I came across this tweet today, thanks to the @getgrav Twitter feed:

This is something I can definitely speak to, as in fact just over a year ago I tried out each of the above CMSs (and a few others) for use as a new course website platform. Here is a little trip down memory lane…

I even went ahead and purchased a single user Statamic 1.0 license, as there was no free trial available at the time. As you can see from the above, I also checked out OctoberCMS and Bolt during my evaluation phase.

For each CMS I tried to modify either a default site and/or start a new simple project site. I was able to do this with each CMS easily enough, but found the CraftCMS had the most feature-rich editing environment and a very strong modular content approach as well. Statamic was also quite promising initially, but I soon ran into several difficulties including getting the available Foundation theme handling dropdown menus. Overall, I found that things work the easiest for me with OctoberCMS, Kirby, Bolt, and Grav.

All of the above CMSs are also “modern” in general terms, but as I learned more about what a flat-file CMS could specifically provide I decided to focus on that aspect.

Some key benefits of flat-file CMSs, especially for educators:

  • No database means less (or no) IT involvement needed
  • Increased portability, as moving a site now only requires simply copying files to another location
  • Takes full advantage of the collaborative ecosystem now available (i.e. GitHub, GitLab, etc.)

Once I decided that a flat-file CMS was the best fit for my needs, then OctoberCMS, CraftCMS, and Bolt were all eliminated from the running. I also wanted to use an open source platform, so that then removed Statamic 1.0 from the running.

So why did I choose RocketTheme’s Grav over Kirby 2.0 given my initial analysis? After a bit of thought, I would say the main reasons were:

  • Excellent conceptual/design model
  • Markdown/Twig/YAML usage
  • Self-contained Skeleton format
  • Inherited themes
  • Multiple open-source themes suitable for my needs
  • Powerful modular content support
  • Custom content type definitions
  • File editing and/or fully-featured Web editor (which was planned for Grav 1.0)
  • Documentation quality (bonus points: it’s built with Grav learn.grav.org)
  • Level of community support/engagement
  • Example GitHub integration (which also supports my current preferred workflow)

Speed/responsiveness was also an important consideration, but based on my initial experiences Grav and Kirby seems pretty evenly matched on that issue.

It’s just over a year later and I am feeling really good about my choice. Grav v1.0 has now been released, and both its capabilities and the community keep growing. A public roadmap for Grav in 2016 is available which also includes Gantry 5, RocketTheme’s theme framework available on Joomla and soon on Wordpress. From everything that I’ve seen so far Gantry will bring some really easy-to-use but powerful theme customization features to Grav.

As a side-note, I’ve also used other platforms such as WordPress, Concrete5, and Moodle to create my course hubs in the past, but with Grav I’ve been able to achieve a much higher level of customization than ever before. With only basic HTML/CSS knowledge, coupled with the incredible ease of use of the Twig language, Grav has enabled me to design and deliver much better experiences for my students and fellow educators. I’ve even been able to create my own open source Course Hub project to help other educators get started with Grav, which I plan to also release as a self-contained Grav skeleton package.

Want to read a more detailed overview of Grav? Check out David Walsh’s article Grav: Building Fast and Flexible Websites.

I look forward to reading Patrick’s CMS comparison article next!

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