Concrete5 CMS Experiences

Here at Big Bee Consultants we do Java. Mostly. We also have a considerable body of experience in website development, including the CSS styling, XHTML & SVG integration and PHP content management systems.

Having needed to investigate PHP content management systems and used several on production sites, here are a few tips we've learnt.  A lot else has been written on this subject so we'll keep this brief.

Concrete5 is a relatively new PHP content management system (CMS) with the MIT licence. Benefits and shortcomings are listed here, along with some comparisons against Drupal and other CMSs.

Things I like:

  • MUCH easier to install than Drupal
  • Oriented around editing pages [Drupal is oriented around nodes, which can be much more confusing]
  • In-place editing
  • Blocks on each page get be reorganised by drag and drop
  • Built-in rich-text editor, TinyMCE [Drupal comes without one by default]
  • Built-in file manager for uploading images and oither media assets
  • The pages are organised in a tree-based sitemap; this can be reorganised using drag and drop
  • MVC implementation - the PHP code is not hard to understand
  • Nicely customisable
  • Easily themed
  • Pages have a history of versions
  • Each page can have its own permissions and these can apply hierarchically to sub-pages
  • Page rendering performance benefits from caching
  • Search-engine friendly URLs etc
  • Requires standard LAMP or WAMP technology - compatible with shared hosting etc
  • Lots of add-ons are available - some free, others paid-for

Things that could be better:

  • Page rendering performance is only just over half of Drupal’s (Drupal is nearly twice as fast)
  • website is sometimes horribly slow
  • Some road-bumps - things didn’t quite work
  • OpenID login doesn’t seem to work

Competition - Four of a Kind

For the sake of this comparison, just four open source PHP content management systems are considered.  This is unfair to the hundreds of others, but life’s too short to give them all justice. Let’s apologise and move on.

CMS Made Simple is great for getting a CMS up and running quickly. It’s essentially competent, albeit  with a few inevitable minor niggles.

Concrete5 is newer and deliberately simpler than the Big Boys, which are…

Drupal is the ‘bees knees’ of highly-configurable high-performance high quality. But at a high cost of effort to make it do what you need.

Joomla has a long and respected heritage and is very popular. Possibly the number one. Alas, some of its heritage is also baggage.

  CMS Made Simple Concrete5 Joomla Drupal
Installation The easiest The easiest (=) Middle The hardest
Learning Curve The easiest Quite easy Arguably the hardest Quite hard
Extensibility Yes but many modules are too poor to use Very good Big selection, but some of the important modules are not free. The best by far
Theming/styling Easy Easy Quite easy A bit harder
Page Rendering Speed OK Middling Middling Impressive - the fastest by far

 This website used Concrete5 for several years then migrated to Drupal.

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