I first heard about MODx 8 months ago, and I have to say that it’s completely changed how I develop websites. I was finally to the point of giving up my search for a CMS, because I thought that they were all bloated and unusable, when a former coworker of mine tipped me off to a new CMS they’d been using called MODx. From my first glances at this new found CMS I knew it was something special. I’ve been developing websites with it for about 6 months now and I have to say that it is without a doubt, the best overall CMS I’ve ever used. This post is going to explain why I’m now so attached to MODx, and my overall viewpoint on what a CMS should be. Now, to give you a point of reference, here is a table that represents my experience with different CMSs:
CMSs I’ve used to build websites
CMSs I’ve installed and deemed worthless
- Joomla (and Mambo)
- ZOPE (AHHHHH!)
- eZ Publish
While I won’t go into the detailed reasons for deeming all of those CMSs I tried as worthless, the main 2 reasons for not going any further with them are:
- 1. I didn’t instantly understand how to use it.
- 2. I could tell that it wouldn’t speed up my website development process.
Basically, my idea of a CMS is that it should benefit both client and developer. If I can’t instantly understand how to use the thing, how is my client ever going to understand how to use it without some major training? As for benefiting me as a developer, if a CMS slows me down, then how can I justify using it? How do CMSs slow developers down? Complex module coding that requires you to learn a tome of API commands, complex systems that turn creating a simple web page into multi step task, complex template systems, code that is badly written, etc, etc, etc. These two simple points are what I judge a CMS on first. If it qualifies for both of these, then I know I can at least use it for something.
MODx has these, and so much more...
I know MODx is easy to use from my experience training people on it. I can usually train my clients in about 2 hours to use it to login, edit, create, and delete pages, add images, add links, add files, manage users, and use any other special snippets (like a gallery). I often hear comments like, "Oh, this is easy! I can do this!", or "Wow, this is so much better than [old CMS name here]!". Note that these are low tech users, usually the most tech savy of their group, who have been appointed to be the web master. I’ve trained assistants, accountants, managers, both young and old, and have never had a bad experience. People are very impressed with the simplicity of the system, and they like how similar it is to other programs like Microsoft Word and Windows.
MODx is the first CMS I’ve ever used that has actually sped up website development. I think that the main reason for this is how accessible the well written core code is, and how easy it is to write your own code into the system. I can interact with the CMS through snippets or modules - both of which are straightforward php. There are less than 100 API commands to learn, and that really helps.
Some other ways that MODx speeds up development are:
- Installation: it’s a snap
- Great set of pre-made snippets: search, menus, galleries, user registration, etc that are highly customizable
- Code Duplication: I can write my own snippets, and install them on other MODx sites. Or, once I’ve set up a snippet how I like it, I can copy that to a new site (basically, one time setup for most tasks)
- SEO: They’ve done a good job at delivering a CMS out of the box that offers some good SEO functions (so I don’t have to hack it for Google)
- Content Editing: same as for a non web developer, since it is easy for them, it is easy for me to add and edit content too
There are many other ways that MODx speeds up development for me, but one personal reason that stands out is that it feels like I’ve written a lot of the core code and snippet code myself. When I look at the menu code for instance, I wrote something very similar for a custom cms. Much of the rest of the code feels this way to me, and I think it is because it is clean and well written. I just feel at home with the code, and its a CMS that is written the way I’d want to write one if I had the time (where do the developers get the time to write all this??). The developers have done a great job coding this so that others who know PHP can instantly recognize what it does
So what’s the catch?
For me, there is no catch to MODx. All of the pros outweigh the cons so much that I’m not looking for another CMS. MODx is it for me. The program is great, the community is great, and my clients think it’s great.
Just so I don’t sound so in love with it, here are a few cons I see:
- I really wish that the Ditto snippet would install and be just like WordPress and have comments, archives, categories, etc automagically all set up
- There needs to be a fully developed ecommerce snippet/module
- It would be great to have a one-click way to install snippets/modules from the manager
- A great calendar snippet would be good
- A way to version pages would be awesome
Honestly, I don’t think that there is anything on the cons list that is not currently in development, so time will tell if these things get fixed/added to MODx. My bet is that they will.
If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?
Well, I already am married, so I don’t think it would work out. What I would like to do though is thank all of the developers who made this - and I mean anyone who wrote core code, snippets, chunks, templates, everything. You are what make this CMS so great, and the community awesome. Thanks again!
Do you have a reason why you think MODx is better than any other CMS around? I’d like to know what that is...