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SilverStripe: The developer-centric CMS

SilverStripe is the CMS of choice for Canada-based digital agency and SilverStripe Professional Partner, Webbuilders Group. In this guest post, Lead Developer, Rob Mac Neil lays out the benefits of a developer-centric web platform.

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As consumers, we sometimes take for granted the various tools that make the world turn. Whether you’re going in for a brake check-up on your car, getting electrical work done on your house, or having open-heart surgery, there’s fundamentally two things that solve our problems: skilled professionals and the tools they use. And while we often don’t think about the latter, the tools used can profoundly impact the quality of the product or service we receive.

As website professionals, we’re not that different from other trades that require the right tool for a job. One of the primary tools we use at Webbuilders Group on almost every project is a Content Management System (CMS).

In our experience, most organisations either don’t know or don’t care which CMS powers their website, as long as it works properly. For example, an organisation may want to stick with their current CMS only because they’ve used it for a decade and are reluctant to retrain staff on a new one. But it isn’t the CMS itself they’re attached to.

This raises an important question: If you’re building a new website and have no partiality to any specific CMS, wouldn’t you want your digital agency to choose tools which allow them to build the best solution possible?

At Webbuilders Group, what made us fall in love with the SilverStripe CMS is the fact that, at its core, it’s developer-centric. In simple terms, this means we can build our clients better websites and at a lower cost. It empowers us to create less expensive, faster, more secure, and more easily maintained websites. And because it is open source—a growing standard in our digital world—it also means website owners aren’t obligated to a particular digital agency for ongoing maintenance and updates.

Something SilverStripe does better than any CMS we’ve seen, is establish a technical guideline for developers, which achieves several things.

Perhaps most importantly, we don’t need to ‘hack’ solutions together

Instead, we can more precisely tailor code to each project. While this is particularly valuable on large and complex builds, the concept also extends to the simplest of projects. In other words, as a content editor, your experience will be more personal and customised.

It’s easier for other developers to pick up and collaborate on projects

This lends itself to less time and budget spent re-learning code, but also provides better redundancy if you need to find a new developer.

It reduces the chance for errors/bugs

Because there’s less custom or ‘hacked-together’ code, there’s less chance of introducing something broken. In short: a more stable website.

It creates more reusable code than other CMSs

SilverStripe is very modular which translates to better opportunity to reuse code and build on existing features more easily, eliminating situations where things need to be fabricated from scratch. This ultimately means you’re getting more out of your website investment and incurring lower costs in general.

It’s free and open source, and so are its modules

A module (sometimes called a “plugin”) is added functionality that does not come with the core CMS. Often with other well-known CMSs, adding a module or plugin incurs an additional upfront fee which makes budgeting a harder task and may introduce ongoing licensing fees. With SilverStripe, we rarely run into this issue. We can pick and choose what modules we want, when we want—another plus for the wallet.

It has an active, global developer community

Working through complex technical issues alone in a compartmentalised (and paid) developer-market can be daunting. SilverStripe has an active and growing community of developers that freely share and solve problems together. As a SilverStripe Professional Partner, we participate in monthly partner calls to share our ideas, work through issues collectively, and hear about upcoming developments.

It better supports professional development workflows

Continuous Integration (CI) is a development philosophy that is particularly valuable for websites that have lots of ongoing updates to functionality (and, for example, that make use of automated testing). As a site becomes more complex, there’s always a concern that an update will break something that was once operational. SilverStripe’s framework to support automated testing is best-in-class. For website owners, this is ultimately another means towards a more stable website.

What does this all boil down to?

For website owners:

  • More cost predictability
  • Less chance of major surprises or the need to re-work of site code to fix issues not thought out in advance
  • A more reliable and robust website for you and your customers
  • A more tailored administrative experience
  • Agency and developer redundancy
  • Overall lower cost for development

And for developers:

  • SilverStripe achieves its developer-centric magic—at least in part—by using Model-View-Controller (MVC) and Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) design philosophies
  • It also follows PSR standards which is a healthy benchmark for technical compliance

How does SilverStripe compare to out-of-the-box solutions?

Contrast the developer-centric approach of SilverStripe to something out-of-the-box like WordPress. We also build websites with WordPress, but usually where there’s demand for the website owner to have more individual control of features and plugins from within the CMS. In principal, this seems like it would be a good idea. But in practise, we’ve seen it cause all sorts of problems including creating errors, breaking things, or even losing data.

As I write this, I’m also working on a broken WordPress site resulting from the admin updating plugins. Events like this are particularly problematic when the change wasn’t planned and we’re out-of-office when the client’s call comes in. But at the end of the day, most website owners and content editors use a CMS to do what its name implies: manage content (and not plugins).

Having spent thousands of hours on our own proprietary CMS and having worked with many other common CMSs, we’re excited whenever we know a project is approved to be built in SilverStripe. It’s our CMS of choice, and should be yours as well!

How to choose the right CMS

Check out SilverStripe’s definitive guide to selecting a CMS that works for your organisation.

How to choose the right CMS

About the author
Rob Mac Neil

Rob is the Lead Developer for Webbuilders Group – an outsourcing and service agency for marketing and advertising firms, graphic design companies and PR firms. Webbuilders Group are SilverStripe's official Partner based out of Canada.


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