What makes concrete5 special and how do you use it?
What types of sites are you using concrete5 on?
Do you consider yourself more of a site owner/content person with a single site to run or a web designer/developer type with many sites?
What are some of the unique advantages that you see in concrete5?
I do not manage any website, I never build websites actually, I do custom development for specific functionality, mostly custom apps or fixes and troubleshooting.
I like Concrete5 because of all the tools that come with it that are accessible through code.
I see people using Laravel from scratch and I know Concrete5 already does a lot of the work for me like a really useful and well-thought-of layer on top of a powerful framework.
I know we're not supposed to bash WP so this is just a comparison. Every time I see an article somewhere titled something like "the 10 most useful plugins for WP" or "8 WP plugins you can't live without", I go down the list and for 95% of them I know it's already included in C5, accessible from the dashboard and ready to use. That's something that clients like.
Most work is directly for small business site owner/operators and subcontracted specialist stuff from agencies. Occasionally big corporate customers.
Reflecting over those 8 years we've used concrete5 to power a _very_ wide variety of sites:
We've used concrete5 for:
- simpler, small business sites, that might have 4-5 pages and a contact form
- business/organisation sites with eCommerce functionality to sell physical and digital goods as well event tickets, using eCommerce for 5.6, Snipcart, Shopify, Vivid Store and Community Store
- medium size organisations and non-profits, often using permissions to create member-only sections, also to power smaller sub-sites related to such organisations
- subscription style platforms, where a shop component unlocks protected content such as videos
- directory style sites that heavily use composer driven pages (businesses, people, deals/offers, properties, FAQs)
- real estate agent sites, to display properties with images and maps that automatically sync listings from external sources (XML feeds, Laravel systems)
- event calendar driven sites, either as part of a site or as the major focus
- internal use by businesses for PDF generating purposes, using concrete5 to manage entries and content, sending pages to a PDF renderer. Think generating brochures or maps.
- an academic journal platform, where access to online and PDF journals is controlled with logins and IP addresses
- universities, primary school and high school websites, where many pages and documents need to be managed, by multiple users, for weather alerts, notices, events and news
- agency/designers sites with project portfolios, as well as our own sites
Then there's all the sites that are combinations of the types of projects above, with things like galleries, webinars, embedded calculators, competitions, all sorts of ad-hoc stuff.
The other main way we use concrete5 is where agencies or designers want to build a site, but want to extend it with custom functionality, and we're engaged to build a custom block or package. We're able to jump into a brand new site and quickly work things out, it's not a mish-mash of ad-hoc plugins that change the way you fundamentally manage content- it's predictable and familiar.
So when working as a temporary team on a project concrete5 works really well as collaborative platform. A theme can be built or configured and content added while additional features are developed and installed in parallel.
The reasons why we've been able to use concrete5 for all those purposes and have successful outcomes is due to a bunch of reasons such as:
- The technical quality of the codebase. It follows modern design practices and rarely feels like a hack to achieve something. Things like custom block templates make overriding output very easy and clean. It's also great how you can bundle nearly everything into a package, and these can be as simple or complex as required. The predicability and structure of the codebase is critical when you get asked to adjust a feature potentially 4-5 years down the track!
- As mnakalay has mentioned, the power of the in-built functionality, such as custom page types and attributes, and advanced permissions. We don't like having to install and maintain a whole bunch of extra plugins for common CMS tasks. There are so many features built that solve problems in seconds.
- The editing experience for clients is straightforward and intuitive, with clients able to really just stick to the front-end to add and manage content. We greatly dislike CMS systems that require someone to enter a 'backend' system to make a change, then bounce back and forth between the frontend and backend to preview those changes.
- The actual output to a site is clean enough that we can re-brand a site completely without having to do a rebuild or manually adjust content. Even custom grids can move between themes.
- The dashboard interface is pretty standard Bootstrap, meaning we don't have to develop our own look-and-feel for each new dashboard page or block interface we develop.
- Historically concrete5 has an excellent security record. We've never had any security issues because of concrete5 itself, and we believe this is due to it's core design
- The community, while modest, is very supportive and we've made some great friends out of it. Between the forums, slack and direct messaging, I normally get responses to my own questions within minutes. Having a smaller community means it's easier to make contact with developers, things don't get lost in the noise. It's also been great to have direct contact with Franz, Andrew and Korvin, the passion for concrete5 gives us a lot of confidence going into the future. Totally Random in the past and the new Town Hall videos also help with all that.
While those advantages might not necessarily be unique to concrete5, what we see is unique is that concrete5 has all of those _in a good balance_, and any shortcomings really don't hold us back.
We don't really think there is one killer feature that sells concrete5, it's a combination of many factors!
One thing, although not obvious, that makes concrete5 unique is that it is not Wordpress. Meaning that if you want to stand out in the marketplace and have a unique position then not being in the big ocean of Wordpress designers gives us a unique place to stand out.
Another feature is that concrete5 is easier to use for site owners than many CMS. Particularly 5+ years ago, but it is still true today. I can take a non-technical business owner and get them up to speed on how to manage their website in 45 minutes or less. This is key. If someone can't make their website work for them, then what is the point?
Concrete5 is also fairly easy to develop for and extend. Some things we've done for some businesses are pretty unique in their industry. What we did wasn't necessarily things that couldn't be done in other CMS's but extending core functionality permissions and the like to what we added made for a pretty nice package that the site owner can easily manage.
Along with that, building themes in concrete5 is easier than some CMSs. Every so often when we are working on a clients Wordpress site I'll hear one of my designers mutter "Man if this was a c5 site this would have been so much easier."
Being a designer I love being able to build my own sites!! Previously I found it frustrating working alongside a developer that doesn’t have a 'designers eye' for detail and then because of time and budget restraints having to compromise and let these design issues go.
The websites I design and build are for small/medium companies and are fairly simple, design-led projects. I am not a PHP coder but I can create custom templates for the add-ons by tweaking the code and adding CSS styling. I rely on the forum to solve some of the challenges that I come against and am comfortable copying and pasting code when necessary.
As C5 has changed over the years I have managed to adapt with it despite the lack of documentation (this is a big issue!!) and still get it to work for me and my clients. As I am not a PHP expert, I do rely heavily on the add-ons in the marketplace to add basic features to my client's websites such as advanced forms, social-media feeds, galleries etc… I have used PHP developers in the past to adapt and develop add-ons that are not in the marketplace, but I feel now that I may have to use them more because the marketplace add-ons are not developing forward, it is becoming very stagnate. Very few are now being added and the ones that are, just add basic visual effects which can be created with a simple bit of CSS knowledge.
Recently I have found it is becoming frustrating when looking for a fairly common website function/requirement that an add-on would normally be able to do but find that it doesn't exist in the C5 marketplace and typically does exist as a Wordpress plugin. I know that Wordpress has a wider developer market but I have invested years into C5 and don't currently want to be forced to switch to another CMS, as I feel I shouldn't have to! I don’t mind paying for add-ons. In fact I prefer the C5 marketplace model because you get support and you have peace of mind that the add-on has to be PRB approved unlike with Wordpress. Also, I want C5 and the add-on developers to get something back.
I want to continue using C5 in the future and love how it is evolving. I don’t mind paying for add-on features at a reasonable price but somehow more life needs injecting into the marketplace.
concrete5 is special to me and I want it to continue to be!
I will give it some thought and post something up.
• Smaller brochure/portfolio sites with only a handful of pages
• Larger membership organisation sites with hundreds of users
• Smaller eCommerce sites with Community Store
We’re a small design and development agency. We’re concrete5 specialists - there are only so many hours a day and building deep expertise in concrete5 makes sense for us.
We host concrete5 sites for clients and often take on ‘orphan’ concrete5 sites for site owners who are looking for expert support and further design/development.
We get a mixture of work from local clients without a CMS preference, concrete5 specific requirements from further afield and enquiries related to the specialist packages we’ve developed for membership organisations and real estate.
We can address a broad range of requirements with concrete5 from simple $3-4k brochure sites to $30k+ membership sites. concrete5 fits our small agency work profile - if we can’t deliver a project with concrete5 we should probably not be doing the project.
concrete5 allows us to provide appropriate and professional solutions…
• Exceptionally good bespoke theme and content delivery options - Attributes, Custom Templates, Page Templates allow us to give easily managed and tightly defined control to end users.
• Configuration options e.g. for Layout etc. allow simplification of the interface where appropriate to the client.
• Out of the box capability for obvious requirements e.g. forms means the need for plugins is reduced - issues with maintenance, subscriptions for paid plugins, constant upgrade to paid option notifications etc. are avoided (although it’s great to have paid AddOns available for more specific requirements).
• Extensibility is great - comprehensive custom packages can be deliver seamlessly and feel part of concrete5
• Modern and secure codebase is a definite plus point - reassuring for potential clients and good to know that, as a developer, time spent learning new skills is not wasted.
• The community is fantastic and easily accessible.
Being a ‘concrete5 agency’ really works for us. Roll on the next ten years.