A few weeks ago I began searching for a new CMS. I primarily use WordPress and for whatever reason, I was looking to move away from it. Now I have designed a theme or two for Drupal 7 and understand how that system works. However, I want to be even more exclusive than that. Drupal user are indeed exclusive people, whether you are a designer or developer for the platform. In any event, I basically wanted something lightweight and easy to use. After doing my research, it came down to ModX and Concrete5. Everywhere I turned it stated that Concrete5 is easier to use than ModX, and rivals WordPress in adaptability.
Concrete5 is an open source (PHP based) CMS that is free and has been in circulation since 2008 (officially). Installation of the system was easy, I checked the source files for the default themes and copied one to the top theme folder. I figured that it would come in handy as a guide for my project. In between teaching, coaching and managing other projects, I started developing a theme based on a jump off framework I put together using the Lemonade grid system. Everything worked fine until I got to the navigation area and it just simply would not function properly. To make matters worse, the edit menu collapsed and I had to start all over again after going through all (I had the patience for) the channels I can think of for a solution.
I decided to use 99lime’s grid system and it worked well, I had to revert back to a less attractive responsive navigations system, but its usable and the edit menu remained intact. The most compelling difference I have noticed between Concrete5 and other CMSs I have used in the past is the community, and readily available information. Most of the tutorials are dated and Concrete5 does not play well with responsive layouts. This is due to all of the slick features it packs right out of the box, the system requires way more tweaking for that fine grain control that I need. It is a must for me to have total control of the HTML layout. C5 generates blocks that contains foreign CSS, which can be counter productive for a responsive layout. I know there is a fix for this via add-on, but it is not to my satisfaction.
Control, control, control!!! This seems to be my biggest gripe with this CMS. Perhaps WordPress spoiled me for other platforms, and all of the hype about the learning curve for Drupal was not completely true. At one point, I change the title of the demo site using the Dashboard – System Settings (see image below) and it never updated on the front end. I even cleared the cache and it still would not update. For any wondering spectators, the site name was not hardcoded. I am sure there is a fix for this as well, but I do not want to fight the system over simple functions, I just need for it to work.
If a client specifically ask for this system, I will GET IT TO WORK! Unfortunately, I would never recommend it to one. It would be too easy for them to break the site. Furthermore, I get the feeling this system is on the fence about the direction it wants to go. I have checked some of the themes for Concrete5 at Themeforest, several of them seem to be okay, but are limited in features, like a built in commenting system or forum. I am certain that if I continue to experiment with this platform I will eventually get it to work to my liking. The problem with that is, why would I want to? This post may come off as me being bias towards Concrete5 I suppose, but that is not the case. I have stated this before and I will again – the end user does not care about the backend of the platform as long as it works properly and is secure. Based on my experience, the average client will struggle with this platform if they have to update it on a regular basis.