Statamic

22nd May 2014

Those that follow this site know that I switched from WordPress that I’d been happily using (well, mostly happily) for over two years to a newer flat-file CMS called Statamic. A lot of people have raved about it, myself included but I think it’s important for people considering switching to Statamic to understand just what they’re in for.

It’s Not For Web-Newbies

I’m not a web developer and make no claim to be. I’m at best a web hacker - taking snippets of code from wherever I can on the web, tweaking this and changing that to cobble together something that works. Along the way I learn a bunch of new syntax for a bunch of different web languages, most recently PHP, JavaScript, Ajax, CSS, etc. A great many people on the web that want to blog want something they can type into and hit "Publish" then be done. If you are that person, start with Blogger (Ugh) or perhaps WordPress. There’s still a learning curve for WordPress but geez it’s much simpler than most of the alternatives. You don’t have to customise much, it’s simple, it’s stable and it’s free.

Customisation

What Statamic gives you is a CMS backend and a templating mechanism that lets you build your own website with a solid foundation but many of the advantages of a database style data store. It’s flat file, small and once you learn it’s structure and syntax, it’s pretty straightforward. That said, if you’ve dabbled with a bit of CSS to tweak your WordPress site, that won’t be enough. You’ll need to learn a lot more, but you can customise it just the way you like.

Cost

Statamic is a commercial product and starts at $29 for personal use. If you want to have form handling or search, that’s $49 extra each. I’ve been chipping away at an email Form Add-on and customising it but I still don’t have site search. It’s scary that search doesn’t come with the CMS built-in given that you get that with WordPress for free. Yes you could index with search engines but WordPress doesn’t do that - it’s native. There are plenty of good quality WordPress plugins that won’t cost you a cent. For Statamic the list of Add-ons is growing all the time, but honestly, if you’re hacking away with Statamic then it’s almost expected that you write what you need yourself and that costs you time.

Geek Cred

This is such an intangible, vague and mostly worthless measure of anything but alas, it motivates people to do "geeky" things and put them on display. "Hey look at me I’m using Git to push updates to my flat-file CMS" is considered some kind of badge of honour amonst web-geeks wanting to establish their geek credibility. Writing your site in Statamic is considered similarly though perhaps not quite so hard-core. If you want to do that - go right ahead. I can’t and won’t stop you. Just realise the real reason you’re doing it.

What’s The Point?

  • Speed: For me at least. With Pragmatic and TechDistortion taking off recently my page response times using WordPress started to annoy me. I received no direct complaints (okay maybe one or two indirect ones) but I knew a flat-file CMS would perform better and Statamic delivers on that.
  • Unique: I have a thing for unique stuff. I based my site on the Denali theme but it’s been modified beyond recognition at this point including smartphone and tablet modifications and a raft of other Add-ons. That’s much harder to pull off with WordPress with conflicting plugins especially.
  • Control: I got sick of the updates that WordPress would bombard me with pretty much every time I logged in. Many updates would wipe out some of my hacks to make it work the way I wanted. Statamic hasn’t yet. Everything is self-contained within folders and subfolders and updating it doesn’t interfere with my hard work. The feeling of near total control of your content is hard to put a dollar value on.

Should You Do It?

If you want a challenge, want to learn some web-based coding (or already know some), are a control freak (like me) or are obsessed with the speed and performance of your site then yes. You should. Personally I love it.

Just go in with your eyes open. It’s not free, it’s a lot more work than you might think if you’re a web-dev-newbie and some features you can get free on other platforms you either have to pay extra for or figure them out for yourself.