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What is Publii CMS, the new WordPress

Publii CMS

Have you ever considered starting an online business ? You've probably been told that the WordPress CMS is the most popular and easiest platform for that purpose. When it comes to the popularity, it's undoubtedly true. In fact, at some point, WordPress was used for about one third of all sites on the web, 30% to be more accurate. As for the ease of use, there seems to be more serious challengers. 

The Publii CMS is one those challengers. Despite still being in its early days, it already solves many shortcomings of the good old WordPress platform.

In today's article, we'll be (re)discovering this platform in great detail so that when you're done reading, you'll be able to take advantage of all the opportunities the Publii CMS opens up.

What is Publii CMS ?

The Publii CMS is a static content management system. 

In other words, it is similar to software packages like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal as it allows you to build a website without much technical knowledge.

The "static" in its name refers to its ability to generate an output made of static files that you can host on various platforms for free in most cases. 

This is a good fit for online entrepreneurs or anyone looking for a free,reliable, and easy way to make his first steps online.

Let me show you why ...

Why You Should Consider Using Publii

The way in which Publii differs from its counterparts like WordPress or Drupal plays a huge part in its success.

It's a static site CMS thus it combines the power of static site generators like Jekyll or Hugo while giving you a friendlier experience no matter your technical abilities.

The list below breaks down some of the best reasons to give Publii a shot.

Hacker Proof

First, the Publii CMS works locally and offline in most cases. 

You only need to connect to the internet for putting your site online, backing it up, or just synchronizing it with your latest changes.

Thus, there's no database or sever to manage and no security updates to constantly worry about.

On top of that, websites created with Publii are generated as static files, so there's nearly no way a hacker would take control of your website.

All of these result in a very secure website for free, without any plugin or computer security specialist.

Blazing Fast

As I said earlier, Publii generates your website as a bunch of static files which can be served to your visitors in no time.

This makes Publii websites faster out of the box without further optimization.

Achieving the same level of performance with a WordPress website would require much more effort and investment.

This is very beneficial particularly if you intend to be competitive in search engine rankings.

The Google Core Web Vitals update will make it even more crucial.

Better Search Engine Rankings

Using Publii makes it easier to rank on Google and other search engines. 

We already dealt with the speed boost your website gets if you create it with Publii. 

And a fast loading site is getting more and more important for ranking well on Google.

You can compress your site's files for even faster page load speed or just go for Google's AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) format with a few clicks.

On top of that, Publii gives you out of the box many advanced SEO options to build your reputation on search engines.

You can add meta tags, meta descriptions, and many SEO related details to every page of your site to to help search engines understand your site's content.

And Publii automatically generates your sitemap and a structured data markup in json-ld format to improves your site's search results.

As for social media, Publii supports Facebook's open graph and Twitter cards which help you in enhancing your presence on these platforms.

For Beginners and Pros Alike

Unlike other static site generators, Publii has been built with beginners in mind but is also powerful enough to be suitable for developers.

It combines the ease of use of systems like WordPress and the power of static site generators commonly used by developers like Hugo or Jekyll.

Its intuitive user interface allows you to get online in a short timespan no matter your technical proficiency and your budget.

Free Hosting By World Class Providers

As for the budget, Publii helps you in getting your website online without spending a dime.

The server tab features many built in hosting providers like Netlify, AWS S3, Gitlab Pages with awesome free tiers.

Basically, they allow you to host your website for free as long as you don't exceed certain limits.

Take a look at the directory section to learn more about them.

Beautiful and Feature Packed Themes

There are many free themes available for use with Publii that you can customize to your likings in many ways.

Depending on the theme, there are specific options for altering the layout, the colors and the font of your website without ever coding.

Likewise, you can add GDPR cookies, social media sharing buttons, Disqus comments and search functionality to your website.

For further customization, feel free to edit the theme files to get a unique look and feel or override only the relevant  parts of the code.

The themes are coded in plain html, css and javascript with handlebars as the templating system.

An Editing Experience Tailored to Your Needs

Publii comes with three post editors : 

  • the WYSIWYG editor;
  • the block editor;
  • the markdown editor.

The WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor gives you an experience similar to the one you are used to with software packages like Microsoft word. 

You type and format your text as you go.

The toolbar allows you to further enrich your copy with images, emoticons, links, embedded video, and more.

As for the block editor, it is similar to the previous editor with the added benefit of a much more intuitive and immersive editing experience. 

You keep the familiar interface of the WYSIWYG editor with inline toolbar and formatting options.

The ability to reorganize your writings by moving around entire blocks and customizing them with custom css classes without much hassle makes this editor the best choice for power users. 

In some way, it can be likened to the Gutenberg WordPress editor.

Whereas the block editor favors an immersive experience over simplicity, the markdown editor focuses on simplicity and speed.

It comes loaded with shorthands symbols such as hashes for inserting html elements without worrying about closing or opening tags. 

To make the best out of it, some previous experience with markup languages would be really useful. 

Coupled with a documentation oriented theme like Prodocs, it is the best editor for technical writers.

An Easy Migration From WordPress

If you had previously set up your website using WordPress, you can switch to Publii by importing your WXR backup file. 

You must keep in mind that this feature is still in development and not fully tested. So, the best way to use it is to only import your WordPress content into a fresh Publii website.

There are many other features worth mentioning but it would make this article much longer. Take a look at their official documentation or their home page for more.

Despite all these good points, Publii is still on its way to perfection. 

Here are some shortcomings of Publii you need to keep in mind if you were to choose it for your next site.

Publii CMS Limitations You Need To Be Aware Of

"Static"

Publii is a static content management system. As such, it can only create websites using static technologies. Any dynamic feature must be externally provided.

For instance, Publii comes with built in support for Disqus as a comment provider.

Depending on your needs, here are few ways to add some features to your website.

First, you can add forms on any page on your website by embedding the proper html code on your page of choice. 

Google forms and Hubspot are two examples of free form handling providers with very generous free tiers.

Next, if you sell something via your site, be it a book or a service package for instance, Stripe Checkout can handle all the payments for you. Snipcart is another popular solution but it's not free. 

As for email marketing solutions that you can integrate with your Publii website, there are many allowing you to start for free and to pay only when you reach certain limits. Those limits are specific to every service provider. 

Go to the directory section for more details about them.

Rendering Process

Whenever you render a website in Publii, it regenerates all the ouput files without any distinction. 

This means that if you generate your website after updating just one post, even the files you didn't edit will go through the new rendering process.

For a small site with a few pages, this may be hard to notice. However, rendering your website may end up eating a huge chunk of your time when your site gets big.

No Plugins (Yet)

If you have some previous experience with WordPress or any similar software package, you may have a hard time imagining a CMS without plugins. And yet, Publii works just fine that way.

Most of the essential features you would use a plugin for if you were using for instance WordPress are either built in or quite easy to setup all by yourself.

We'll deal with that later on.

The SEO features provided by Publii without any plugin cover pretty much everything you would ever need to succeed on Google. 

Of course, Publii would be much better with some plugins and the Publii team is already working toward that goal.

Collaboration Features

To collaborate on a Publii website, you need to store your website files on Dropbox and share them with your team.

Then they would just commit their changes to the same location when they are done.

For someone accustomed to multiaccount and hosted platforms like WordPress, this may feel cumbersome.

This is due to the fact that Publii started out as a single user content management system. 

The collaboration feature got added later, and has obviously a lot of room for improvement.

Multilanguage Support

You can setup your website to work in any of the multiple languages  provided by Publii out of the box. 

All the free themes are fully translatable with spellcheckers available depending on the selected language.

However, there's currently no way to set up a multilingual website.

For now, a workaround would be to host each version of your website on a different subdomain with the language code included and to setup a mechanism to redirect your visitors to the right instance.

This is another point on the official roadmap of the team behind Publii.

Publii CMS Alternatives Worth Considering

If for some reason you prefer exploring other options, here are few ones worth considering.

Dynamic CMS

Trying to go with Publii may seem too hard if you need some dynamic features to reach your goal.

In that case, consider using one of the following alternatives .

Wordpress

This is the best option if you're looking for a popular, beginner friendly and time tested cms with a vast plugin ecosystem. 

There are many free hosting providers out there even though the quality of service may not be as good as those available for static websites.

CodeRed CMS

Here's another option geared toward small and medium businesses (SMB) and specifically built for marketing. 

Its feature set is clearly made to help SMB market their products effectively while tracking relevant metrics.

Ghost CMS

You can use this CMS like those previously mentioned. 

It comes loaded with many useful features like the ability to schedule your posts in advance, a fine grained collaboration system and built in newsletters and membership systems.

Besides, Ghost can be used as a headless CMS. In other words, you can write your posts using Ghost and then generate a static site by connecting it to a static site generator like Hugo, Jekyll or Gatsby.

Headless CMS

Ghost isn't the only dynamic CMS that can serve as a source to generate a static site.  WordPress too can be used in the same way.

Still, neither Ghost, nor WordPress weren't initially intended be used that way.

Some headless CMS are specifically built to be coupled with a static site generator and do not provide a dynamic output of your website at all. You can only access an interface similar to the WordPress admin area to produce your content.

Then, all you have to do is to generate your site using your static site generator of choice.

Strapi

Strapi is free and open source headless CMS that allows you to compose various structures for any type of content you want.

You can make it fit any purpose. 

There are free hosting providers available. For instance, you can set it up on Heroku's free tier.

Ponzu

Ponzu is a Strapi alternative with more or less the same features except that it also provides a way to handle ecommerce.

It's written in the same programming language as the static site generator Hugo. 

This tutorial by Snipcart describes in detail how to use it.

SSG

Static site generators can be used alone or coupled with a headless CMS as we said earlier.

They are usually operated from a command line interface and require some technical knowledge to be used properly.

Hugo

Hugo is a static site generator written in the Go programming language. It can generate thousands of pages in a blink of an eye and is considered by many to be the fastest for that purpose.

It also comes with a large variety of free themes. 

One worth checking is the hugo academic theme now rebranded as Wowchemy which makes building a good looking site quick and easy.

Hugo is also the static site featured by Ghost. You can check the official demo of a static site with Ghost CMS as a source here.

Besides Ghost CMS, there is another headless that I didn't mention in this post but that has a great relationship with Hugo : the Forestry CMS.

Jekyll

Jekyll is a popular static site generator written in the Ruby programming language and the one you're most likely to encounter if you were to create and host a static site on Github Pages.

It's been around for longer than most other static site generators and benefits from a really large and vibrant community. However, it's a bit slower when it comes to generating a large number of pages.

Except this lack of speed, it's a tool you can easily get hooked to. The community around it contributed a vast amount of plugins and themes, which in most cases are free and open source.

Jekyll is commonly installed and used via the command line interface. Thus, you need some familiarity with those technologies to get the most out of it.

There are many other great static site generators worth checking like Gatsby, Gridsome or Lektor. Take a look at jamstack.org for a list of available headless CMS and static site generators.

Examples of Websites Built With The Publii CMS

There are many Publii tutorials available and they generally have an associated demo like the one available on Snipcart's blog.

As for real world examples, there is the site you're currently reading : freetiers.com. The whole site is generated with Publii, hosted on Gitlab Pages with forms provided by Google. 

It's a simple setup that costs nothing to run while providing a level of performance that would be hard to achieve with a WordPress install at the same cost.

Another one worth checking is the site at callmefred.com which was previously powered by WordPress. 

The whole migration process is described in this post. This is a great reading if you intend to migrate your site from WordPress to Publii.

How to Get Started With The Publii CMS 

To get started with Publii, go to its official site at getpublii.com and download the latest version for your operating system. 

There are packages for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux.

After installing it on your computer, you can tinker with it until you're ready. You'll then need to setup the hosting before publishing your site.

As I said in an earlier section, there are many free and performant hosting options available like Github Pages, Gitlab Pages, Netlify and AWS S3.

They all come with free tiers generous enough to let you build your online business for free before scaling it later.Next articles will describe what you need to benefit from those opportunities.

You can subscribe to our newsletter to get notified when they are ready and to never miss upcoming updates.

Additional Resources 

Publii Forum getpublii.com/forum

Official Documentation getpublii.com/docs

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