The system can be found here: http://www.concrete5.org
I have never come across Concrete5 before and don’t have any preconceptions about the system.
So here is my Concrete5 review.
Download and Install
The download is in the form of a zip file at 13.9MB. I unzipped this and recompressed into a tar.gz file and it came out at 11.6MB to upload to my server.
Installation is similar to WordPress. In short you:
- Create a MySQL database for your site
- Upload the files to the server
- Load up www.yoursite.com
- Follow the installation instructions
Once you sort out the necessary file permissions it’s a very quick, one page installation that doesn’t require any technical knowledge other than the database name, host, username and password.
After installation you’re taken to your site with an overlay of links to relevant guides, which is very helpful and includes guides in video format.
The default theme I found on my Concrete5 reciew installation is reminiscent of WordPress’s 2012 theme. The install process allows you to include some default content, and I did so for this test.
The admin area
The majority of your page editing can be done on the front end of the website once you are logged in, but there is a dashboard for the admin functions.
This dashboard is well laid out and clean looking. From first impressions the makers of Concrete5 seem to have placed a lot of emphasis on usability.
Prettify URLs in CMSMS
It’s important to get your URL structure correct from the start. Other website systems, including WordPress, require you to make simple changes to your .htaccess file but Concrete5 has them set up on the default install. You don’t have as much control over them as you do with WordPress, but they are perfectly fine, and SEO friendly.
Concrete5 provides a “marketplace” for themes and a simple install process. From your dashboard you simply click Themes, scroll to the bottom and click “Get more themes”
If you search in the category “nonprofit” there are quite a few free themes that you can try out. They are easy to install and activate.
The theme I decided to use for my Concrete5 review installation is fairly minimalist. After trying a few I quickly came to realize that the quality of the free themes is not that great. I couldn’t really find one that was even as good as the default theme.
You get the opportunity to customize the free themes, but this really only allows you to change the colour of text and links. This is nowhere near as powerful as some of the options you get from free themes with WordPress.
However you can add pictures and other content areas through plugins so until I have fully understood this I can’t be too harsh.
Adding / Manipulating Content
Concrete5 allows front-end editing of all page content.
Once logged in you simply click the “Edit” icon at the top right of the screeen. Any blocks that you have permissions to edit are highlighed in Red and you can click on them to begin editing.
It takes a little while to get used to this type of page editing but it is fairly intuitive and it does save some time compared to CMSMS. Wordpress has recently caught up in this regard too so you can click edit from the front end to be taken to the page editor. Thus Concrete5 doesn’t gain much here either.
Adding images to pages doesn’t seem to be very straightforward. When in edit mode you can click the “Add image” icon, but you don’t get an uploader or media manager, just a form for entering the URL etc. of an existing image.
This seems odd as there is a functioning file manager that lets you add images to the header, but it doesn’t seem like you can add them to pages without entering the URL.
Plugins are downloaded from the dashboard in a similar manner to themes. During my Concrete5 review I downloaded a free image slider to test. The actual download and installation was easy and I was able to add a slider to a page within a couple of minutes.
While there are some free plugins, most of them need to be paid for, with prices ranging from about $15 right up to over $200.
For the money you can generally achieve most results you want for free using WordPress plugins so I would hesitate to recommend Concrete5 for this reason.
Forms are easy to add to pages so you can turn any page into a contact page. Form results are logged in the website database so you can review form entries easily.
You can also set it to send an email, and specify an email address, when the forms are submitted so it’s pretty versatile and slightly better than you get from WordPress “out of the box”
There is also a blog plugin included in the default version, and for my Concrete5 Review installation I added a few test posts to see the functionality.
Blog posts work just like pages and in effect they are only blog posts because they are labelled blog posts. The addition of any information to a page involves editing the content block as per a normal page. This is pretty easy, but for me it’s not as intuitive as the way WordPress does it.
In fact I’d suggest that if you plan to make a blog, don’t use Concrete5. If however you just want the occasional news article then it would be OK.
You can add Google Analytics or any other tracking code to your site from the dashboard.
- Log in to Dashboard
- Click “System & Setting” at the bottom of the dashboard.
- Click “Tracking Code”
- Enter your tracking code in space provided and save.
This is slightly easier than WordPress for which you need to enter the tracking code into a plugin, or your theme if it includes Analytics support.
There are 2 modules for simple event management in the download centre. Unfortunately neither are free so I was unable to test them at this stage.
Just like for the CMSMS review I don’t have time to wait for updates to be released so that I can add them to this review.
If you click “update” on your dashboard you get a report of any available updates but there were none for my installation as is to be expected for a new installation.
Concrete5 Review Summary
Initial installation and configuration made me think I might have found a challenger to WordPress. However, the more I used Concrete5 the more I felt like it would be a big investment in time and energy to make it as versatile for a whole range of websites.
While it seem to be good for corporate sites and user collaboration, the limitations of the themes combined with the cost of modules meant that I would not pick Concrete5 unless a client specifically wanted it.
I’ll freely admit that I have already invested this time and energy into WordPress and it would be difficult to repeat this for another CMS. This Concrete5 review has clearly not allowed me enough time to get used to the system and fully test it. A user who has several years experience with Concrete5 might try WordPress out in the same way as I have done in reverse and decide to stick with Concrete5.
Familiarity is very important in software use because it increases your productivity. If you know what to do without searching the help and forums then you save time.
But the fact is that millions of websites already use WordPress, and I don’t find anything compelling enough in Concrete5 to make me think there will be a change of heart.