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
  • Open-source
  • Good back­en UI
  • Exten­si­ble platform
  • TWIG tem­plate engine
  • Com­po­nents
  • 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 

  • Sta­ble
  • Bug free
  • Exten­si­ble
  • 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,

  • Per­for­mance
  • 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.

Secu­ri­ty #

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.

Doc­u­men­ta­tion #

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. 

Plu­g­ins #

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. 

Pros #

  • Pro­duc­tion-ready
  • Open-source
  • 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

Cons #

  • Less pop­u­lar then Word­press, Joom­la or Drupal
  • Small com­mu­ni­ty
  • Less plu­g­ins on the marketplace
  • Learn­ing curve depend­ing on the end-user

Con­clu­sion #

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?