Starting to Craft

June 26, 2013

Full disclosure: never have I ever used a custom CMS before — until I tried Craft — and I freaking love it (which is fitting, because I also love crafts)

Craft is a brand-new CMS (seriously, version 1.0 was released on June 4th ) that lets you create completely customized fields/pages/forms for a client to update their website through. It seems like the majority of Craft users right now stem from the Expression Engine community, with this new CMS being particularly attractive as being less bulky. In fact, the creators of the framework, Pixel & Tonic, are Expression Engine add-on developers themselves. 

I guess they decided that they could do it better (and definitely have the experience to prove it). Craft uses the Twig templating engine, which is fairly intuitive. The docs on Twig are clearly laid out and definitely helped me figure out its syntax and structure.

What I love about Craft is that, essentially — its a baby — its not tainted yet with code-heavy half-functioning plugins, or thickly laden with features that 80% of users don’t even realize exist. Updates are still being released regularly, with a public laundry list of what’s in store. I already feel as though this is a CMS I could really get behind, and that’s seriously exciting! Not only is the community super small and supportive, but the Pixel and Tonic team is amazing themselves. They take the time to directly interact with people using their product, ask for suggestions, and reply to support questions almost immediately (they’re also super nice about it —Major points!). Every Friday @1:30 PM, there’s even a chat room open so that anyone can speak with the developers. You can really tell that they’ve put their hearts into it.

Now I’m no expert — remember, I started using Craft two days ago — but it says a lot about the system that I was able to pick it up without a problem just by reading the docs and other people’s questions on the Google+ group (with my only prior CMS experience being a tiny bit of Wordpress). Maybe it’s because I don’t know any other way, but I would venture to say that once you’ve gotten past installation (its documented but I still had some trouble — look out for a future blog post), using Craft is really a joy.

Some Awesome Craft features include:

Live Preview

Automated Asset Resizing 

Intuitive User Accounts

Visual Field Model

There are probably lots of other cool things — I’m just beginning to explore this CMS and definitely plan on continuing to use it (currently building out two websites on it!). I really hope it catches on because it’s a great product and I’d love to get familiar enough with it to start contributing plugins.

Disclaimer: Now, Craft isn’t free (technically it IS free to download, but most multi-page websites will probably require at least the Publish Pro package, $149) — however, you can try any of the packages for 14 days, or get them instantly when testing out their demo site ontherocks via Github. It’s definitely at worth a try. 

Also, feel free to email me with any questions you have about installation or getting started. I broke my computer enough times that I’m starting to learn how to prevent doing that.

TL;DR: Craft is a beautifully intuitive new custom CMS & Pixel&Tonic rocks.