October 28, 2016

Our custom CMS solution alternative to WordPress

One thing clients seem to want more and more is the ability to easily edit their own content. This kind of functionality can be especially critical, not to mention cost saving, for people who make daily or weekly updates to their sites. While WordPress does a very great job of this with its extensive plugins, it’s not always an option for sites needing more advanced functionality.

What WordPress does well

WordPress blogging platformWordPress is an exceptional blogging platform and great for sites that have multiple pages with static content. For larger applications, however, it can choke under pressure and scaling it for a large user base can be a full-time job.

Visual Composer is arguably one of the best plugins for WordPress as for most clients it seems to be a very intuitive visual editor for WordPress sites. It works out of the box for most themes and adds in drag and drop layout functionality in addition to a myriad of additional shortcodes.

The only downside to Visual Composer is that all that functionality and extra shortcodes come at a cost. Most users are only taking advantage of about 1-5% of the code and styles used in this plugin. The rest is just extra weight slowing down your site. Not to mention that most themes contain similar layout shortcodes so a lot of functionality is being duplicated.

MVC to the rescue?

At Echo 5 we’re huge fans of Rails and Laravel and frameworks that contain better design patterns. They make for better coding pratices that scale well and don’t have the limitations of traditional content management systems.

The problem is that by default they come with no content management modules or options. Usually what developers do is throw an admin panel of some type on top of the application that allows users to edit basic content. You can even add a WYSIWYG editor to content areas to allow some basic text and image editing. This has not been a bad method until now, but it’s hard convincing someone to move to a more costly system that has the editing capability of WordPress from 5 years ago.

Custom inline editing

We started asking ourselves how we can offer similar or better editing than WordPress without vast marketplaces or plugin communities. This issue is confounded with the fact that because an application may be unique with its own styling, there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Our live editor solves both issues. A user can now edit text, drag and drop images, and rearrange layouts by dragging and clicking without any coding knowledge. Simply click where you want to modify, type your changes and click save.

What’s great about this is that this editing is not limited by the application. Any theme or style sheet can work with this.

Custom inline editor

The final issue we ran into was allowing users to edit more dynamic content. For example, if you have a posts slider on the homepage, you wouldn’t want to be able to live edit there as content should be dynamically pulled from your blog. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we took a page from the WordPress book and implemented our own shortcode modules. The content is protected from inline editing to prevent accidental typos or formatting errors, but does allow users to modify shortcodes in a lightbox.

Now we have the speed and power and customization of a proper framework with an improved user interface over WordPress.

What do you think? Is there anywhere we should improve? Would you like to see this in a drop-in style plugin for a framework? Let us know in the comments below.