Keeping ahead of the pack - Joomla, Drupal - their coming for us!

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Hi All,

I just wanted to post some musing's about a few concerns I have about some upcoming updates to some rival CMS platforms that appear to be encroaching on some of the USP's of Concrete5.

I can't help but feel that Joomla is stealing some ideas - adoption of bootstrap for UI (Front/Back) and some proposals for in context editing:

Joomla 3.0 is scheduled for 24 September 2012

Main overview of changes:

My main concern in In-Context rumours. Please check following prototype:

Check out that toolbar - notice anything similar!
To be frank, I am pissed off about the bootstrap adoption - as great as it is, it seems to be popping up everywhere these day and we are ending up with a vanilla landscape in terms of UI!

(Fortunately it is unlikely the in context editing might not make 3.0 but given joomla new release cycle - 3-6 months it will likely appear before year end):


In addition to Joomlas enhancements, the other big player, Drupal, is intending on implementing what it is calling "Spark" in version 8 - again this is essentially an in context type deal (as well as various improvements for HTML5, Web Services, Mobile etc - I hate to say it but it looks like a beast of a release ;-( )


Regarding both Joomla 3.0+ and Drupal 8, my concern is the adoption of in-context editing. As you all know, this is an area where Concrete5 excels. Clients love the point and click edit experience. Obviously Concrete5 is great in many other ways but from a marketing point of view, from my experience anyway, it is the in-context that often seals the deal over the other players.

In light of this I just wanted to maybe start a discussion and see who is interested in looking at how we could counter these new developments and ensure the Concrete5 editing experience always remains superior to Joomla, Drupal etc.

I have already started putting my thinking hat on regarding some possible enhancements to editing experience. Even simple changes to the default bootstrap theme so our UI is not blue like everyone else who uses it might help distinguise us - otherwise non techies will soon be saying "that looks like Joomla" even though you guys got in there first with bootstrap. Unfortunately its a number game now...

Any thoughts C5 crew? Let's unite and see what the community thinks about all this

Cheers, Lu \m/

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ScottC replied on at Permalink Reply
I think it is nice to see some of the in context content editing. I think concrete5 kind of nailed it since it was built from the ground up with it in mind, regardless of the content you are actually adding, not just some html. It is also moving beyond it supplementing it with deep workflow integration in 5.6 and the task permissions which I am personally really excited about.

Overall though I think the only thing holding concrete5 back is simply spreading the word. It would also be nice to get some guidance on growth from the core team, I know they are hiring like crazy :)

RadiantWeb replied on at Permalink Reply
Yup. I agree with Scott. getting the word out. that's all we need here.

tweets, retweets, reviews, articles and blogging. I have an article being published on Aug 24th (or there abouts) with So I am hoping everyone here retweets it like crazy.

ScottC replied on at Permalink Reply
I can't wait to read it. What is it about?
RadiantWeb replied on at Permalink Reply
it's really an "intro to Concrete5" article. The editors forced me to not be "to evangelical". So I had to through some cons in there with the praise. But I'm happy with how it turned out. I think c5 will come off great.

If the response is good, we'll do a few more on C5 basics. I'm hopeful. Keep your fingers crossed.

jgarcia replied on at Permalink Reply
It's really interesting to see a lot of the more (in)famous CMS's taking on in-context editing. I wouldn't find it hard to believe if they really did take some inspiration from C5 on this.

I believe the Scott and Chad are right - Concrete5 already excels as a product - I think it's still ahead of the pack and will remain that way when it comes to structure, features, usability, etc. Not only that, but the marketplace model is simply beautiful and something I feel that not many other CMS's can even compete with.

Getting the word out is huge and social media is a great way to do that. Both Joomla and Drupal have 10x as many followers on Twitter than C5 (~35k vs. ~3,500) and significantly more than C5's 90 fans on Facebook. Social media isn't everything, but it is something, and the beauty of it is that this is something that we, as the community, have an active role in and can have a direct impact on (i.e., it's not just the burden of the core team).

So that said, maybe some of the core team folks can chime in. What can we do to make sure C5 stays on top?
CygnetMidwest replied on at Permalink Reply
I do my best to promote C5 on Twitter. It feels like a losing battle at times because of the rabid fans of Wordpress, etc. out there. No one believes that there is something better than Wordpress.

I'll keep trying though! :)

(and I gotta like C5 on Facebook... didn't realize they were on there!)
lurobertson replied on at Permalink Reply
Thanks for the comments guys.

Totally agree with what you are all saying - especially the marketing side of things. Actually, I was telling Franz the other day about my plans to help on that front - going to set up a "" site and use it to spread the word by comparing C5 to the other CMS's etc and what makes it great - initial focus on non techie's/site owners. I also intend to feature marketplace items illustrate how easy it is to extend C5 into the site you want (and to help promote some of the great extensions you guys have all built and ;-) ).

It's actually researching the new site that made me notice the issues I mentioned here.

Social media is another route yes but its a very time consuming channel in order for it to be effective ( I work for a particular Korean electronics company and we have spent $$$ on "social media specialists" and the results are debatable) - I can only assume this is why that is not a big part of C5's current mission.

Back to my original points though, I just think its worth keeping an eye on the bigger picture and ensuring that we don't find that this time next year we are still a niche CMS - Concrete5 deserves much more attention and no doubt the new buzz in the CMS world will be things like in context editing and bootstrap UI's what with the big players now looking to enter this arena, so we should try and ride that wave and make it clear C5 has been doing those things for a while so clearly the C5 thinking is ahead of the curve and user centric - both key points for someone looking into a site - is it cool and is it easy? Resounding yes. Let's maintain that spirit...

Lu :)
frz replied on at Permalink Best Answer Reply

This certainly isn't the first time I've said this, but what makes concrete5 unique isn't just in-context editing. Yes, today thats a very visceral thing and anyone who has had to suffer through editing a "front end through the back end" instantly gets when and why in-context editing makes sense. It's true that we started with this absolute requirement back in 2003, but frankly we've been kinda surprised that it's taken everyone else this long to come to grips with the fact that site operators need it. Of course if you go talk to evangelists for any other system they'll tell you "oh you can do that with x, there's a plugin..." I also remember an associate of mine showing me a video the lulbotz guys prototyping in-context editing for drupal back in 2009. "You're f*cked now" said snarky associate... Strangely it's 2012 and it seems that we're not. ;)

What makes concrete5 unique is the philosophy behind it. We deeply believe in the builder/owner relationship and we think it is our software's job to ease the pains on both sides. We always saw concrete5 as a toolbox for picky agencies building pixel perfect sites for medium/large businesses. This wasn't a blog that turned into a CMS (Wordpress) a clone that turned into a CMS (Mambo/Joomla) or a development framework that developers like to call a CMS (drupal) - this was designed from the bottom up to save our butts as production guys making big promises to sexy clients on small budgets.

You can see this in everything we do. From business decisions like the PRB keeping our add-ons as safe to install as stuff from the app store vs. the wild west of 300+ modules that rethink permissions for Drupal. The override structure so you can safely dink with the core but still give your client a site they might upgrade one day. Even things we DON'T do. The decisions to NOT include checkboxes for EVERY idea that anyone has front and center in the interface. That can cause us all sorts of trouble with devs in the forums here, but if it keeps the experience less intimidating without sacrificing flexibility - that's a decision we will make. Even things like the infamous X on the non-windows in the dashboard. That type of thing ads a certain type of personality that lets you know there's real people behind this trying to solve real problems for the entire audience.

Joomla, as I understand it, is run by a revolving committee. That's an amazing testament to egalitarianism, but I'm dubious about it being a great way to get out ahead of anyone. Drupal, I believe, will continue to slowly go more application frameworky in the future. I say that because the money behind it is big, and they're gonna want that back. Acquia is making/going to have to make big bucks and the easiest way to do that is focus on big clients. Big clients make decisions in different ways than you or I might, and while reduced costs associated with a site people want to edit is meaningful, "is it pretty" generally is not. Drupal's biggest challenge as I see it is the vagueness of "drupal." Speak to anyone who uses it and they will tell you there's half a dozen modules they install on any project and another set they cherry pick from based on the requirements. That's sounds like a nice language - but a horrible product. Can a new shop pick up the pieces of someone else's half finished drupal site? Who knows, that probably depends on what modules they are using. I think that's unfair to a client who is expecting that "hey they built it with X, doesn't that mean anyone who 'knows X' should be able to help me?" I think Acquia can get around that by simply serving huge clients who recognize it will cost them millions to build sites, millions to change developers, doesn't matter. I didn't have a particularly impressive experience with Acquia gardens, so I have to believe they've done the math on this too. They're plenty bright over there.

That brings me to a few key points:
1) My team can not be the ones calling these systems out. It doesn't look good for me to be comparing concrete5 to anything. Answering questions privately? Sure. You guys comparing it? Sure. Me standing in the back and screaming "us too!" doesn't work, and frankly doesn't need to happen. Scott's right, we're doing great.

2) It's flattering to see them adopting directions we already committed to years ago, but so what? Do I think they're watching us? I doubt it. We don't watch them too much. I know this must drive traditional business guys crazy, but there's just too much going on in the CMS space to really take a "yeah we've got that too" approach to product design.

I could pop off the logo on a Mazda and trick out the exhaust, but it's still not a Ferrari. Great ride? Sure. Still different. I firmly believe a great product is more than just the sum of its parts. There's a character and philosophy to brands that make people want to deal with the weaknesses of any product in addition to enjoying the strengths. I think we do very well with that.

3) We don't care. It's a big internet out there and our success isn't defined by wordpress/drupal/joomla's failure. Our namesake is a building material and I think it suits us well, to extend the metaphor - it's not like the whole world is built of concrete! Wood is cool too. So is steel. Glass can be pretty.. .you get the drift. Much to Chad's chagrin, I still believe that if all you want to do is "blog" - wordpress is the right tool for you.

So how can you guys help?

The social media stuff always helps. Yes we have a very dead facebook page that I'd love you all to join and add some life to:

What I'd really love is some more writing from you guys on the details of what makes concrete5 so compelling in your eyes. Yes yes, in-context editing -but what about a detailed how-to/blog post on your site about the glory of the override system? The elegance of single pages? etc.

The #1 thing we still need is more content for that Switch and Learn section. We really really need some getting started guides for wordpress developers. The pain these guys go through with having to hack at what amounts to one page type with a huge switch statement vs. the ease of making new page types in concrete5 is huge. Someone should focus on just trying to explain THAT. Pick something granular and present it with this idea of balance between a developers needs and a site owner's need. You'll end up writing something that gets you new attention from other devs and potential clients, and you'll dramatically help the project.

If each of you just focused on trying to explain a detail piece of concrete5 in that way. We'd have a large body of work that would be compelling as a whole. If each of you just writes another blog post about the editing toolbar, all we get is a lot of out of date screenshots 6 months from now. ;)

Oh, and all that being said - we've got a big new idea for the core that will be revolutionary and sexy come winter ... of course. ;)
lurobertson replied on at Permalink Reply
Hi Franz,

Thanks - appreciate you taking the time to brain dump that - interesting and fair reading for us all I am sure.

I can't help but feel that, in the words of Peter Griffin, this type of discussion "Grinds your gears" so I'll exit stage, left on this topic ;)

Keep doing what you guys are doing, it rocks, that's not under debate, and totally get that you probably don't care about what the others are doing - just wanted to provide some musings about the landscape.

I am on the case with the switch and learn type stuff in shiny HD video format and obviously will send over some equivalent how to's for's switch & learn stuff. I'll see what I can come up with on the Wordpress side of things, although I completely agree with RocketNo9 - Wordpress is a magnet for people, bit like frigging facebook, it's impossible to get people away from it! Will do my best though - it's on my hit list!

Cheers, Lu
RadiantWeb replied on at Permalink Reply
you know, a lot of people are starting to realize that Wordpress is just a blog. that's it. not a well crafted CMS. Client translation sucks. In fact is pushing this article for exactly this reason. They are sick of Wordpress.

Suffice it to say, I no I do not agree (my Chagrin if you will), I think having your web content AND an easy to manage Blogging interface in one space is spectacular and extremely useful.

lurobertson replied on at Permalink Reply
Absolutely, wordpress is exactly that, a blog that can be hacked beyond all recognition - turd's rolled in glitter springs to mind!

Look forward to the article, should be interesting.

I am looking more at the video stuff personally as I am a great believer in showing Concrete5 (everyone I show it to loves it) but if you got some gem's in your article, I am happy to whack together a video featuring some of your points. My initial approach to is to include "This is how you do X in Wordpress/Joomla/Drupal/Silverstripe/etc but look how easy it is in C5". Then see what is gaining traction (these videos are meant to be short and sweet)with a view to expand on the ones that peeps are enjoying. Then I want to lead into the more designer/developer stuff but has a fair amount of stuff on that front excluding the switch & learn bits.

I guess it's a more of a marketing exercise to start of with but if anyone want's in or has got any suggestions, feel free to contact me
frz replied on at Permalink Reply
Not at all, I think its wonderful that I'm not the only person who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about this type of thing... well, at least I'm not the only person worried about it.

The main point I'd like anyone to take away from this is shoot for something small.
Sweeping summaries of everything are far less important than just really thoughtful explanation of details. I think we will all be better served by having dozens of short articles on specific topics rather than overlapping competitive reviews that are strongly biased.

So what I'd love to see is stuff like:

Drupal CCK vs. concrete5 custom attributes.
Page types in concrete5 vs. pages in wordpress.

Assume your reader is going to be jumping around all over the net. Just do a great job explaining one detail, and let them fill in the rest of the picture in a way that makes sense for them. It also should be a lot easier starting from the bottom up this way.
effortlesseffort replied on at Permalink Reply
Actually, I think what may be *most* useful for adoption is something that clearly illustrates and spells out the meaning Franz's statement above:

"We deeply believe in the builder/owner relationship and we think it is our software's job to ease the pains on both sides."

Something that takes the form of a narrative and sounds similar to what we as devs and designers might say to a client when they ask us "why not WP?", or "Why not Joomla?".

For example,

"Well... here's why...

First, we can build the site using this cool combination of modern templating and modules, etc. Also, the right things are modularized in the code, which makes things easy to change and makes it much easier for me to give you *exactly* what you want.

... AND *you* get this in-place editing and block model that makes your life so much more easy and intuitive.

But *most* importantly perhaps for your long term cost-of-ownership and piece of mind: say you want to at X feature in 6 months, here's how that process would look with one of the other CMS's:

You'd find a module somewhere that may or may not work, and then pay someone X to hack it into submission. The result in the end is not so great but sort of gets the job done, and you end up being tied to this Franken-code for the life of your site, etc.

But with Concrete5, this is how that process woult look: the modules are pre-approved, and the developer community is therefor more responsive and "professional" etc...

... also, because of how well organized and isolated the code is, upgrades can be made painlessly, etc over the X year lifespan of your site...

... etc etc."


I offer this just to illustrate the *kind* of thing that is perhaps missing from the center of the conversation in my view. Namely, a clear comparison of how the process might unfold over time.

I think Franz might agree that this is the *real* win for Concrete5 as compared to the others. So this needs to be spelled out and illustrated clearly and susinctly. (The particular points I use may or may not be the most salient ones. )

my 25c as a relative newcomer
frz replied on at Permalink Reply
well put.
and the more case studies and real world examples people can write in
their own blogs/sites the better that message will get across.

best wishes

Franz Maruna
mesuva replied on at Permalink Reply
Hey Franz, speaking of that switch and learn section, a few weeks ago I wrote a how-to on switching from Joomla to Concrete5 - (Julia thanked me for it which was nice)

After it was published, I sent a quick message to suggest it could be linked under the Joomla heading on the Switch and Learn page, but didn't hear anything back.

I'll be in no way offended if you think the writing in not up to scratch, or the style is wrong, too long, etc. (I'd just be keen to know in more detail what you'd actually like for that section)
frz replied on at Permalink Reply
weird i'll look into that - its typically safe to assume oversight on things like this, so thanks for pointing it out.
MattWaters replied on at Permalink Reply
I 've got it set up here:

Great article-- I enjoy the conversational tone. Thanks again for taking the time to put this together.
mesuva replied on at Permalink Reply
That's awesome Matt, I hope it will be useful.

I've noticed that it's still not linked up from the main page yet though, I'm assuming that's still to do/approve?