TL; DR: Concrete CMS is a free content management system that helps clients of all sizes run effective websites. The team at Concrete CMS uses an open-source model to gain valuable insight and feedback from its users, including developers and content contributors. The company’s plans include more innovations to help clients build on the platform’s collaborative capabilities.
Not all website tools are created equal, but content management systems (CMS) are often one-size-fits-all solutions — with a price tag that doesn’t fit all budgets. Many entrepreneurs who value security and their bottom line turn to open-source solutions.
Even then, small business owners can find themselves managing disparate languages, systems, plugins, and features, which also leads to lost resources.
Concrete CMS aims to solve that with its comprehensive, open-source system that focuses on being intuitive for all types of users. And the Concrete CMS team works hard to ensure the system is one of the easiest to use in a relatively large marketplace.
The open-source approach has been one of the keys to the company’s long-term success.
“There’s lots of stuff that comes from the community that we wouldn’t be able to do without them,” said Franz Maruna, CEO of PortlandLabs, which develops Concrete CMS. “Internationalization is a huge one. Concrete runs in several dozen languages, so multilingual support for content is built into the core by community leaders.”
The community that supports Concrete CMS contributes through forums and GitHub. Users and developers can submit code, help translate extensions into other languages, and submit security issues for the community to handle.
That collaborative dynamic has led to the system’s current list of features, including in-context editing, permissions, control, analytics, marketing, and SEO tools.
“It is a very feature-rich core CMS,” Franz said. “Extensions really are there to solve very specific problems that not everyone will have.”
He said the most significant differentiator for Concrete CMS is that a site owner gets everything required to run most sites out of the core.
“At Concrete, we’ve always taken the approach that our job is to facilitate the relationship between a site owner and a site builder,” Franz said.
Effective Cloud Migration and Open-Source Development
The Concrete CMS journey includes multiple rebuilds and even a name change. The solution, once known as Concrete5, is now Concrete CMS.
“So we lost the 5 and rebranded to Concrete CMS and updated our site and a lot of our marketing materials,” said Franz. “And I think it just gives us a little bit more of a mature business product feel.”
One example of how Concrete CMS simplifies management for clients is its variety of calendars.
“We saw many different calendar add-ons emerge in our marketplace, and that was great. We didn’t have a calendar in the core product, initially,” Franz said. “But over time, we started to see cascading dependencies. Add-ons would start extending each other. Choosing which calendar to use on your site today would limit the functionality you might have in the future.”
So Concrete CMS built its own solution by incorporating calendar functionality directly into its free core to make it as simple as possible.
“We said, ‘Let’s build all the unpleasant parts of calendaring back into the core.’ So time zones, recurring events, one-off occurrences that are married to the same object, that stuff is just a developer’s nightmare,” Franz said. “And you’re going to spend six weeks just figuring that out. Now, you can extend that core calendar and make an agenda view. As a developer, you can focus on that last mile and let us worry about the universal stuff.”
A CMS Rich With Enterprise-Grade Features and Security
Concrete CMS has packed a wide range of critical features into its system. But its ultimate goal is to keep the user experience intuitive so that anyone can use it.
“We can tell any business user, ‘You could set this up,’” said Franz. “And over a weekend, you could make your intranet, extranet, and use the document library. You can build something that shows value without touching a line of code.”
Concrete CMS also offers significant value through its built-in security. That’s one reason its customer base includes Fortune 500 companies and branches of the US military.
“We follow security-by-design methodologies and employ the latest technology to protect your sensitive information,” reads a post on the Concrete CMS website.
The security features include allowing modifications without overriding the core, test and support at hackerone.com, audit trail, Captcha, content approval, and email verification.
One organization that has found success with Concrete CMS is BASF, one of the largest chemical producers in the world.
A case study on the Concrete CMS website outlines how BASF used the system to build a new company intranet that was secure and easy to manage.
“The new Intranet has been well received in BASF North America, and it’s being noticed across the large organization,” reads the case study. “BASF Catalysts has already set up their own copy and others are in the works. Portland Labs has extended the system with some new functionality as new ideas drive new requirements.”
That’s just one example of how Concrete CMS is a leader in collaboration and innovation in many industries, including finance, healthcare, manufacturing, education, and government.
Future Plans Include Hybrid Websites and Object Models
Concrete CMS continues to bring its enterprise-grade product to even more businesses that embrace the benefits of open-source methods and technologies.
“We are focusing more on mid-market clients that are building hybrid websites,” Franz said. “When you’ve outgrown the web builders, and you want a tool that can build a site that does something, Concrete is a really great choice.”
The company offers Express for those who don’t have any development experience — or interest in learning. Express is similar to an object model, and users can put things together and create simple interfaces with no code.
“We’ll have integrations with third-party tools that have data. And we’ve seen a lot of clients that might have SharePoint or Google Docs, and they use that as a filing cabinet for their business,” Franz said. “So then they come and build a Concrete site on top of that. And that’s more of a nicely designed operations manual. That’s the stuff you want to see some collaboration around.”
As digital solutions continue to become imperative for every type of business — from startup to enterprise — Concrete CMS is poised to increase its market share. And Franz said the team would have plenty of fun along the way.
“It’s fun to work with this team, this community,” he said. “We’ve got a really tight group that has been together for 10 years now. It feels pretty cool to be some part of something bigger than us.”