Stay flexible with a lightweight CMS

Why the omnipotent systems of the past may not be the solutions of the future

, 28.02.2016
The times of big old CMS and ECMS monsters are long gone. Small and flexible CMS systems are the road to take into an ever changing future. Affordable and agile instead of overloaded with uneccessary features and static.

It's actually a bit paradox. Everyone in the business knows big systems like CQ5, ezPlatform, Sharepoint or even Typo3. Huge applications, wasting space on dozens of servers, annoying editors with overcrowded and unintuitive UIs and driving developers insane with overly complex and unmaintainable code.

Thousands of features no one ever needed, unnecessarily huge frameworks that aim to solve every imaginable problem and yet completely fail to provide what the editors really need: A simple solution for a simple task.

The reason for all that lies in the classic approach to implement a software project. Project managers, editors and developers all get together and try to create a detailed list of every potential feature that might be needed in the next decade. Implementing the project will be very expensive, so the solution has to be sufficient for a long time.

But let's be honest. 5 minutes after the project finally went live (probably already months behind schedule), you discover the one single desperately needed feature that no one thought about. And then the drama begins. It's hard to add features not defined in the initial concept. The system architecture is complex, side effects on other features nearly impossible to calculate and development efforts are huge. So, you just live with what you have, just because it was expensive.

And this is exactly what is wrong. Software architecture has to be simple and straightforward and not perfect for all eternity. If a solution is fitting no longer, get rid of it and create a new solution. Development becomes faster and solutions more fitting to current problems. You only need to solve problems that you actually have in this moment. If a problem changes, the solution must change too. If there is more than one problem, you need more than one solution. Each solution needs to be seperated clearly and dedicated to a single problem. Micro-services instead of huge monsters.

Systems need to be able to change. Even after launch.

And this is the place to shine for small CMS systems. They provide webpages, nothing more, nothing less. They use modern technologies free of historical dependencies and can be changed swiftly, because of their simple structures. If a feature is missing, you just create it. Is the website no longer good, create a new one.

A relaunch no longer needs to be the huge project everyone is scared of for months. It is a small thing that can be done today.

A small recommendation

One of the most promising lightweight CMS systems is Bolt in my opinion (Thanks again Stefan for the tip!). An easily installed system that does exactly what it should do. The list of features is not that long, but what is missing can be added through extensions developed by yourself in moments or downloaded from a free marketplace. A clearly structured website can be implemented by reasonably experienced developers in a few days. Finally, time can be spent on creating good content and interesting experiences again instead of fighting budgets or technical mumbo-jumbo.

The system is based on pure Symfony2 (or rather Silex) and uses Twig as rendering engine. All of them very common libraries used in many current applications and having large and active communities.

Maybe not a solution for every problem, and that's exactly why you should consider it.

It's that simple.

Tobias Bulla

Lead Technical Development

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