SilverStripe Developer Insight; Why It's Our CMS of Choice
Selecting a Content management system can be intimidating, not only for new developers but also for clients and users. If you are making an investment in a brand new website you want to make sure that the platform it will be running on is suitable and easy to use.
Each CMS offers its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. As a web developer, you have to familiarise yourself with one or two CMS' and learn how to put measures in place that work towards negating these disadvantages.
This is when experience comes in to play. Experienced web developers will be able to find a solution to your problem using their CMS of choice, or if it is not possible, decline and recommend another.
For us, our priority with CMS' always lied within its ease of use. Not for us, but for our clients. It has always been important for us to be able to deliver the highest of quality websites, but also for our clients to be comfortable using them.
After using SilverStripe for the first time, we knew we had the CMS we needed. As such, we have used SilverStripe as our dedicated CMS of choice for over a decade. Here's why:
Open Source Framework
SilverStripe’s powerful framework allows for rapid development of projects on any scale. Providing developers with methods and functions to achieve a wide variety of everyday programming tasks using very small amounts of clean, readable code.
It allows developers to upgrade both individual modules and the framework itself with minimal effort.
As the SilverStripe framework is open source, a huge array of modular components are available without additional cost to save hours, sometimes weeks of development work. Some modules are simply a starting block and require additional development, while others immediately provide extensive functionality. However, they all share the ability to be further expanded upon and tailored to each client’s individual needs.
What sets SilverStripe aside from its competitors is the ability to easily break away from the constraints of a predetermined framework to write code in raw PHP, then merge effortlessly back into the framework.
A real-world example of this would be advance integration with APIs to retrieve external data from other sources such as Facebook or the many Google APIs. Almost anything can be achieved with enough knowledge and planning.
One of SilverStripe’s biggest benefits lies within its ease of use. Usually, a client can understand how to make necessary changes for their website in an hour training session.
Similarly, there is no need to invest in master programs or training schemes to be able to understand how to use the CMS. If there is ever the need to expand your knowledge of particular areas, there is extensive documentation online.
Once training has been delivered it is very easy for the client to pass that information internally. This often alleviates the need to have multiple members of staff attend a training session.
With SilverStripe's inbuilt security permissions, you can limit the editable areas for different users. As a growing business, this is crucial if you have multiple outsources content creators that you don't want to have access to the core parts of your admin. You can then limit their access to certain pages.
SilverStripe's admin view allows you to view the changes you are making alongside the content field. Edit Mode provides a full-screen CMS view. If you have a lower resolution screen, this is the better option as it prevents the CMS content field from shrinking.
Split mode creates a centre split which provides a preview of the page you are editing on the right whilst maintaining the content field on the left. Optimal for higher resolution screens.
Finally, Preview mode overlays a complete view of the page you are editing. If you wanting to immediately check your changes in full effect, this is the best mode to view them on.
These modes primarily serve the purpose of enabling you to view your changes without worrying about maintaining different tabs. If you do not have access to a second monitor, changing the view mode can be your best option.
SilverStripe maintains a consistent layout through the use of Grid fields. These are used to display the data on your website. The main benefit this provides - from a usability standpoint - is that the UI is consistent.
With a consistent interface, it makes it substantially easier for users to find what they are looking for and get straight into editing. There is no need to search around the admin to find the section you are searching.
Similarly, with a grid field, if you name each row type title correctly (to match the section on your web page) you will be able to find the correct section in a matter of seconds.
From a development standpoint, it alleviates the need for us to devote resources to developing a usable interface. Usability and controls are built in and thus, save time.
SilverStripe's biggest security defence is its popularity. Comparing the total percentage of websites that are operating on SilverStripe (0.1%) to WordPress (32%), it's easy to see which is more popular.
Why is this a strength?
WordPress is much more susceptible to attacks. This has been made apparent in 2014 where 11,000 Domain were blacklisted after a malware attack.
SilverStripe is certainly not 100% secure. In the real world, nothing is. However, the popularity level makes it less appealing to attackers.
What Do Our Developers like About SilverStripe?
Paul: Most CMS systems are built in one way and you have to develop applications to match that CMS layout and architecture regardless of the data model requirements for your project. This usually means that managing content becomes less intuitive and labour intensive for the person managing the content.
SilverStripe is a PHP framework that also happens to have a CMS module built on top. As a result, the CMS becomes part of your application as opposed to a mechanism to just get data into your database even if the method to do this does not naturally make sense.
Due to this, we can create applications that allow content editors to easily manage even complex data models. Because these models can be then managed via the inbuilt grid field system we can easily add these to pages in an intuitive way that our clients take one look at and can instantly understand how to manage the system via the CMS.
Rob: My favourite aspect of SilverStripe is it’s fine balance between simplicity and complexity from a development point of view. Many frameworks restrict coding practices to suit their built-in functions and preset methods. This often leaves relatively simple tasks requiring much more code than necessary and can often lead to brick walls where more advanced functionality is required.
SilverStripe’s employs well established, industry standard practices throughout. This allows the developer to easily detach from the framework at any point to perform any task within PHP’s capability, then effortlessly merge the results back into SilverStripe’s data model. Connecting to external APIs, exporting data to virtually any format and the integration of third party script libraries are all perfect examples of tasks I find far less complicated in SilverStripe than any other framework I have encountered.
Have some requirements for a new website but aren't sure what CMS is best for you? Contact us on 01332 477575, we can talk through your requirements and recommend the best options for you.