Though it still may not enjoy quite the same level of popularity as the ‘Big Three’ Content Management Systems (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal), Concrete5 has gained plenty of traction in recent years, earning a reputation as a decent alternative to creating attractive, dynamic websites.
This got me thinking; if Concrete5 really is as good as it’s most ardent supporters claim, why hasn’t it yet failed to give the likes of Drupal and Joomla a serious run for their money, instead languishing behind as something of an afterthought, a ‘hey, there’s also this thing if you don’t find what you need from the bigger name CMS platforms.’
Is it merely a matter of time and brand awareness? Or are there some chinks in Concrete5’s armour that leave it unable to really compete with the Big Three and instead destined to serve simply as a ‘decent alternative.’ Loading up my trusty web hosting platform, I decided to install it and give it a trial run for myself.
Here’s just a few of my thoughts.
Right from the word go, I’m starting to see why Concrete5 may not be quite as easy to use as some of its fans claim it to be. The platform is available through one-click installations like Softaculous, QuickInstall, and Mojo Marketplace. Unlike other Content Management Systems however, which are normally straightforward and hassle free, installation this one onto a shared hosting account posed its own unique challenges.
I tried two different hosting companies to install Concrete5, first 1&1’s Basic unlimited hosting, and then on an iPage essentials place. Sadly, I ran into problems with both, and not just the fact that the installation was much slower than I’ve experienced with other systems. After waiting a long time, I ran into errors that required going into my hosting panel’s PHP setup to correct. Since I’ve been doing this web development thing for a long time, it didn’t take me too long to figure out what was up, but it certainly didn’t make me feel inclined to recommend Concrete5 to first time website users.
Ease of use and intuitiveness
Having finally figured out the installation process, it was on to navigating my way around the dashboard and putting a website together.
After a frustrating start, I’m glad to report that I did find Concrete5’s interface pretty easy to get to grips with, though I’d be lying if I said everything made sense right from the word go. It took some time of playing around with the dashboard, exploring different options and familiarising myself with some of the many help files and user-generated support content that exists for the platform.
By now, I started to realise that when they say Concrete5 is easy to use, what they really mean is that it’s easy to use if you’ve got the time to invest in learning a whole new system, or if you’re already pretty familiar with Content Management Systems.
Design and Templates
Since Concrete5 doesn’t yet have the same kind of presence as WordPress, Joomla, and the like, there’s a smaller amount of pre-designed templates available than there is for its better-known counterparts.
From what I gather though, designers are jumping on the platform’s growing popularity, and new themes are hitting the market on a fairly regular basis.
As for the quality, some of the better themes out there were at least well on a par with WordPress’s best. This can only be a good thing for the growth of the platform, and for users looking for a serious alternative to WordPress without sacrificing quality design and user interaction.
Plugins and extensions
Again, Concrete5’s relatively small market share means it lacks the kind of vast add-on library enjoyed by its rivals, though it isn’t without its plus points.
In trying a few different add-ons from the Concrete5 marketplace, I found that some were relatively simple to install, whilst others came with a level of complexity that I imagine would have first time website builders running for the proverbial hills. On the face of it though, I suppose this is no different than WordPress or any other CMS.
In Concrete5’s favour however, I did discover that there were none of the usual conflicts between extensions that can sometimes cause problems with WordPress, a big plus point in favour of this particular platform.
On the plus side, anyone with a little experience in using Content Management Systems to build their websites should find a lot to enjoy from Concrete5. The learning curve isn’t too steep to familiarise yourself with the way the system operates, the design capabilities offer the functionality and flexibility to create anything just as attractive as you can do with WordPress, and the extensions actually seem to function better than they do on that particular platform.
For first time users though, Concrete5 is hardly an ideal starting point for building your website. The installation problems still leave me somewhat baffled, and I’d be far more inclined to recommend either WordPress, or even a drag-and-drop site builder like Weebly before I’d go with this one.