Detailed review on OctoberCMS
This review was published after using the octoberCMS platform for over a year.
UPDATE: October CMS as you know it is Dead. It is now a paid platform. However, the community forked octobercms and it is now called winterCMS. WinterCMS is opensource and a free platform. The review still holds true for wintercms.
What is OctoberCMS #
October is a free, open-source, self-hosted CMS platform based on the Laravel PHP Framework where it claims that clients don’t build websites, developers do. This is true! for anything much bigger than a personal blog, the end user of a CMS is rarely a developer and most often clients hire someone to build their website. October platform is build based on this concept, and focused on being a developer-first platform with an assumption that developers have basic knowledge in HTML, CSS and PHP. It is a mix of file based and database driven CMS.
Does developer-first approach mean
- That the platform is not user friendly for non-technical users?
- Can clients setup website on their own without developers help?
- Is it like wordpress or Joomla or Drupal?
You may have more questions than what we listed above. So, lets look into the october platform to understand how it works.
What is OctoberCMS used for? #
OctoberCMS is more than a content management system. The core is lightweight and builds a solid foundation as laravel framework is the base. Out of the box, only core features are available which means there are no unnecessary features that you may never use. The platform is very flexible and more features are added by installing plugins from the october marketplace. Since there is only minimal feature out of the box and each feature is added via plugins, you install only the features you need for your websites functionality. With this kind of modular approach, OctoberCMS can be used to build anything from a simple website such as a static website or a personal blog to a complex enterprise level system.
Key features are:
- Simple interface
- Highly customizable
- Good backen UI
- Extensible platform
- TWIG template engine
- Rapid development
- Simple AJAX Framework
- File-based CMS templates
What makes Octobercms unique #
October platform is super simple and flexible. This is an ideal platform where the platform features doesn’t come in the way when developing. The platform can be used to build a file based website without a database. It could also be used as a databased driven CMS or mix of file based and database driven CMS. The backen UI is clean, elegent and easy to navigate for non-technical users.
Developer perspective #
How is the October platform from a developers prespective. Well, to describe it in one word its AWESOME!. The platform is build by developers for the developers. The creators do understand the pain points in the web development. For a developer, the platform should be
- Bug free
- Flexible and easy to customize
- Free from bloatwares
- Less development time
- Free from security issue when using 3rd party plugins
- Proper pathes and updates
- Easy build and deploy
Surprisingly, the platform offers all these and meets the expectation. Building a custom theme is easy and even easier with bootstrap. The platform is very simple and doesnt come in the way when building with any frontend framework. OctoberCMS comes with a built in SASS compiler which is easy to use. It also supports assets minification out of the box with a simple change in config file.
OctoberCMS platform is incredibly flexible that it is easy to build a complete custom application in no time. Which is quite a difficult task when using other major CMS. For database query building Laravel has Eloquent ORM integrated. With this you can easily create database queries which fits your needs. October platform can also be used as a headless CMS for a mobile or a web app. OctoberCMS is built to be extendable and any custom plugin development is super simple and takes less development time compared to other platforms.
As a developer, you are not limited by the platform and get full freedom to build your website or application. You can bring to life what you envisioned.
From a developer prespective OctoberCMS is incredibly powerful yet simple.
Client perspective #
Here we are trying to focus on the user experience, product support offered and more on the self help when building the website on their own. As a client, some of the expectations are listed,
- Easy backend navigation
- Easy to publish articles
- Less maintenance
- Quick fix for issues
- Platform support
- Less costs
- and many more
Ofcourse the client expectations is not limited to the list mentioned above. For example if we consider wordpress, there are numerous tutorials, step by step guides, community support for all kinds of issues even to the extent that community provides the code fixes.
To make it clear, wordpress and octobercms are not the same. Both the platform has different philosophy, different views etc, for example, wordpress is user-centriy while octoberCMS is developer centric. It doesnt do justice comparing any platforms like wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, GRAV, magento, etc. Infact there is no best CMS, instead there are CMS systems best suited for your usecase. We cannot use magento to build a personal blog and complain.
Does octoberCMS makes it easy for a non-technical user to build a website with out developers help? It depends on the complexity of the website. Inorder to setup a blog like website, all they have to do is install the core platform, install a theme suiting their need and a blog plugin. Does this sound complicated? or does it sound familiar? If the client wants to setup an ecommerce site, ofcourse its not simple. Although there are plugins available in the october marketplace clients still needs a developer’s help to setup pages, auth, security etc.
In the official blog plugin from the OctoberCMS developers, the content editor is a markdown editor which is not easy for non-technical users.
For anything other than a personal blog, the end user of a CMS is rarely a developer. Lets assume that the website was built by a team of developers and handed over to a client. The client can have a seperate login configured which provides access only to areas like blog, static pages etc. This kind of user seperation is good as non-technical users dont have to deal with the CMS pages.
Even if the end-user wish to understand how things work in OctoberCMS, there aren’t many tutorials avaialble.
It’s very good at what it is designed for if you understand how to use it. But administration and way it works is technical and this makes is challenging for non-technical users.
Unfortunately, not all clients have the luxury to hire a team of developers to build their website. So for thoese who wish to build their own website, some technical knowledge is required.
Community support #
This platform was launched 6 years ago which is relatively new compared to other platforms. However, the community support is not as expected. There are lot of questions on the forum that goes unanswered. This does not mean that there is no support, but less support than expected. With the growing community, we can expect better responses in the support forums.
Support in GitHub support page #
The issues and questions raised in github support page is good and responsive. Even some developers provide workaround until a certain fix is released. There are seperate github pages for the core platform support and specific page for each plugin developed by the core team or 3rd party plugins.
The core team does take the security seriously and one such example would be the backend administrator access URL which can be changed during installing from /backend to anything of your choice. Be aware that none of the CMS are 100% security. It is important to understand how soon the security vulnerabilities are patched. OctoberCMS platform does a good job on this.
For a developer, documentation is very important and the documentation provided in the octobercms website is enough to start with but lacks in some cases. Since the platform is based on Laravel, the documentation provided in laravel’s website can be used for further understanding. Tutorials, blog posts, and how-to on laravel coding can also be used to develop octoberCMS websites.
Since the core is lean, the platform depends on plugins to add more features. To list a plugin in octoberCMS marketplace, it has to go through a review process to check quality standards and other criterias.
What comes as a blessing can also turn into a curse, for now the number of plugins less and a strict review process can be followed. What happens when the market grows? we dont want another market place like wordpress or joomla where 3rd party plugins present a security threat or plugin development is no longer supported by the developer.
Fortunately, one solution would be to take over the plugin and fix or develop further to suite the needs. However this may not be an ideal solution.
The plugin marketplace is growing and there are lots of free plugins and even the paid ones are not expensive.
- Pre-made email templates
- Static File System
- Eloquent ORM to access and manipulate database
- Based on Laravel
- Great UX
- Lightweight and flexible core
- Easy to extend and modify plugins
- No frontend dependencies
- Headless capability
- Less popular then Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal
- Small community
- Less plugins on the marketplace
- Learning curve depending on the end-user
The OctoberCMS platform is a platform that gets back to basics. The core team does a great job in providing us an opensource platform which is stable and does wonders. The platform is growing fast which indicates that it is being adopted as an alternative to wordpress or joomla.
OctoberCMS does best on what it is designed to do. It enables developers to build and deliver a product without restricting their creativity.
OctoberCMS is a great choice if you want to migrate from other platforms like wordpress or joomla or drupal.
What are your thoughts?