It’s hard to imagine the current state of business, entertainment or media without the remarkable impact and contribution of websites in the modern world.
It has to be noted the influence of a website is derived from a combination of its well organized content and the presentation. Content needs to be managed and updated. One of the key technologies in managing content is a Content Management System; a stand-alone application framework responsible to create, manage and deploy web page content. Much to the relief of non-technical website owners and clients, web CMS systems provides users with the ability to edit, publish, administer and even go back-and-forth between versions of their website contents that is instantly reflected to the other side of the world.
I’d like to quickly dive into a particular web CMS framework called Concrete5 and give some of my insights regarding its unique features and functionalities.
Concrete5 is an open source web CMS written in PHP and MySQL. C5 comes with a set of powerful tools and features that are written using object-oriented concepts and the model-view-controller (MVC) architecture. C5 has become being best known for its sleek interface, ease of use, and fast response as well as a resourceful community. Let’s examine some of the interesting aspects that make C5 special.
One of the unique features in C5 is its easy and intuitive ability to edit pages on-the-fly: In-Context editing. With a single click of the edit button from the C5 editing toolbar, page is put under edit mode – highlighting the editable page areas on mouse rollover. Users can make all sorts of changes on the editable areas, preview their changes privately, discard them or, if its ready to go live, they can type a description for their current edit version and then publish it. Changes would instantly go live.
One feature many would find useful during an in-context editing is the Scrapbook. Scrapbook is the “clipboard” version of Concrete5, where editors can simply copy one or many already configured and content managed page areas and paste them into other pages without going through the processes they went through the copied areas.
Themes & Templates
C5 allows one active theme at a time but we may have a number of them ready on our themes dashboard section. This list of themes could be a collection of themes from the fresh C5 install, custom made or downloaded/installed from the concrete5.org Marketplace.
Blocks & Block Areas
Blocks are the smallest display units in Concrete5. As the name implies, they are the building blocks of a page and its these entities users manipulate when a page is put under edit mode. Display units like carousel sliders, page navigators and image galleries make a good candidate for a block. When editing a carousel slider a block, for instance, users can specify the number of slides, its speed and the images and once the page gets published, the block’s controller is smart enough to process these inputs (or configurations) and send the processed data to its view.
One thing that always goes together with a block is a block area. A block area is simply the hole a block lives in. These areas has to be predefined on a page so users can manipulate them to add blocks, layouts or even alter their design on-the-fly (i.e. play with fonts, background colors, spacing, borders and even add an inline CSS code).
The fresh C5 install comes with several basic blocks like video player, Google maps, HTML editor, forms and so on.
One of the signatures of a well crafted website is its consistent design and layout between pages grouped within the same type of category. C5 has a great way of predefining these types of pages as templates where their common components, layouts and design comes incorporated with their blank page instance. From C5 editing toolbar, users are given an easy task of adding a page, select its type and then fill out their desired content within the block areas defined.
This is very helpful for websites heavy-laden with articles, news and the likes that persistently get created every now and then. Moreover, the desire to improve designs and layouts can easily be achieved on the templates which automatically gets propagated to all other instances of the page type as well as to the newly created ones.
On the contrary to page types, single pages in Concrete5 represent pages that are one-off with unique design and layouts. Pages like Login, Contact and About often are presented with their unique design and layout and C5 does not require these to fall under any of the page types defined; for the simple fact that no more than one of these pages would exist throughout the site. Similar to page type templates, however, single pages could still be set up with block areas as desired so that the actual content can be managed by the end user.
The C5 dashboard is a hub hosting several admin based tools and global settings like the File Manager – a centralized area to manage site assets like images and docs that could be used by page contents, Users and Groups – permissions and access rights, Reports – system logs, and page errors. The dashboard hosts tools where our custom made blocks, themes, page types and so on are activated before they’re ready for use on the main site section.
Besides these visible features, C5 also comes incorporated with different Zend libraries for its internationalization and powerful caching features geared towards optimizing pages for speed and lightness.
All in all, Concrete5 is an inexpensive, well thought and crafted extensible framework that makes content management a friendly task for regular end users. The number of addons and themes available through the C5 marketplace is an important part of its flexibility and success.
Feel like reading more about Concrete5?