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Improve your Craft CMS skills

Why Developers Choose Craft CMS

10 min read
Shape April 2022 HR 45

Choosing a content management system (CMS) is a crucial decision for any developer. With so many options on the market, it can be challenging to identify the best fit for your needs. This article cuts through the noise to reveal the key advantages of Craft CMS that make it a top choice among developers. From its intuitive interface to robust customization capabilities, we’ll explore the compelling benefits that set Craft CMS apart.

Craft CMS offers developers a modern, flexible, and affordable CMS. Key advantages include intuitive templating, full front-end and back-end control, robust customization, seamless integrations, optimized workflows, and unlimited site licensing for a low one-time cost.

Ease of Use and Intuitive Interface

Clean and Flexible Templating

One of the standout advantages of Craft CMS is its clean template structure and intuitive design. Developers can quickly ramp up and start building thanks to the flexible templates that make customisation a breeze.

Unlike some clunky or restrictive CMS platforms, Craft embraces simple, elegant templates right out of the box. The frontend template language uses straightforward syntax like Twig, which most devs will already be familiar with. Building and modifying templates is an absolute doddle as a result.

The templating system also provides tons of flexibility for developers to customise things how they see fit. Template inheritance allows for better organisation and reuse of code. Macros can be defined for commonly used template fragments. And comprehensive template hooks give fine-grained control over customising templates without having to directly edit source files.

Craft's laser focus on offering a stellar templating experience means developers can jump right in and spend more time concentrating on efficient site builds rather than fighting against rigid templates. Clients will also appreciate how quick and painless it is to apply branding, launch new sites, and roll out design changes after launch.

Minimal Configuration

Another area where Craft CMS shines is its minimal configuration and intuitive interface right off the bat. Much of the nitty-gritty set up that sinks time in other CMS tools is handled elegantly out of the box with Craft.

For instance, complex settings like rewrite rules, 404 pages, andCross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) are ready to go with zero hassle. There's no need to dig in and manually tweak things that should just work from the start.

The intuitive control panel design also means that users can comfortably find their way around straight away. Craft avoids the clunky bloat of some enterprise CMS tools, opting instead for a clean, uncluttered interface. Creating content, editing pages, and managing plugins is made far simpler when the UI gets out of the way.

The refinements like drag-and-drop field layouts, bulk editing, and keyboard shortcuts further trim unnecessary complexity. Clients can focus on efficiently managing content rather than battling administrative controls.

Together, the smart defaults and intuitive interface mean developers and clients alike can hit the ground running. Less setup work means minimal bureaucracy and faster time-to-market.

Intuitive Editorial Interface

The intuitive content editing experience offered by Craft is another major draw for many users. The editorial interface offers a stellar authoring environment right out of the gate, enabling clients to efficiently create and manage content.

Again, Craft avoids the clutter and cognitive overload often present in other tools. The editorial UI is focused on making essential content tasks readily accessible. Elements like drafts, versioning, templating, and previewing make it simple for authors to hone their work.

The presentation also embraces natural content hierarchies and relationships. Structure tools like sections, categories, tags, and matrices make it easy for authors to logically relate and organise content elements. This ensures a smoother experience scaling editorial efforts as the amount of content grows.

From onboarding new editors to empowering experienced teams, the refinement of the editorial interface cultivates user-friendly workflows. Authors can concentrate on creating stellar stories, campaigns, guides, and other content without technology hurdles.

Astute attention to detail elevates Craft's authoring environment far above some afterthought tacked onto a toolkit. The intuitive editing delivers a premium CMS experience right out of the box, fueling efficient content operations.

Front-end and Back-end Customization and Control

Full Front-end Control

A major advantage that attracts developers to Craft CMS is the sheer level of control offered over the front-end display and template design. The flexible templating provides endless options for customising the site experience to exact specifications.

Craft grants full front-end access to tweak and tailor things like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. Developers can build a front-end purely using Craft templating, or easily integrate Craft content with an existing codebase. Craft also embraces modern development tools like Webpack and Vue.js for those who want to leverage these workflows.

The templating flexibility makes it a breeze to implement custom components, dynamic interfaces, and innovative features. Things like customized matrix blocks, dynamic navigation, and advanced search can be created to deliver truly bespoke experiences.

Developers can also tap into a thriving ecosystem of front-end focused plugins. Add-ons for tackling common needs like forms, sliders, social sharing and more save tons of development time.

The front-end control empowers developers to push creative boundaries rather than being constrained by rigid frameworks. Clients benefit from highly tailored sites and tools that match their exact needs and vision.

Full Back-end Control

Along with front-end control, Craft CMS grants full access to the back-end codebase for complete customization capabilities. Developers have the keys to adapt the admin experience, business logic, and under-the-hood architecture as needed.

Craft's modular plugin architecture makes it simple to extend default functionality. Custom plugins can be built to create new admin modules, data models, APIs, automation tasks, and more. The sky's the limit for power users to mold Craft CMS into a custom-fit solution.

Developers also get full access to Craft's application code to tweak and expand the core software behavior. The code follows modern PHP7+ standards and utilizes common tools like Composer, Twig, and Yii2. This allows experienced devs to quickly ramp up and customize how Craft operates.

Integrations with Swiftmailer, Guzzle, and other libraries enable creating custom email, API, and external system integrations. Craft can be tailored to integrate tightly with other business platforms.

The back-end access delivers the best of both worlds. Developers gain the stability and conventions of a mature framework, with the flexibility to enhance it however they see fit. There are no black boxes restricting what can be accomplished.

Examples of Customization Abilities

To highlight the deep customization abilities unlocked by Craft CMS, here are just a few examples of what developers have built:

  • Fully customized admin dashboards with tailored widgets, analytics, and reporting for niche use cases.

  • Advanced custom fields like signature inputs, interactive grids, and logic-driven multi-page forms.

  • Custom sections, templates, and workflows for unique content models like equipment catalogs, real estate listings, event calendars.

  • Headless or decoupled integrations to deliver content via custom apps, smart devices, digital signage.

  • Custom APIs, webhooks, and data pipelines to ingest, manage, analyze and distribute content across platforms.

  • Advanced access control, permissions and governance capabilities tailored to enterprise needs.

  • Custom automation, scripts, and tasks to eliminate repetitive workflows and deliver background processing.

  • Custom templating and rendering to output markup, XML, PDFs, and other dynamically generated assets.

  • Migration tools, data imports, and integrations to modernize processes.

The multitude of built-in customization avenues and community examples demonstrate the vast possibilities. Craft CMS remains firmly in the driver's seat while providing the keys to modify things to your heart's content. There are no limits to creating tailored sites, workflows, and tools on the flexible Craft framework.

Built on Modern Web Standards

Languages and Frameworks

One of the key advantages of Craft CMS is its foundation on modern languages and frameworks that will be instantly familiar to most developers. Rather than building on legacy tools or esoteric languages, Craft utilizes established frameworks like Twig, Composer, and Yii 2.

The frontend templating engine is powered by Twig, which offers a clean, readable syntax that meshes perfectly with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Twig is a battle-tested platform used by millions of developers worldwide.

For dependency management, Craft employs Composer. This enables easily installing and updating plugins, tools, and libraries in Craft projects. Composer integration also makes sharing custom code bundles effortless.

On the Craft CMS backend, Craft leverages the robust Yii 2 framework. Yii provides structured MVC architecture, security essentials, caching tools, and other enterprise-grade features. Developers with PHP and MVC experience will find themselves immediately at home.

By tapping these frameworks, Craft delivers a flexible and extensible CMS platform without developers having to reinvent the wheel. The vast documentation and communities around Twig, Composer, and Yii also make it easy to quickly gain mastery.

Development Best Practices

Beyond the choice of languages and frameworks, Craft CMS closely adheres to modern web development best practices and industry standards throughout its architecture. This devotion to optimised, well-structured code pays dividends in developer experience.

Craft utilizes Composer and customisable environments for smooth build and deployment processes. Frontend assets are compiled and optimised using Webpack. Security is addressed through built-in measures like CORS configuration, CSRF protection, and password hashing.

The codebase follows PSR-2 coding standards and is fully documented with PHPDoc comments. Automated testing ensures rigorous quality control across core modules and plugins. Attention to performance tuning provides snappy load times.

Following conventions like UTF-8 encoding and semantic versioning reduces headaches when integrating Craft into diverse technology stacks. The care put into adhering to modern standards makes it a delight for developers to work with Craft CMS.

Integration and Workflows

Craft CMS also shines when it comes to integrating with modern developer tools, workflows, and environments. Developers can easily incorporate Craft into their preferred stack and toolchain.

The CLI craft command provides access to utilities like project scaffolding, database management, and plugin management. Custom scripts and commands can also be built using the CLI.

Craft can integrate with version control systems like Git for refined deployment workflows. Integration with PM2 enables advanced environment management and zero-downtime restarts.

For frontend workflows, Craft seamlessly integrates with systems like Vue, React, and Webpack. The flexible templating makes it simple to output JSON or HTML for consumption by JavaScript frameworks.

Developers can also deploy Craft in diverse environments like containers, serverless, and services like Platform.sh. The Craft stack adapts smoothly to modern hosting paradigms.

By embracing integration and flexible environments, Craft helps developers utilize the right tools for each project. There's no need to overhaul workflows - Craft slots right into proven stacks and toolbelts. The adaptability empowers developers to work efficiently and ship faster.

SEO Benefits

Metadata Fields

Craft CMS provides extensive control over metadata fields to empower proper SEO on content and pages. The flexible field architecture makes it easy to customize the right metadata schema for different content structures.

Developers can create dedicated fields for meta titles, descriptions, social summaries, and other metadata. These can be configured as required or optional fields per content type. The field data automatically populates templated meta tags.

For global SEO settings, Craft offers configurable defaults for meta generators, descriptions, social images, and more. These cascade down to ensure every page has properly optimized metadata.

The control over SEO metadata streamlines search optimization right in the admin backend. No more juggling external SEO plugins that don’t integrate cleanly with content workflows. Metadata management becomes an elegant part of the authoring process.

URL Control

Along with metadata, Craft provides fine-grained control over content URLs, another vital aspect of on-page SEO. Pretty URLs, customize aliases, and programmatic manipulation ensure URLs are optimized.

Craft allows enabling clean URL structures using entries' titles and slugs rather than opaque IDs. Custom patterns and segments can be used to tailor URL formats to the content.

For existing URLs, content creators can manually configure aliases and redirects as needed. This helps preserve optimization benefits when migrating URLs or consolidating content.

Developers can tap into events and service classes to programmatically generate or modify URLs based on business rules and semantic connections between content. Complete control over URLs helps both users and search engines.

Structured Data

To take optimization higher, Craft also makes it simple to incorporate structured data markup into templates using JSON-LD and custom schemas. This enables rich search engine snippets that succinctly showcase content to users.

For common data types like articles, events, and local businesses, plugins provide ready-made schemas and fields tailored to each. Custom schemas can also be defined using Craft's flexible fields and data architecture.

The structured data integrates seamlessly with content editing workflows. Authors simply fill in the expected fields and the markup automatically gets rendered on the frontend. No need for one-off implementation just for SEO.

Whether relying on common templates or building custom schemas, Craft provides an integrated approach to structured data. Rich results for search users are a natural byproduct of creating content rather than an afterthought.

The stellar content modeling and templating capabilities make it effortless to build SEO-friendly structures. Combined with meticulous URL control and metadata support, Craft delivers some of the best optimization capabilities out there. The SEO experience is deeply ingrained rather than tacked on as an extra.

Developer Documentation & Resources

Official Documentation

Craft CMS provides excellent official documentation and guides to help developers quickly get up to speed and become proficient with the platform. The expansive docs are an invaluable resource for both learning Craft and relying on as a technical reference.

The documentation covers core concepts like templating, routing, plugins, fields, and elemental content modeling. Practical topics like database management, debugging, testing, and security are also addressed in technical depth.

For common tasks, the guides provide actionable walkthroughs and sample code. APIs are comprehensively documented, along with release notes detailing changes and enhancements in each version of Craft.

The guides continuously evolve, keeping pace with new Craft versions and plugins. They demonstrate best practices for taking advantage of the latest Craft features.

The polished documentation lowers the barrier for picking up Craft for developers at any skill level. EvenCraft veterans will find insights and techniques to further hone their mastery. Having stellar documentation dramatically accelerates developer productivity and success with the platform.

Community & Forums

Beyond the official resources, Craft enjoys an active community of developers supporting each other and exchanging ideas in forums. The community is a great place to get help troubleshooting issues, ask questions, or share tips.

The official Craft CMS Stack Exchange functions as a knowledgeable support forum manned by the community. Common issues, platform intricacies, and development techniques are explored in depth in question and answer format.

Developer Discord servers and Segment Slack channels provide other avenues to chat with Craft developers in real-time. Conversations range from debugging queries to brainstorming ideas for new plugin capabilities.

Vibrant communities have also formed around popular Craft plugins and tools. Developers flock to these ecosystems to discuss specialized usage, integrations, and customization.

For those learning Craft, the community support can provide confidence and crucial mentoring to level up coding skills. Seasoned developers reap rewards sharing hard-earned knowledge while honing communication abilities. The communities make Craft a rich, collaborative environment.

Code Samples & Projects

To accelerate getting up to speed with Craft CMS, there are abundant code samples and demo projects available for reference. These resources provide practical, hands-on learning opportunities.

The CMS includes demo templates showcasing common UI patterns and development techniques on the frontend. Code samples walk through example custom fields, plugin modules, console commands, and more on the backend.

The Craft Cookbook initiative offers a collection of sample “recipes” demonstrating solutions for tasks like adding search, building forms, and incorporating JavaScript frameworks. Developers can find patterns tailored to their specific needs.

Beyond individual samples, starter projects and skeleton apps help developers rapidly scaffold a solid foundation for common Craft use cases. The working demos can be dissected or built upon.

For those stumped on how to implement an idea in Craft, consulting existing samples helps spark breakthroughs and grow knowledge. The resources speed up developing familiarity and fluency with Craft APIs and architecture.

Between exhaustive official documentation, helpful communities, and practical sample code, developers enjoy top-notch resources to maximize their productivity and skills with Craft CMS. The knowledge repositories pay dividends as applications become increasingly complex.

Plugins & Integrations

Plugin Store

One of Craft's major strengths is its robust plugin ecosystem. The official Craft Plugin Store contains thousands of plugins that add functionality without code. Over 700 vetted plugins help accelerate development.

Plugins provide drop-in solutions for needs like forms, social media, SEO, administration tools, and front-end enhancements. Popular options cater to use cases like ecommerce, marketing, publishing, and localization.

The plugins integrate tightly into backend control panels and frontend display templates. Custom fields, user permissions, configuration settings, and more are handled automatically.

With a single click, plugins like SEOmatic, Contact Forms, and Retour greatly enhance what's possible out of the box. The curated selection in the store filters quality options that adhere to best practices.

For developers, plugins provide leverage to deliver projects faster. Clients also enjoy easily enabling new capabilities on their sites. Expanding with plugins is far more nimble than custom builds.

3rd Party Integrations

Beyond first-party plugins, Craft offers extensive integrations with modern external tools and frameworks via plugins and custom code. Craft can be connected to popular solutions for needs like forms, analytics, and digital experiences.

For instance, plugins enable integrating with solutions like Vue, React, and Tailwind CSS on the front-end. Back-end integrations like Amazon S3, Cloudflare, and Webhooks can be added to enhance infrastructure.

Plugins also allow integrating Craft content and data with external platforms like Shopify, WordPress, and even IoT networks. The integration possibilities are nearly endless.

With its developer-friendly architecture, Craft provides a flexible canvas to bring together the best mix of tools for each project. It acts as a central content hub that can connect out to specialty solutions as needed.

Custom Plugin Development

For advanced custom needs, developers can also build their own custom plugins for Craft. The straightforward plugin architecture makes developing extensions surprisingly easy yet immensely powerful.

Plugins can create new back-end modules, frontend display components, automation tasks, APIs, and much more. Simple plugins can be built in minutes, while complex bespoke solutions are still approachable.

Existing plugins provide great samples for learning plugin development. The knowledge transfers to enabling new integrations, workflows, and features tailored to individual projects.

Custom plugins empower developers to stretch Craft CMS into a custom-fit solution for specialized requirements that off-the-shelf plugins don't address. They unlock nearly infinite room for growth.

Between the official plugin store, third-party integrations, and custom plugin capabilities, Craft offers outstanding extensibility. Developers can tap into an incredible range of tools and data while avoiding the limitations of an all-in-one monolith platform. The flexibility accelerates delivering robust solutions.

Prototyping & Productivity

Live Preview & Staging

To accelerate prototyping and refinement, Craft CMS provides exceptional live preview and staging capabilities. Developers and content creators can rapidly iterate in real-time with minimal context switching.

The live preview feature updates frontend templates instantly as content is edited in the CMS. Authors can fine-tune copy, export settings, and SEO tags while previewing changes on the fly.

For more extensive testing, the built-in multi-environment support enables creating staging and development sites for experimentation. Content and configuration can be kept in sync across environments.

The ability to quickly preview and test changes in real representative environments empowers creativity and precision. Tedious release cycles disappear in favor of nimble iteration convenience.

Local & Remote Development

Craft CMS offers flexibility for developers to work both locally and remotely. The platform integrates smoothly with Git and other version control systems for refined workflows.

Projects can be easily set up on a developer's local machine by installing Craft and pulling down the codebase. Local changes are then pushed back up to staging and production remotely.

On remote servers like development, staging, and production, environment variables allow configuring resource connections and segurança settings differently across environments.

The compatibility with both local and remote development patterns allows developers to use their preferred workflow. There's no need to overhaul processes - Craft fits in seamlessly.

Task Automation

To maximize productivity, Craft incorporates Gulp for task automation out of the box. Gulp streamlines repetitive development chores through configurable tasks.

Gulp handles time-saving jobs like compiling Sass stylesheets, bundling JavaScript modules, optimizing images, and synchronizing changes across environments. Integrations with Webpack and Babel are also available.

The predefined tasks cover common needs while also providing ample flexibility to customize workflows. New tasks can be defined to lint code, validate links, generate sitemaps, and more.

With a single terminal command, Gulp tasks build, compile, optimize, and deploy updates for rapid project iteration. Automation of mundane chores allows developers to focus efforts on demanding challenges.

Between its live prototyping capabilities, adaptable environments, and baked-in task automation, Craft CMS enables developers and content creators to maintain relentless momentum. The refined workflows remove speed bumps and bottlenecks that drain productivity.

Teams can stay in the zone and channel energy into creating rather than fighting with tools and processes. The workflow optimizations add up to big velocity improvements and greater overall satisfaction using Craft.

Affordable Pricing Model

Low Upfront Cost

Unlike some CMS platforms that nickel and dime through subscriptions, Craft CMS pricing uses a very affordable one-time pricing model. This lowers the barrier to entry and provides excellent value to developers.

Licenses for Craft personal and commercial use start at around £199. While already inexpensive upfront, discounts are frequently offered making it an even more budget-friendly option.

The pricing tiers are also very reasonably aligned to common use cases. Solo developers and tiny teams can start very affordably, while growing agencies and enterprises have scalable options.

For sites needing advanced enterprise capabilities, Craft still represents a tiny fraction of the costs charged by some enterprise CMS tools. The pricing scales affordably while delivering robust functionality.

Compared to some SaaS tools, Craft puts more money back into developer’s pockets rather than being syphoned off through recurring fees. The model favors ownership versus renting.

Ownership vs Rental

The one-time pricing model used by Craft CMS provides complete ownership of the tool versus having to perpetual pay rental fees. This allows developers to keep more of the value they create.

Once the very reasonable single purchase is made, there are no mandatory ongoing costs for hosting, maintenance, or version upgrades. You fully own Craft to use as needed on unlimited projects.

With a rental SaaS model, the platform vendor constantly claws back portions of value through relentless recurring fees. There's no opportunity to realize a return on investment.

Craft's pricing philosophy rejects this vision. By putting developers first, Craft provides a fair deal upfront while allowing keeping all downstream value created.

The ownership model creates a win-win arrangement. Developers get affordable access to a top-tier CMS while realizing the long-tail dividends. There's no hidden subscription gotchas.

Unlimited Websites

Unlike some platforms that impose restrictive website and domain limits, Craft CMS licenses enable using Craft on unlimited sites. This flexibility adds even more value for the money.

Whether working solo or at a digital agency with many clients, the ability to reuse Craft seamlessly avoids getting nickeled-and-dimed. Additional sites and domains don't incur extra fees.

With SaaS tools, additional sites often must pay exorbitant add-on costs. Craft avoids these caps by giving full flexibility built-in to the highly affordable base license.

The unlimited sites policy also makes it easy to provision development, staging, and production environments as needed without ballooning costs. Resources can be allocated flexibly without artificial limits.

Between the fair upfront pricing, ownership model, and unlimited sites, Craft delivers an incredibly honest value. Check out Craft CMS statistics and you’ll quickly realise: there's no small print or ugly surprises - just an optimized CMS equipped to provide lasting value and versatility.

If you feel ready to elevate your web design projects to new heights with Craft CMS, get in touch! Empower your digital presence and deliver unparalleled user experiences. Our web design agency, MadeByShape, harnesses the full potential of Craft CMS, ensuring seamless, customizable, and cutting-edge solutions for your online success. Need help with your project? We’re an agency you can trust.

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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