Craft CMS

Getting started on Craft CMS

Table of Contents

What is Craft CMS?

Craft CMS is a powerful and flexible content management system (CMS) designed for creating bespoke websites. Unlike other popular content management systems such as WordPress, Craft CMS doesn’t impose a particular structure, giving developers the freedom to build highly customised web experiences. At its core, Craft CMS uses Twig, a fast and secure templating engine for PHP, making it an excellent choice for those who wish to work with a modern and efficient development stack.

Why Choose Craft CMS for Your Website?

There are several reasons why Craft CMS could be the ideal choice for your website:

  1. Flexibility and Customisation: Craft CMS is renowned for its flexibility. You can define your content structure, create custom fields, and build complex relationships between different types of content, all through an intuitive interface.
  2. Performance and Security: Craft CMS is built with performance and security in mind. Its lightweight nature ensures fast loading times, and regular updates keep your website secure.
  3. Elegant Control Panel: Craft CMS boasts a clean and user-friendly control panel. The uncluttered interface makes it easy for content editors to manage the website’s content without any technical know-how.
  4. Scalability: Whether you’re building a small blog or a large e-commerce site, Craft CMS can handle it. Its performance doesn’t falter as your site grows.
  5. Strong Developer Community: Though not as large as the WordPress community, the Craft CMS developer community is vibrant and active. There are numerous plugins available to extend the functionality of your site, and forums like Stack Exchange offer a place for developers to share knowledge and solutions.
  6. First-Class Support: Craft CMS offers professional support to its users. The support team is responsive and experienced, ensuring that you get the help you need in a timely manner.

Whether you’re a developer looking for a powerful tool to build custom websites, or a business owner in search of a reliable and efficient CMS for your online presence, Craft CMS offers a suite of features that can cater to a wide range of needs.

Preparing to Install Craft CMS

Before jumping into the installation of Craft CMS, it’s essential to make sure your server meets the necessary requirements and that you have the appropriate database setup. This section will guide you through these preliminary steps.

Checking Server Requirements

First, let’s ensure that your server meets the requirements for running Craft CMS. As of the date of writing this article, Craft CMS has the following server requirements:

  • PHP 7.2.5 or later
  • MySQL 5.5 or later, or PostgreSQL 9.5 or later
  • At least 256MB of memory allocated to PHP
  • At least 200MB of free disk space

Please refer to the official documentation for the most updated server requirements.

If you are using shared hosting, you might need to contact your hosting provider to ensure these requirements are met. For those using a VPS or cloud server, you can usually configure these settings yourself.

Setting Up a Database

Craft CMS requires a database to store your site’s content and settings. You can use either MySQL or PostgreSQL as the database for Craft CMS.

For MySQL:

  1. Log in to your web server control panel (such as cPanel or Plesk).
  2. Navigate to the databases section and create a new MySQL database.
  3. Create a new MySQL user and assign it to the database with all privileges.

For PostgreSQL:

  1. Log into your PostgreSQL installation and create a new user by running the command createuser --interactive.
  2. Create a new PostgreSQL database by running the command createdb with the name of your database.

Make sure to note the database name, username, and password, as you’ll need these details during the Craft CMS installation process.

Downloading Craft CMS

Now that you’ve prepared your server and set up your database, it’s time to download Craft CMS.

  1. Go to the official Craft CMS website and navigate to the download section.
  2. Choose the latest version of Craft CMS and download it to your local machine.
  3. Extract the downloaded file.

You are now ready to upload these files to your web server and start the Craft CMS installation process. Keep the extracted files handy as you will need them in the next steps.

Installing Craft CMS

Once you have prepared your server and downloaded Craft CMS, the next step is the installation. This is a critical phase where you’ll be setting up Craft CMS on your server and configuring its settings.

Step 1: Uploading Craft CMS Files to Your Server

First, you need to upload the Craft CMS files you downloaded earlier to your server.

  1. Connect to your server using an FTP client such as FileZilla or Cyberduck.
  2. Navigate to the root directory where you want to install Craft CMS.
  3. Upload all the files and folders from the extracted Craft CMS download to this directory on your server.

Step 2: Running the Craft CMS Installation Wizard

After uploading the files, it’s time to run the installation wizard.

  1. Open your web browser and navigate to the directory where you uploaded the Craft CMS files. If you uploaded them to the root directory, this would usually be your domain name, e.g.,
  2. This should initiate the Craft CMS installation wizard. Follow the on-screen instructions.
  3. During this process, you will be asked to enter the database name, username, and password that you created in the previous step.

Step 3: Configuring General Settings

Upon completion of the installation wizard, you will be taken to the Craft CMS dashboard for the first time. Here, you should:

  1. Navigate to Settings > General.
  2. Configure your website’s name, URL, and other general settings.
  3. Save your changes.

Navigating the Craft CMS Dashboard

The Craft CMS Dashboard is where all the magic happens. It’s the control room for your website content, settings, and design elements. In this section, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the Dashboard, including its layout, user account management, and user permissions.

Overview of the Dashboard Layout

When you first log in to your Craft CMS Dashboard, you’ll be greeted by a clean and intuitive user interface. Here’s a brief overview of the primary areas you should be familiar with:

  • Control Panel Sidebar: This is located on the left side of the Dashboard. From here, you can navigate to different sections such as Entries, Assets, Users, Settings, and Plugins.
  • Entries: This is where you can manage your site’s content. You can create, edit, and delete entries or pages.
  • Assets: Assets are your media files. This includes images, videos, and any other files you want to use on your site.
  • Globals: Globals allow you to manage content that is not specific to an entry, like your site name, social media links, or a footer text.
  • Users: Here you can manage user accounts and user groups.
  • Settings: This area allows you to control

Creating Your Website Structure

After you’ve familiarised yourself with the Craft CMS Dashboard, the next step is to begin laying down the structure of your website. This involves setting up sections, custom fields, and navigation menus that will define how your content is organized and displayed.

Step 1: Creating Sections for Your Content

Sections are the primary containers for your site’s content. Each section represents a different type of content, such as blog posts, news articles, or product pages. Here’s how to create sections in Craft CMS:

  1. Navigate to the Dashboard and click on ‘Settings’ in the sidebar.
  2. Click on ‘Sections’ and then click the ‘New section’ button.
  3. Give your section a name, handle, and select the type (Single, Channel, or Structure).
  4. Configure the settings according to your content structure and click ‘Save’.

Step 2: Defining Custom Fields

Custom Fields in Craft CMS allow you to define what data can be attached to your entries. This could include text, images, or other media. To create custom fields:

  1. Go to ‘Settings’ in the Dashboard sidebar and click on ‘Fields’.
  2. Click on the ‘New Field’ button and provide a name and handle for the field.
  3. Select the type of field you want to create, such as Plain Text, Redactor, or Assets.
  4. Configure additional field settings if needed and click ‘Save’.

Step 3: Building Navigation Menus

A well-structured navigation menu is critical for helping visitors find their way around your website. Here’s how you can build navigation menus in Craft CMS:

  1. Navigate to ‘Settings’ and then click on ‘Navigation’ (You might need a plugin like Craft Nav for enhanced navigation features).
  2. Click on the ‘New navigation’ button, and provide a name for your navigation menu.
  3. Use the interface to add links, create drop-down menus, or nest items.
  4. Once you have built your navigation structure, click ‘Save’.

By meticulously creating sections, defining custom fields, and building navigation menus, you’re laying the groundwork for a well-organized and user-friendly website. In Craft CMS, these elements come together to offer you unparalleled flexibility and control over your content.

Designing Pages with Craft CMS

Once you have set up the structure of your website, it’s time to design the actual pages. Craft CMS is renowned for its flexibility and control over the design through its templating system. In this section, we’ll delve into how you can design pages using Craft CMS’s templating and customize page layouts.

Step 1: Understanding Craft CMS Templating

Craft CMS uses a powerful templating engine called Twig, which provides an efficient way to control the presentation of your website. Understanding Craft’s templating is essential, as this is where you’ll be spending a significant amount of time designing your site. You can learn more about Craft CMS templating in the official documentation.

Step 2: Creating Templates with Twig

Twig is a flexible, secure, and high-performance templating engine for PHP. It’s instrumental in creating templates in Craft CMS. Here’s a basic guide to creating templates with Twig:

  1. Within your Craft CMS directory, navigate to templates/ and create a new file (e.g., blog.html).
  2. Start building your page by adding HTML along with Twig tags and filters. Twig uses curly braces {} to mark areas where PHP code should be executed.
  3. Save your file and navigate to the corresponding URL on your website to see your new template in action.

For a deep dive into Twig, the Twig documentation is an excellent resource.

Step 3: Customizing Page Layouts

Craft CMS allows you to create reusable chunks of code, known as “includes”, which can be used across different templates. This is especially helpful for maintaining a consistent design across your site. Here’s how you can customize page layouts:

  1. Create a new template file for your layout (e.g., _layout.html).
  2. Use Twig’s include tag to insert reusable chunks of code like header, footer, or a navigation menu.
  3. In your content templates (like blog.html), extend your layout template using Twig’s extends tag and define what content should be displayed.

By understanding Craft CMS’s templating, creating templates with Twig, and customising page layouts, you can have full control over your website’s design. This empowers you to build unique and engaging experiences for your audience.

Extending Functionality with Plugins

Craft CMS’s core functionality is quite powerful, but sometimes you might need additional features that are not available out of the box. Thankfully, Craft CMS has a robust plugin system that allows you to extend the functionality of your site. In this section, we will explore how you can browse, install, and use plugins to enhance your Craft CMS website.

Step 1: Browsing the Craft CMS Plugin Store

The Craft CMS Plugin Store is your go-to place to find a myriad of plugins that can add new features and capabilities to your site. To browse the Plugin Store:

  1. Log in to your Craft CMS Dashboard.
  2. Go to the “Plugin Store” section, located in the sidebar.
  3. Use the search and filtering options to browse through available plugins. You can also read reviews and see ratings to help you make a decision.

For a comprehensive list and more details, visit the Craft CMS Plugin Store.

Step 2: Installing Plugins Through the Dashboard

Once you’ve found a plugin that you’d like to use, installing it is a breeze. Here’s how you can install plugins through the Craft CMS dashboard:

  1. On the plugin’s page in the Plugin Store, click on the “Install” button.
  2. Craft CMS will download and install the plugin.
  3. Once installed, the plugin will appear in the “Plugins” section of your dashboard.

Step 3: Configuring and Using Plugins

After you’ve installed a plugin, you’ll probably need to configure it and understand how to use it.

  1. Go to the “Plugins” section in your Craft CMS dashboard.
  2. Next to the plugin you’ve installed, there should be a cogwheel icon or a “Settings” link. Click on it to open the plugin settings.
  3. Configure the plugin as needed. This will vary depending on the plugin, so refer to the plugin documentation for specific instructions.

Using plugins can drastically extend the functionality of your Craft CMS site, making it more powerful and tailored to your specific needs. Just be cautious not to overload your site with too many plugins, as this can impact performance.

Now that you know how to extend Craft CMS with plugins, you’re well-equipped to create a feature-rich website that fulfils all of your requirements and provides an engaging experience for your visitors.

Optimising Your Website for SEO

Having a beautiful and functional website is fantastic, but ensuring it’s optimised for search engines is equally critical. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the practice of enhancing your site to improve its visibility in search engine results. In this section, we’ll walk you through how to optimise your Craft CMS website for SEO.

Step 1: Installing an SEO Plugin

Craft CMS, by itself, is already pretty SEO-friendly, but utilising an SEO plugin can make the process much more streamlined.

  1. Go to the Craft CMS Plugin Store, as previously mentioned in the plugins section.
  2. Search for SEO plugins. One of the highly regarded options is SEOmatic.
  3. Click the “Install” button on the plugin’s page.

Step 2: Configuring SEO Settings and Metadata

Once you’ve installed your SEO plugin, you’ll need to configure it.

  1. Navigate to the “Plugins” section in your Craft CMS dashboard.
  2. Click on the settings of the SEO plugin you’ve installed.
  3. Start configuring. Typical settings include setting up meta tags, connecting to Google Analytics, and setting social media images. Refer to the plugin documentation for specifics.

Step 3: Implementing Best Practices for On-Page SEO

Besides configuring the SEO plugin, you should also focus on best practices for on-page SEO:

  1. Optimise Page Titles and Meta Descriptions: Ensure that each page on your website has a unique title and meta description.
  2. Use Headings Properly: Structure your content using heading tags (H1, H2, H3) to make it more readable.
  3. Optimise Images: Compress images and use descriptive file names and alt tags.
  4. Mobile-Friendliness: Make sure your website is responsive and works well on mobile devices.
  5. Improve Page Load Speeds: Use caching, minimise HTTP requests, and optimise other elements to improve loading speeds.
  6. Internal Linking: Use internal links wisely to help users navigate the website and to distribute page authority.

By following these steps, you can greatly enhance the SEO of your Craft CMS website. Optimising for search engines is an ongoing process, so always keep up with best practices and guidelines from search engines like Google.

SEO optimisation will help your website gain visibility, attract more visitors and, ultimately, achieve the goals you have set for your online presence. Craft CMS and its extensive features and plugins are an excellent toolset for tackling SEO effectively.

Maintaining and Securing Your Craft CMS Website

A website is not just about the launch; it’s about the ongoing maintenance and security. Keeping your Craft CMS website updated, secure, and backed up is crucial for its longevity and the safety of your data. This section provides a step-by-step guide to maintaining and securing your Craft CMS website.

Step 1: Regularly Updating Craft CMS and Plugins

Regular updates are vital to ensure that your website runs smoothly and remains secure.

  1. Check for Updates: Log in to your Craft CMS dashboard. If there are updates available for Craft CMS or any plugins, you will see notifications.
  2. Review Update Notes: Before updating, check the release notes for any important information or changes that might affect your site.
  3. Update Craft CMS and Plugins: Click on the update notification, and follow the prompts to update Craft CMS and any plugins that need updating. It’s a good practice to keep both Craft CMS and all the plugins you use up to date.

Step 2: Implementing Security Best Practices

Implementing security measures is crucial to protect your website from threats.

  1. Use Strong Passwords: Ensure that all passwords used for the Craft CMS dashboard and database are strong.
  2. Monitor User Accounts: Regularly review the user accounts with access to your Craft CMS dashboard, and remove any that are no longer needed.
  3. Implement SSL: If you haven’t already, set up an SSL certificate for your site to encrypt data that’s transferred between the user and your server. This is essential for protecting sensitive information.
  4. Set Correct File Permissions: Ensure that files and directories have the correct permissions set to reduce vulnerabilities.
  5. Keep an Eye on Security Alerts: Subscribe to Craft CMS’s news or community forums to stay informed about any security vulnerabilities and necessary actions.

Step 3: Backing Up Your Website

Regular backups are essential for recovering your website in case something goes wrong.

  1. Choose a Backup Solution: You can choose from various solutions including Craft CMS plugins, server backups, or third-party services.
  2. Set Regular Backups: Configure your backup solution to take regular backups. How often you need to take backups will depend on how frequently you update your site.
  3. Test Your Backups: Regularly test restoring from a backup to ensure that they are functioning correctly.

By actively maintaining and securing your Craft CMS website, you ensure not only the seamless operation of your website but also safeguard your data and the data of your users. This proactive approach is an essential aspect of responsible website management.

Craft CMS Community and Resources

Being a part of a larger community and knowing where to find help when you need it is essential for anyone using a content management system. Craft CMS has a thriving community and a plethora of resources to help you get the most out of your website. This section will guide you through engaging with the Craft CMS community, utilizing official documentation and support, and discovering third-party resources and tutorials.

Engaging with the Craft CMS Community

Engaging with the community is a great way to stay informed, get help, and even contribute back to the ecosystem.

  1. Join Craft CMS Forums: Craft CMS Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for administrators, end users, developers, and designers.
  2. Follow Social Media: Follow Craft CMS on Twitter and other social media platforms to keep up with the latest news and updates.
  3. Attend Meetups and Conferences: Keep an eye out for Craft CMS meetups or conferences, which are excellent opportunities to network with other users and learn from experts.

Utilizing Official Documentation and Support

Craft CMS offers extensive documentation and support that is invaluable for both beginners and experienced users.

  1. Refer to Craft CMS Documentation: The official documentation is an extensive resource that covers everything from installation to advanced features.
  2. Seek Support: If you’re on a Craft CMS plan that includes support, don’t hesitate to contact them for help with issues you’re experiencing.
  3. Explore Craft CMS’s Knowledge Base: Craft CMS’s Knowledge Base is a collection of articles, tutorials, and FAQs.

Discovering Third-Party Resources and Tutorials

Beyond the official channels, there’s a wealth of information available through third-party sites and individuals.

  1. Follow Blogs and Tutorials: Keep an eye on blogs from Craft CMS experts. Websites like nystudio107 have many helpful articles and tutorials.
  2. Explore YouTube: Search for Craft CMS on YouTube, and you’ll find tutorials, overviews, and even full courses that can help you learn more.
  3. Check Out GitHub Repos: Many developers share their Craft CMS plugins and tools on GitHub. This can be a treasure trove of useful additions to your Craft CMS site.

Being actively engaged with the Craft CMS community and making use of the myriad of resources available will not only help you solve issues but also greatly enrich your experience and expertise with Craft CMS.


After taking an in-depth look at how to get started with Craft CMS, from the initial installation to engaging with the community, it’s evident that Craft CMS is a powerful and flexible content management system. The journey we have undertaken together through this guide shows how Craft CMS can be tailored to meet various needs, and how its extensive features can be harnessed to create stunning and functional websites.

Recap of Getting Started with Craft CMS

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide:

  • We kicked things off by understanding what Craft CMS is and why it’s an excellent choice for building websites.
  • We delved into the prerequisites for installing Craft CMS and then walked through the installation process step-by-step.
  • You learned how to navigate the Craft CMS dashboard, create your website’s structure, and design pages with Craft CMS templating.
  • We explored how to extend the functionality of your website with plugins and optimize it for SEO.
  • Lastly, we discussed the importance of maintenance, security, and being an active member of the Craft CMS community.

Encouragement to Continuously Learn and Experiment

As with any technology, continuous learning and experimentation are key to mastering Craft CMS. Don’t be afraid to try new things, whether it’s experimenting with plugins, testing new design elements, or engaging with the community for advice and collaboration.

Remember that Craft CMS is an evolving platform with a dedicated team and community behind it. Staying informed about updates and new features will ensure that your website remains modern, secure, and efficient.

The world of Craft CMS is vast and full of possibilities, so immerse yourself in it. Your creativity combined with the power of Craft CMS can lead to extraordinary results. Best of luck on your Craft CMS journey!

Additional Resources

To help you continue your Craft CMS journey, here’s a compilation of valuable resources that can offer further guidance and inspiration.

Craft CMS Documentation

The official Craft CMS documentation is the ultimate resource for understanding the platform’s features and capabilities. The documentation is extensive and covers everything from installation and updates to features and configurations. It’s highly recommended for both beginners and experienced users.

Forums, Blogs, and Tutorials

Engaging with the community can be incredibly beneficial. Here are a few places where you can find discussions, tutorials, and advice:

  • Craft CMS Stack Exchange: This is a question and answer site for administrators, end users, developers and designers for Craft CMS.
  • nystudio107 Blog: This blog offers several in-depth tutorials and articles about various aspects of Craft CMS.
  • CraftQuest: This is an excellent resource for video tutorials covering a wide range of topics related to Craft CMS.

There are countless plugins and themes available for Craft CMS, but here are a few recommendations to get you started:

  • SEOmatic: A comprehensive SEO plugin for Craft CMS, helping you to optimize your site effectively.
  • Redactor: A popular rich text editor for Craft, offering clean and clutter-free content editing.
  • Freeform: An intuitive form builder for Craft CMS, allowing you to build complex forms with ease.

Exploring these additional resources will equip you with the knowledge and tools needed to master Craft CMS and build amazing websites. Be sure to continually check back as the Craft CMS community is vibrant and always growing, offering new insights, plugins, and themes.

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