MODx: A Different Kind of PHP CMS

Right now I’m in the middle of designing a website for one of the new businesses. It’s work that I enjoy very much, giving me the chance to stretch the creative side of my brain and apply my knowledge of branding, marketing, accessibility, usability, and most recently, search engine optimization.

During the initial design round, I started off putting everything in static HTML pages. The advantage to this is that it’s easy to work with locally on a laptop (no webserver required) and you can quickly make changes to a document and its style sheet and then instantly see the results. The disadvantage is that changing anything in the page layout template requires you to go into each page and save the changes. This practically erases any time savings from working in any given individual document.

So, I quickly found myself in a dilemma. We don’t have enough web pages to justify setting up Drupal or me hacking something together in Movable Type, but manually managing the ones we do have was painful and time consuming enough for me to spend some time looking for a better solution. I turned to del.icio.us for some suggestions, but only expected to find the usual suspects.

Thankfully, I came across a content management system I’ve never heard of before: MODx. This blurb on the home page instantly spoke to me, giving me hope that there just might be a good solution to my problem out there:

MODx is the alternative to hacking blogging tools and other tools to death, extended learning curves, and changing your workflow to fit software that just doesn’t quite “get it”. MODx allows you to focus on usability, design, content and building great sites, not on the tools that build them.

OK, so it sounds good, but does it deliver? I’m happy to say after a week that so far, it actually does. What makes MODx a good fit for me, and this site in particular? Here’s a short list:

  1. It’s got really good support for web standards, letting me be anal by validating all our pages against the XHTML 1.0 Strict definition.
  2. It lets me decide how I want my URLs to look, so I can have www.example.com/products/product1/ instead of www.example.com/index.php?category=3&page=1 (again with the anal thing).
  3. Since MODx isn’t specifically designed for blogging, I don’t need to do a bunch of work arounds to get a regular website working in it.
  4. MODx has a really nice administrator interface on the backend for managing everything
  5. The developers have thought of non-technical people too, giving them easy to use text editors to add and change content without needing to learn HTML.

It’s important to note that MODx is still in active development, with a v1.0 release still on the way (hopefully sometime soon). There are some rough edges and some quirks, but the current version (0.9.2) does a pretty decent job of running our site. If you’re interested to see how MODx works, you can try out an online demo over at OpenSourceCMS.

Who knows, this may even be the firest open source project I actively contribute to!

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