Erik Reagan

Craft CMS: Beauty Meets Utility

I knew his reaction would be positive, but I didn’t know how positive. Our meeting had nothing to do with software or content management. But that wasn’t going to stop me from sharing my excitement.

“If you have a free minute, I’d like to show you the future. The future of your website management experience.”


He wore an expression that married confusion and excitement. I continued to walk through a few steps of managing content for a website. Not something inherently exciting.

“Holy crap. I need this in my life.”

To say he liked what he saw would be an understatement.

Sidecar is built on a CMS called Craft. We’ve been using it for a couple of years and have been reminded of what it’s like to truly enjoy the process of implementing a CMS solution. What’s beautiful about Craft is that the team behind it, Pixel & Tonic, care as much about form as they do function. The experience of managing content is as important to them as the experience of building the site itself.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite things about Craft in hopes of encouraging you to give it a spin if you haven’t yet. We’ll hook you up with some great learning resources to get started too.

The Client Experience

The web has evolved in interesting ways. Devices have come and gone. Screens have grown and shrunk. Client needs and expectations have expanded and contracted. All these things have been considered in the creation of Craft.

Nothing is perfect, but Craft is the closest I’ve seen to a perfect content management experience. Clients have always had fantastic feedback after seeing it in action. The feedback is even better after they use it themselves.

Content can be managed from any device. The admin panel is clean and free of cruft. There is a beautifully engineered “Live Preview” feature that always brings out a “Wow!” from content managers.

Sidecar-Craft-2 A screenshot of the Live Preview feature for this very article.

Like with any CMS though, Craft can be setup poorly. Part of the client experience depends on how well you set it up for them. The beauty here is that while Craft doesn’t force you into specific conventions, it definitely guides you.

I could go on and on about the client’s experience, but let’s shift a little to talk about your experience.

Designing with Craft in Mind

The last thing I want dictating a website’s design and experience is the CMS that powers the content. A quality CMS doesn’t care at all about your code—and definitely doesn’t force any code into your templates. Craft gives you complete control over this, which will make any designer or developer smile.

The Twig templating engine is used to interact with Craft and its data. I’ve found this to be the easiest templating “language” I’ve used to date. It’s easily extended if you need to really customize something, but it’s equally powerful out of the box. You don’t need to be a programmer to do powerful things with Craft via Twig.

Another huge benefit to building with Craft is the documentation. It clearly describes how to do things and helps you go deeper to understand how it works. If you just want to know what code to use where, the documentation is helpful. If you want to dig deeper into the possibilities of Craft, the documentation is fantastic.

Designing and building with Craft may come naturally to many. But for some it might be helpful to get a kickstart. Let me try to help with that.

Getting started with Craft

Enough about the why; let’s talk about the how. Here are a few resources I’ve used and benefited from that might help you get started with Craft.

“So, when can I have it?”

This was the question I was hoping and expecting to hear after my 3-minute demo of Craft. The client wanted it as soon as possible. And there’s no question as to why. His website and content management experience would be far better than it is today.

For a while I was telling people that Craft is the future of content publishing. I realized recently that this isn’t quite accurate though. Don’t get me wrong; I still think Craft is the future of content publishing.

But it’s also the present. Go forth and Craft.

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