simple.
  • User-friendly and intuitive: Craft is user-friendly. You only need to have a basic understanding, and you certainly don’t need to understand HTML.
  • Easy (it really is easy) to show others: Training colleagues with no previous CMS experience is straight-forward.
  • Responsive: Uploading assets such as files and images is simple, and it’s equally straightforward to add them to specific pages. Images are also responsive, without the requirement to upload multiple size versions.
  • Easy (last time I say it) for publishing: It can be daunting pressing the publish button when you’re not sure what is active or draft. Craft clearly presents which content is live, allows you to preview and doesn’t make it so scary when you press publish.

And there we have it – the benefits of Craft CMS from three user perspectives. Anyone disagree? What are your thoughts on Craft CMS? What’s your CMS of choice? I’m all ears!