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Managing A Large Site With Craft CMS

10 min read
Shape April 2022 HR 45

Operating a high-traffic website with vast content presents immense challenges. From development bottlenecks to fragmented workflows, traditional CMS solutions buckle as sites scale. This article provides invaluable techniques for streamlining large, complex implementations of Craft CMS. Learn strategic guidance for structuring templates, managing assets, optimizing performance, securing users, and crafting cohesive experiences securely at enterprise scale.

Craft CMS enables streamlining massive websites with 100,000+ pages and terabytes of content. Its flexible modeling handles complex data at scale. Optimized templating, assets and fields ensure cohesion across distributed authors. Robust user permissions and automation plus performance plugins, staging environments, and load testing facilitate smooth enterprise deployments.

Managing Large Sites with Craft CMS

Overview of Large Site Management Challenges

Operating an extensive website or digital presence with large volumes of content and complex workflows poses manifold challenges for organizations. As websites grow, managing dispersed content across multiple authors and subject areas becomes increasingly unwieldy.

Technical constraints emerge when attempting to create cohesive digital experiences from extensive, disparate content originating from diverse sources. Supporting complex user roles, permissions, and diverse content modeling needs across large, distributed teams compounds difficulties.

Organizations risk delivering fragmented, inconsistent experiences that fail to effectively engage visitors as websites scale. This highlights the necessity of streamlined content workflows, customized role permissions, and structured content modeling when managing large-scale digital presences.

Robust platforms and precise strategies are indispensable for keeping vast websites maintainable and avoiding convoluted "web sprawl". Organizations must implement solutions purpose-built to simplify large website management versus attempting to force-fit other ill-suited CMS options.

Benefits of Using Craft CMS for Large Sites

Craft CMS offers exceptional capabilities for managing sophisticated, expansive websites compared to alternatives like WordPress or Drupal. Its flexible, customized content modeling simplifies creating cohesive structures for extensive, complex content.

Craft's user permissions system allows finely tuned roles across large, dispersed teams. Built-in localization support is invaluable for global organizations managing multilingual sites.

Craft's templating and front-end delivery options enable modular site designs critical for maintainability. This facilitates assembling sophisticated page layouts from reusable design components

The plugin ecosystem provides limitless extensibility for complex workflows and integrations. Craft CMS reduces the headaches of operating large websites via its purpose-built large site capabilities versus retrofitting other CMS options.

Defining Large Websites and When to Optimize

Characteristics and Metrics of Large Sites

There is no definitive threshold that categorizes a website as "large", but certain quantifiable metrics and qualities characterize extensive digital presences. Key indicators include:

  • High volumes of traffic - over 1 million+ visits per month

  • Large numbers of pages - 10,000+

  • Significant content volume - thousands of assets and blog posts

  • Many products/SKUs for ecommerce sites - 10,000+

  • International reach and localization needs

  • Large active user bases - over 1 million

Websites exhibiting these traits have grown beyond what typical SMB platforms can effectively support and require solutions purpose-built for operating at scale.

Key Differences Compared to Small Sites

Managing a large digital presence differs markedly from running a smaller website. Large sites have greater complexity across technology, workflows, infrastructure needs and teams.

Small sites involve simpler development stacks, smaller server/hosting requirements, and more ad hoc workflows. Large websites require well-planned infrastructure, extensive monitoring, and streamlined workflows.

Smaller sites need less structured content modeling, user roles, and cross-team coordination.

Large websites demand thoughtful content planning, customized user permissions, and alignment across large, dispersed teams and authors.

The technology decisions and CMS for a large website have greater long-term implications, requiring platforms made for enterprise-level scale and extensibility.

When to Start Optimizing for Scale

Warning signs indicating a website is outgrowing traditional solutions include:

  • Declining site performance - slow load times

  • Difficulty managing workflows as the team expands

  • Complex, tedious workflows for cross-team collaboration

  • Content modeling and architecture no longer meeting needs

  • Limitations of existing technology stack/CMS platform

Addressing these pain points before they spiral is paramount, as technical debt accumulates quickly. Optimizing early, not after issues snowball, is key for scaling efficiently.

Craft CMS Benefits for Large, Complex Sites

Flexible & Customizable Content Modeling

Craft CMS provides exceptional content modeling capabilities to handle extensive, multifaceted content requirements at enterprise scale.

Its flexible fields system allows creating custom field types, from dropdowns to assets to tables, tailored to specific needs. These can be reused across different content types.

Craft enables modeling complex related entries and hierarchical data via its Entries field type, Entry Types, and Categories. This simplifies managing connected and nested content models.

Tables enable modeling structured content like products with multiple attributes elegantly within Craft's UI. Categories facilitate managing hierarchical taxonomy-based data.

These modeling features, combined with native localization support, empower handling complex content models across global multi-language sites with ease.

Powerful Templating for Consistency

Craft delivers robust and consistent front-end templating critical for large websites through its use of Twig and template inheritance.

Templates can be assembled from modular, reusable components and partials to ensure site-wide design and structural consistency.

Template inheritance allows cascading changes across layouts efficiently. Global template variables provide central configuration options.

Tags enable non-developers to build templates via its intuitive syntax. The craft.config file offers centralized front-end configuration.

Together these capabilities streamline templating complex, large sites and enable distributed teams to collaborate effectively on front-end development.

Robust Plugin Ecosystem

Craft's extensive plugin store offers solutions to handle nearly any large site requirement from ecommerce to localization to APIs.

Plugins like Craft Commerce add full-featured ecommerce functionality. FeedMe enables large content imports from external sources.

Performance focused plugins like Cache Warmer optimize load times. SEOmatic enhances SEO capabilities for enterprises.

The Asset CDN plugin offloads asset delivery to CDNs. CraftQL enables exposing GraphQL APIs.

This robust plugin ecosystem provides endless extensibility to customize Craft's functionality for any complex large site need.

Craft CMS Optimization Best Practices for Large Sites

Template Structure & Organization

Effectively structuring templates is critical when optimizing Craft CMS for large websites. Utilizing template inheritance allows enforcing consistency by extending parent templates into child templates across sections.

Creating reusable partials, macros, and components abstracts common markup into modular building blocks that can be included across templates. This avoids repetitive duplicate code.

Planning templates for future extensibility and growth from the start minimizes refactoring down the road. Leveraging global template variables aids centralizing common configurations.

Following conventions for template naming, architecture, and organization helps streamline development across large distributed teams. Using the {% cache %} tag boosts performance by caching expensive template code.

Taking a component-based approach ensures templates remain lean, performant, and scalable as sites evolve. Aiming for DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principles pays dividends long-term.

Managing Assets at Scale

Handling large volumes of assets in Craft necessitates optimizing how files are organized, stored, and delivered. Leveraging cloud storage like Amazon S3 offloads asset storage and CDN delivery.

Setting up automated image optimization pipelines minimizes file sizes. Asset indexing aids quick searching across thousands of files.

Linking assets to content improves tracking usage. Sensibly structuring folders by type and section avoids cluttered directories.

Programmatically mass generating transformed images via Imager avoids manually cropping sizes. Craft's asset management capabilities shine for massive media libraries when configured optimally.

Structuring Sections, Entries & Fields

Craft's flexible content modeling provides powerful tools for structuring content that, when leveraged effectively, optimize managing entries at scale.

Relating entries via the Entries field type maintains connections between content. Table fields enable structured data relationships elegantly.

Planning sections and fields for consistency across similar entry types aids cohesion. Craft's tagging, categories, and structures enable flexible content relationships.

Setting field and section permissions dial in rules across distributed authors. Creating shared global fields and matrices centralizes reusable content blocks.

Taking an API-first approach structures content for seamless multi-channel publishing. Craft's content modeling options scale elegantly applied judiciously.

Plugins for Performance, Caching & APIs

A robust plugin stack optimizes Craft CMS performance, caching, and API capabilities for large complex sites. Varnish provides server-side page caching for high traffic loads.

Redis delivers in-memory data caching to boost performance. CraftQL exposes GraphQL APIs for multi-platform content delivery.

Query param settings and eager loading optimize database queries. The Asset CDN offloads static files to CDNs.

Environment-specific config files toggle performance settings between dev and production. Retour facilitates granular HTTP caching.

New Relic and Scout monitor performance actively. Atomic Deploy allows zero-downtime deploys. Craft's flexible plugin ecosystem solves nearly any scaling need.

Deployment Workflows & Testing

Streamlined deployment workflows and testing processes are essential for maintaining large Craft sites efficiently. Utilizing Git enables team collaboration through version control merging.

Staging environments provision identical testing replicas of production config and data. Automation scripts standardize deploy processes.

Continuous integration tools like CircleCI automate code testing and deployment pipelines.

Launch checklists ensure all bases are covered pre-launch.

Load testing tools gauge production readiness by simulating traffic. Monitoring tools track launch metrics and errors. Optimized workflows and testing enable rapidly deploying large site changes confidently.

Additional Key Factors for Large Craft CMS Implementations

User Accounts, Roles & Permissions

Managing large user bases in Craft necessitates optimizing user accounts, roles, permissions, and access control.

Utilizing permission levels and user groups simplifies assigning access rules across departments. Single sign-on (SSO) integrations enable securely managing external users.

Impersonation aids troubleshooting content across accounts. Automation scripts provision and deactivate users programmatically.

Setting account preferences centrally overrides defaults. Email notifications inform on account changes.

User management remains maintainable at scale following security best practices and maximizing automation around user provisioning and access controls.

Security, Backups & Redundancy

Robust security and backups provide vital protection and redundancy for large Craft deployments.

Enforcing SSL across all site pages is mandatory. Access controls and permission plans prevent unauthorized changes.

Multi-factor authentication adds another account security layer. Regular automated backups safeguard against data loss.

Offsite backups ensure availability if primary data centers go down. Disaster recovery plans prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Internal team security training combats social engineering and phishing threats. Password managers enforce complex credentials.

A holistic security and backup strategy is indispensable when operating Craft CMS at substantial scale.

Analytics, Monitoring & Troubleshooting

Comprehensive analytics, monitoring, and troubleshooting practices optimize maintaining large Craft installations.

Integrating web analytics tools like Google Analytics provides usage and performance insights.

Error monitoring software tracks emerging bugs.

Application performance management (APM) solutions diagnose code bottlenecks. Technical documentation aids troubleshooting obscure issues faster.

Establishing internal support procedures creates pathways for resolving common problems. Monitoring dashboard centralize vital site metrics.

Readily accessible system architecture diagrams clarify troubleshooting intricacies. Proactive troubleshooting and documentation save immense time supporting enormous websites.

Shape April 2022 HR 202
Andy Golpys
- Author

Andy has scaled multiple businesses and is a big believer in Craft CMS as a tool that benefits both Designer, Developer and Client. 

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