Site Revamp 2020

The site has undergone a change. The front end hasn't changed much. The changes are under the hood. We've migrated the site to a CMS called OctoberCMS.

We've been looking for another CMS that we can can use for us and and for clients. We wanted something that was:

We did look at a headless CMS. We are using Directus for another project we are working on. The only front end for this site will be a website. There are no immediate plans to use content in displays or apps. So developing on a headless CMS and JS frontend seemed like overkill.

Our sites have been made by a mix of technologies. WordPress, Drupal and hand coded sites.

WordPress is great for brochure sites. It can quickly become unweildly when you try to extend it with custom fields or custom content types. It has been around since 2003. This means that is very well tested. It also means there is a lot of legacy code. Removing that code could break a lot of websites.

In recent years, Drupal underwent a major rewrite from version 7 to version 8. This caused some disquiet in the Drupal developer community at the time but this has largely settled. Drupal 8 now is based on the Symfony PHP framework. It now seems to geared more to larger business and enterprise needs.

OctoberCMS was released in 2014. It's based on the popular Laravel framework. It is quite developer friendly. October has a plugin called builder. This enables a developer to easily scaffold out a fully funtional plugin. We used it for creating the portfolio part of this site. We use Laravel's Eloquent ORM to make some minor changes to pulling the information from the database. Once we added some customised templates, we were done. The builder plugin even added an administration section. It gets a big tick for being developer friendly.

OctoberCMS seems a perfect fit. It's PHP based and open source. It has an active delevoper community and 9.4K stars on GitHub. It's based on Laravel which makes it relatively easy for developers with a working knowledge of Laravel to pick up. That also means it is eay to extend. It has been around since 2014 and has an active developer community. It works perfectly on a shared host.

The backend is quite developer friendly. The admin login allows us to modify code just by logging into the site. That is very useful feature. There is a plugin called ""Builder"" that allows us scaffold out custom plugins. It creates the models, database migrations, controllers and views. This is music to the ears of anyone used the MVC framework.

We've been testing it for ecommerce. So far it looks very promising. It's been relatively painless to build a simple shop.

How would the client experience be?

The backend is a little different to WordPress. However, the differences are not vast. The princicples reamin the same. Icons and WYSYWIG editors. It is quite easy add, edit and delete content. It has quite a nice built in media management system for your images, videos and soundbites. There is a blog plugin which works very well. The user would have to learn markdown. We love markdown and prefer it over HTML based WYSYWIG editors. However, we think some clients might find markdown to be a bridge too far. That's not a major issue because it is not hard to build a customised blog plugin with a more familiar editor.

Conclusion

October seems promising. It's been around for around 5 years. It has an active developer community. We found it to be very easy to build what we wanted. It's backend certainly makes updating content easy. It doesn't have the wealth of features you get in WordPress or Drupal. It gives you the basics of what is needed. Overall, it has been a good move for this site.

Posted in Thoughts on Jan 21, 2020