Purple Spider Web Design

Hello, my name is James Cocker,
I'm a freelance web developer & designer,
based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Why I Use SilverStripe

2 October 2013 - By James Cocker

Silverstripe logo

SilverStripe is an open source Content Management System and PHP Framework. Most of my websites are developed on the SilverStripe platform, and here's why:

A few years ago I went on a hunt to find the perfect CMS to use for my websites. The two main priorities I had was for it to be extremely easy to use from the content editors point of view, and have a platform that was flexible enough to allow me to develop any custom features a website may require, without putting any restrictions on how the website could look.

The Big Ones

I started out by trailing the most well known contenders such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

WordPress is nice, but I found it was too focused on blogs, and needed third-party modules or severe modifications to work well as a proper page driven CMS. I also found that the interface was just too cluttered, and tasks such as inserting images weren't as straightforward as they could have been.

Drupal is extremely powerful, but I had a hard time working out how to use it's editing interface, and if couldn't work it out, I knew my clients wouldn't stand a chance! I can see Drupal being great at managing really large complex sites, where there are dedicated people employed just to do the website management, but for your average small/medium website it's overkill, and just makes things more difficult than they need to be.

Joomla is... actually probably best that I don't talk about my thoughts on Joomla, lets move on...

The Small(er) Ones

I also tried some of the slightly lesser known CMSs, unfortunately as this was a while ago, I can't quite recall all the ones I tried! But I believe ModX and Concrete5 were among them.

Eventually I came across SilverStripe, I liked what I saw with their CMS demo, and after trying out their development tutorials I realised what a flexible platform it was built on. I built my next few sites using SilverStripe, and found my clients loved it too. For me SilverStripe had the right mix of development flexibility with a very intuitive CMS interface, that I just couldn't find in any other platform.

Three Years Later...

I've now developed nearly 50 websites using SilverStripe, and the platform has suited every single one perfectly. Clients continue to find the CMS easy to use, especially after the major version 3 update last year, which further simplified the CMS interface, and made it even more intuitive to use. Every time a new custom feature requirement has come along, SilverStripe has let me seamlessly develop it into the site with relative ease.

I've even converted a few client's old websites from WordPress and Drupal into SilverStripe, and each of them have found the SilverStripe interface much more straightforward to use.

ss3.1 screenshot

What Exactly Can SilverStripe Do?

For content editors and website owners, it makes managing your website a piece of cake. Anyone with basic word processing skills can update their website. As well as allowing users to easily create & edit pages, some of it's other features include:

  • A complete page version history, so users can easily revert a page to a previous state.
  • Create links to pages in your site without needing to worry about remembering URLs.
  • Easily insert and resize images, without worrying about their original size.
  • Easily save page changes to a “draft site” so you can come back later,
    or preview them before publishing them to the live site.
  • Easily manage custom objects such as users, calendar events, etc.

When isn't SilverStripe the Right Choice?

While I find SilverStripe the perfect platform for your average small/medium business website, it isn't necessary the best fit for all sites. But then again no CMS is.

While SilverStripe is built on a very solid PHP MVC framework, which is great for being able to develop custom features into websites, when it comes to full-on web applications I find the documentation a tad lacking, and there's not many examples of SilverStripe being used for web apps, so it can be tricky to find someone else in the community who's tried to achieve a similar thing.

While the SilverStripe Framework was split off from the CMS last year, which has helped, the lack of documentation for developing web apps on it leads me to still recommend other frameworks such as Symphony, CodeIgniter & Zend, when building a web app, as opposed to a web site.

Who Else Uses SilverStripe?

SilverStripe is most popular in and around New Zealand, as that's where it originates. It's used by sites such as New Zealand Air and several government sites such as the New Zealand Ministry of Justice.

It's popularity is growing throughout the rest of the globe, in the UK SilverStripe is used by Greggs bakery, Debenhams Finance, as well as in projects for the NHS and BBC. In the United States, SilverStripe was even used for the 2008 Democratic Party's Campaign website, which received 3.2 million visits during Convention week!

Conclusion

All CMS platforms have their place, and I'm not saying that SilverStripe is the best platform for all sites, however for me, with the ease of use for clients, and the flexibility it gives me as a developer, I have no reason at all to be considering anything else to use for my future projects.

Purple Spider