Simple Content Management Solution

After writing “Web Design Doesn’t Have to be Complicated,” I had one designer asked me what CMS solution I offer to clients. Here is my somewhat long answer.

I use MODX and WordPress everyday at work. As much as I appreciate the “creative freedom” of MODX, it is way too complicated for a simple website. Standing up MODX is not quick and easy. Creating templates and user roles can be daunting. Updating MODX is not straightforward either. For a higher education website like Scalia Law School, MODX is perfect. For a small, brochure site, it is way overkilled.

WordPress is simpler and its automatic update is still unmatchable in any CMS. Installing WordPress is not too difficult even though a database is needed. WordPress has increasing becoming complex over the years. Creating a theme is no longer quick and easy. WordPress is still great for blogging (like this blog), but it is still too heavy for a simple website.

My ideal solution is a dead-simple CMS that allows my clients the ability to update the text and nothing else. They can’t mess with the design, fonts, and inline CSS. They don’t even need to add a new page or new image. I can take care of those for them. If I can create static pages (using PHP includes and simple functions) and only have the main text area editable, that would fantastic. If you know a CMS that does only that, I would love to learn more.

I have been keeping an eye on Mavo developed by Lea Verou. It seems like the solution have been looking for. Unfortunately, Mavo is still in beta; therefore, I am not sure if it can be used on live site. I read the documentations, but I don’t quite understand how storage works. I tried to reach to to Ms. Verou, but her email isn’t working. I also hesitated to bother her.

With a recent project, America: The Unknown Country, I created a static website for my client. At first I thought it was a launch and done deal, but the client had requested many text updates. While I don’t mind doing it, I don’t want to keep charging him for something he could do himself. He asked me to teach him to do the updates himself. I don’t mind teaching him HTML and FTP, but I don’t think it is a simple solution either.

I finally decided on Kirby. I have used Kirby in a previous project and what Kirby offers is very closed to what I have in mind. Setting up Kirby on my local machine is simple. I just drop Kirby into my MAMP environment. If you have PHP 5.4 and above, you are ready to go. You don’t need to mess around with setting up the database. The documents are well-written and easy to follow. For example, setting up a simple contact form takes 10 minutes.

With Kirby, I can still design just like the way have done with my static site. Kirby works with my design rather than me trying to my way around Kirby. The magic of Kirby is moving your final site from your local machine to the client server is as simple as uploading the entire project directory. The key attraction of Kirby is the Panel, which allows clients the ability to update the content without messing up my design. Updating Kirby is fairly simple. You just need to replace two directories: kirby and panel. Automatic update (for minor releases) would be fantastic for Kirby.

Kirby is not free, but affordable. As of this writing, a personal license costs $17 and pro license costs $89. I have no problem covering the cost of the license for the clients. What I like about Kirby’s model is that I don’t need to pay until your site goes live. I can download the full version to develop offline and I can pay when the site is ready to launch. So far I have developed two sites using Kirby and I will definitely offer it to future clients.