CMS Search Update: The Shortlist
1279 words, ~ 7 min reading time
Note: This was initially published on Scribbles, my previous “micro blog”. I discontinued it and moved the contents into this blog on 2023-12-05.
I just published the requirements for the CMS that should manage my photography website in the future. As announced over there that I already analysed the CMS on the longlist but I wanted to split all the information into two posts to avoid making one too long. Well…. the other one certainly got too long. Let’s see what will happen here.
I went over the longlist and checked one CMS after another and examined each for every requirement before continuing with the next one. I wrote down all my findings on a digital piece of paper (using my tablet). This resulted in a document of about 22 DIN A4 pages. While I didn’t track it, looking at the clock from time to time revealed that I spend at least 30 minutes for each CMS (the maximum was about 4 hours, I think. The mode should be between 30 and 60 minutes). With the exception of TYPO3 and WordPress (I know both well enough) and some, where it was clear at first sight that they would not meet the requirements, I installed all and played around in the backend to test the requirements thoroughly. In case something was not answerable I put in a considerable (but not indefinitely) amount of time to understand enough to answer all my questions. In two cases even after I already finished the complete review.
Although I tried to be as objective as possible the choices are of course also based on my personal goal, my prior knowledge and my general attitude. Therefore, I try to be as precise as reasonable on why I excluded and included the systems so that someone else can perhaps more easily deduce a shortlist for themself.
It would be a bit too easy to just write a few names and click on “publish”. Therefore, I first write a list of all the systems that didn’t make it to the shortlist and give a short reason why.
Craft CMS: It seems to be more a framework for building a custom CMS than a CMS itself. And by what I read and understood the setup could turn out to be too complex for the job. The features offered in other areas (besides the more or less included shop functionality) also were not that outstanding.
Joomla!: Feature-wise it would be an ideal product. Everything I need is included and the requirements are very well fulfilled. But that templating language… HORRIBLE! I really don’t want to work with that. (This is one of the two which I read a bunch of documentation afterwards to find out if it is really that bad and I even consulted with a colleague today. Both validated my findings.)
Roadiz: The project didn’t make a very good impression at first sight and I could not get it running using the provided Docker compose setup as the only documented installation procedure. At that point, I continued with the next one.
Exponent: Although it had a release earlier this year I checked the activity of the project more thoroughly and found out that there is no much active development anymore and evidently no community anymore (at least no one uses the forum).
BigTree: I’m a bit sad that I had to throw it out. But after very carefully checking the source code activity, the releases (really not regular and not following the release schedule), the announcement of a major release in 2017 (with a planned release in the same year which didn’t happen yet at all) and finally the website of the company behind the product I had to conclude that this is most likely abandoned and will perhaps not see any further development or even maintenance.
Concrete CMS: One with a really good file manager! But evidently (the docs say so) it tracks you unless you modify the source code. Also, it is not editable from mobile, the theming seems to be very complex and apparently, there is no shop plugin available.
Neos: This one has some very interesting concepts and if I would need to develop a site for a company or organisation I would at least put it on the shortlist. However, the lack of a responsive backend, the complex theme process and the unavailability of a shop plugin make it uninteresting for this project.
Django CMS: The lack of built-in blogging utilities that would need to be added using plugins as well as the potentially(!) cumbersome integration of django-shop made this not very interesting. Given that I do not have any prior knowledge of Django (and as of now also no interest in learning) led to the exclusion of this one.
Tina: Although with a different tech stack and principles, it seems to have the same problems for me as Strapi. I would need to write my own complete frontend (either client- or server-side) and it seems to be more a framework for building a CMS.
First in, but still out
Two systems that meet all the requirements but I have the same bad feeling about them: Textpattern and dotclear. While they both are currently actively developed and have perhaps even a community using them I have the feeling after checking the repositories, forums and issues that both my still no longer be around (meaning maintained) in a few years. This sadly contradicts my goal of using the system I’m currently searching for for at least five years.
Nevertheless, if you are searching for a simple, yet customisable, CMS for your blog where you can quickly get started but are not limited by its options, then I can recommend both to you (at least after these tests).
Finally, here it is.
Kirby: This one is only in after a second look and reading lots of documentation. The first time I stopped quite soon reviewing it due to the lack of a dedicated file/asset manager. Only later I realised that it could provide something similar that would exactly fulfil my needs – perhaps even more than some file manager module. All other requirements can be sufficiently fulfilled.
WordPress: Using plugins, everything is possible in Wordpress…
TYPO3: To be honest, if you do not have any prior experience do not put this on your short list. The templating is too complex for what I’m doing but I created a few TYPO3 pages during the last years already and know my way around (at least a bit).
Contao: It plays in a similar league as TYPO3: Enterprise CMS. But it has more features built-in and this means fewer plugins. However, the templating could turn out to be tricky.
Statamic: Although it is quite similar to Craft CMS it seems to be much easier to configure and set up. Additionally, I have some experience in Laravel, the PHP web framework that is used by Statamic under the hood.
If you don’t have any prior web development experience I would perhaps not recommend TYPO3, Contao or Statamic. Excluding those would mean that you have the choice between Kirby and WordPress if your requirements equal mine.
Five systems. And each one has a problem. I’ll write about that in the next post.