Kirby

Screenshot of Kirby powering my site, showing each entry as cards

So once I'd decided to change CMS, I had two paths - reactivate the old Textpattern installation, or find a new CMS.

The former would've been very easy - all I had to do was remove a couple of redirects from a .htaccess file and hicksdesign.co.uk would've been up and running again (a tempting option).

I love the concept of the flat file system though. When I migrated to Statamic, I spent a great deal of time going through each of the blog posts, updating dead links or removing content that was redundant (even as some sort of 'personal historical record'). I find searching flat files so much easier than database queries, and I prefer the security that comes from being able to keep the entire site in a Git repository.

I used an earlier version of Kirby on a side project called 'Ride Stories' back in 2014, and considered it for hicks.design's CMS back in September. What tipped the scales in Statamics' favour was its 'Antlers' templating system - a very concise, logical and easy to remember system for a non-developer. Kirby's more PHP-based syntax was initially a barrier for me, but it shares many similarities in setup with Statamic. Text files for content, YAML files for blueprints, php/html for templates. In some ways, the changeover meant changing one set of tags for other (in the templates at least).

I also had a play with other flat file CMS's like Grav, but it quickly became clear that I really felt at home with Kirby. I got back the ease of intial setup and transfer to a server that I was missing from Statamic 3. No need to use the command line if I didn't want to, no endless clearing of caches, and it worked from whatever directory it was in. If there was an error on a page, it didn't bring down the entire site.

So I approached Bastian to ask for his help converting the old content, while I started learning Kirby's template tags. His YouTube screencasts helped enormously here. The process took me just under two weeks of evenings and weekends.

Here are some of the things I've been enjoying about Kirby:

  • It's fast! Everything loads faster, both in the panel, and the site itself. All interactions in the panel seem instant.
  • The control panel UI is nicely customisable, with the ability to display fields in tabs and columns, and posts listed as cards. The card layout is a great way for me to browse Troika episodes for example:
    Screenshot of Kirbys panel interface showing the list of Troika episodes as cards
  • Kirbytext is a much more memorable method for adding images and links than regular markdown, as well as making it easy to add attributes like alt text and class names.
  • It's a system that also makes it easy to add custom css per page. All it takes is one line added to the <head>, and then any css file in that page's content folder is loaded automatically! So far, I've only used this for changing background colours on some posts, but now that it's so easy to create art-directed pages I'll have to play further.

Browsing the Kirby Cookbook I feel like I've only scratched the surface of what Kirby's capable of. Also, I didn't realise this at the time, but the problems I had previously with uploading to the server and emptying caches meant I was holding back from blogging. I had several posts in draft form, but never finished. Now, everything is in a repo, and when it's pushed, DeployHQ then pushes the changes to my server. I know others have been doing this for years, but it feels like I've finally joined the future.

More importantly, I've got the confidence that it all just works. Happy days!

Contact

Call Jon Hicks on +44 (0)7917 391536
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Hicks Design
Wenrisc House
Meadow Court
Witney, OX28 6ER
United Kingdom