Concrete5 (the latest version 9.0.0RC4) is an open-source CMS that was created – with the mere purpose to address the challenges of setting up and operating a site completely free of charge. With this FOSS under the MIT software license, every user can create a website in minutes and augment it with the help of the powerful editor the platform has.
The company was first established in 2003. Back then and up to 2008 it powered apps, websites, and stores. In 2008 the company launched as an open-source platform appropriate for any user irrespective of their skill level. Concrete5 has a huge diversity of tools from simple to advanced to customize a website the way you wish. While getting a robust and flexible framework for building an elegant site, Concrete5 still enables you to modify it whenever you feel necessary.
Ease of Use
Concrete5 features a pretty easy interface to get grips with. If you are new to a CMS platform, it might take you some time before you get to know where to find the tools you need at the moment. So, take your time to play around with the dashboard, explore the various options, or familiarize yourself with the user-generated support content present on the platform.
So, accessing Concrete5 for the first time, you appear on a standard page to log into the admin interface. On the top of the site, you can find all the necessary tools to build and customize it. Click Edit Page to trigger the edit mode and start working with the content and layout of your site. If you need to change any part of the site, whether it’s a text box or an image, click on Edit/Editor. Right after this, an applicable dialog will pop up to apply the changes. The content editor has the WYSIWYG format, which makes editing hassle-free.
The Page Properties will enable you to set up the particular page you are currently working on. To make working on the page easier, Concrete5 has incorporated the meta tag functionality into every page setting. Accordingly, to edit Description, Meta Keywords, or Title for the page, go to the Custom Attributes. If you find it necessary, add new attributes to the default list.
The Speed Settings allow modifying the caching options (full and off opts are available) and set the time for caching the page.
The Design tool accessible through the top toolbar enables users to modify the type of the page, select a theme for it, etc.
If you want to modify the global settings for the entire site and not every page separately, use the Dashboard. From here you can install the site stats, the Sitemap for a view of how the website looks like, File Manager to work with any file you upload, the Reports, etc.
Users of Concrete5 claim the installation process is easy and quick. First of all, to start using this CMS, download the latest version of the website builder from its official site (mind that if you want to try out the latest 9.0.0RC4 version on your already existing website, you must have it updated to Concrete5 8.5.5 version first). The installation will be conducted through such one-click tools as QuickInstall, Softaculous, or Mojo Marketplace.
Here are the steps to perform to have Concrete5 successfully launched (on Cloudways):
- Launch a new server: Conduct a signup process, launch a new server;
- Launch SSH Terminal;
- Install Concrete5 as a composer;
- Configure app details;
- Launch the app: to access the dashboard, just enter the username and password stated during the configuration process.
Website Setup & Management
Let’s observe how a separate website can be set up via the reviewed CMS. During the Concrete5 installation process, you can more precisely configure your website. That is, you can predefine its essential architecture. In a new form, you’ll need to indicate such info as the name of your Concrete5 website, administration, and database details first. Enter an email of the firstname.lastname@example.org form and a password so that any user with administrator rights will be able to access your website and manage it.
Database information includes the server hostname, MySQL Username, MySQL password, and the name of the database itself. At this stage, you can develop a new database using the Concrete5 cPanel. You will be able to configure it and grant access to it to a user.
The next important step is to determine if there will be a sample data website or if you prefer to launch an empty site installation. When you choose the Full Site button, you will create a website with the basic theme. It will have a home page, blogs, multi-page types, a portfolio page, contact forms, and more. When your choice is the Empty Site option, you will publish an absolutely ’clean’ website ready for complete design and structure customization.
That’s it! Now what you only need to do is to press Install Concrete5. The setup will be processed automatically. You will only observe how it all progresses with the installation. When the installation is finished, you’ll see the popup with the button allowing you to proceed with your newly-created website.
It’s a pleasure to work with the Concrete5 website editor. You may provide your website with all the necessary elements: the exact number of pages your project requires, a professionally looking, responsive theme, and well-arranged blocks ready to be modified and refilled with smartly organized text, images, videos, and other content.
Concrete5 comes fully packed with all the necessary features to establish a dependable and impressive website regardless of your target niche. Once you open the website builder, you will see an impressive range of effective tools to try for free or buy via an extension. See them reviewed here.
The editor of Concrete5 is of the easiest and most popular type – WYSIWYG. The latter will enable you to customize your site the way you wish without demanding any coding skills from you. Neither does it limit your creativity. With this service, you get a flawless result in as quickly as a couple of hours. Through the drafts and auto-save tool, you can dynamically generate forms for the particular content type your site requires. What simplifies and makes the editing process more enjoyable is the impressive array of themes available, as well as the drag and drop content, responsive layouts, etc.
Concrete5 offers numerous templates that are compatible with mobile devices. Furthermore, the Style Editor for colors, images, fonts, blocks, page types, galleries, and a number of other tools are responsive, too.
Concrete5 enables its users to manage the control over groups and users of their websites. So, you can always model your site policies based on the organizational requirements you have. Set up my profile, groups, exclusions, attributes, custom single pages, and so much more. If you want to grant specific customers exclusive access to some pages on your site, create private pages and limit the accessibility.
Concrete5 is a grandiose platform to enhance online business. Its marketing tools are broad and productive. They allow users to collect insightful data even without writing any codes. By choosing this site builder you get access to error detection, form validation, custom form fields, and other tools.
Concrete5 also gives results of various surveys and forms in a real-time format, accompanied by intelligent reporting. With this tool, you can track your website user session statistics, email logging systems, error logging, and other crucial metrics that determine the site’s performance.
Concrete5 website builder gives its users palpable freedom and power of customization. Such points as one-click version updates, thousands of add-ons available, simple deployment, and speedy software installation that’s done right from the dashboard are provided. All this along with a large variety of flexible themes and automatic notifications for updates on add-ons aim at increasing the site functionality.
A mandatory aspect of running a successful website (especially if it’s an online store) is ensuring its security. Concrete5 guarantees SSL encryption, content approval, login history, captcha email verification, audit trail, and other tools via website protection.
Blogs and Commenting
With Concrete5, you don’t have to create a separate blog. Here you can include it in your website to share your opinions, display your expertise, educate and inform your site visitors. At Concrete5 you can set up a beautiful and customizable blog with RSS syndication, authors, topics, options, and categories enabled. Additionally, you can include a commenting system that supports threaded comments into your website blog. If you’d like, you can incorporate avatars, comment moderation, authentication for commenters, spam identification, comment sorting, enabling or disabling anonymous comments.
Offered via an extension, this tool enables users to run their sites (both management and content) in multiple languages. Besides the default English, there are more than a dozen languages available including Chinese, Russian, German, French, Danish, Japanese, Turkish, Italian, etc.
SEO and Social Media
One of the most effective ways of enhancing an online business is by incorporating a social media account into it. No less important is SEO optimization. Concrete5 suggests optimizing your website for SEO even without any add-ons or extra coding. SEO rankings can be improved through Meta tags, custom URLs, XML sitemaps, easy controlling of page titles and headers, simple directory structure, etc.
Concrete5 supports Instagram, Facebook, G+, and Twitter social media platforms. With just one click you can display the content of your site and your work to these media areas.
Concrete5 Website Design and Templates
With Concrete5 you can create really impressive websites that look professional and crisp. The themes are visually stunning and have updated GUI features such as parallax scrolling. As a result, users have high-end-looking sites that stand out in the crowd of boring and similar sites.
Nevertheless, compared to its counterparts, Concrete5 offers fewer templates to choose from when building a site. Overall, there are 103 templates available. To spot a perfect template easier, Concrete5 suggests filtering them per popularity, categories, price, and skill level. The most popular categories of templates at Concrete5 are as follows:
- Portfolio & Design;
- Real Estate;
- Dark, etc.
Nevertheless, mind that the best templates come at a price. Unlike other CMS platforms where prices for templates can be sky-high, here they range only from $15 to $45. Overall, Concrete5 provides only 15 free templates most of which look niche-free, i.e. you can use them for different sites no matter the purpose.
Concrete5 Customer Support
Concrete5 boasts of having an impressive community of developers that can provide online help to those who need it. Moreover, there are different training and certification programs such as the Editor’s Guide or Developer’s Guide. Each section has multiple documents on Concrete5’s background and concepts. Here you will also find instructions on how to build a CMS site, how to work with blocks and pages, how to set up express objects, etc.
Through forums, you can get help from friendly website owners and the entire Concrete5 community. If you’d prefer video tutorials, get them on the official Concrete5 YouTube channel.
Nevertheless, if this huge area of support does not suffice a user or he/she wants to get in touch immediately with the tech support of Concrete5, the CMS suggests hiring help through a scheduled call. To make use of it, go to the support section of the Concrete5 website, click Hiring Help, and complete the form with your first and last names, email, and phone number. You will also be requested to write a message to inform the company about your issue. Concrete5 normally answers within one business day.
As such, Concrete5 is completely free to download and use. You can set up a stunning website from scratch without paying a penny. And as a free CMS, Concrete5 has no pricing plans. Payments start with paid templates and extensions. Paid templates start at $15 and reach up to $45.
The prices for extensions differ, too. For instance, to add the Block Designer and scheme your own blocks with a few clicks, you will have to pay $35. However, the Pro version of the same add-on is $65. The touch-enabled jQuery plugin Whale OWL Carousel is priced at $29, while Formify super-charger for websites and forms costs $75. These, as well as all other costs, are set only for a one-time purchase.
Concrete5 offers hosting plans, which, unlike the website builder, are payable. The Easy plan, for instance, costs $5-$45 per month depending on what you want to add. It’s best for small sites that require no code changes. The Pro price tier comes at $125-$745 per month. It is appropriate for a team of developers working on custom extensions. And finally, the Managed plan doesn’t have a fixed price. It suits organizations with strong performance, organization, security, and compliance requirements.
Best Hosting for Concrete5
Now, when this Concrete5 review is about to end, you must have formed your own opinion on this viable CMS. Concrete5 can be a really fabulous option for you. However, if you decide to use it as your CMS, you also need a dependable hosting provider to host your site on a server distributed to you.
Concrete5 offers its own hosting, but you might be scared away by its pricing models – the cheapest starts at $175/mo, and chances you’ll need a more expensive solution when you plan to launch a multifunctional website or the one designed for a team of developers. The company suggests a couple of more budget-saving ways to host your project, though they are not ideal.
But there’s no need to get upset since you have such hosting providers as HostGator. The platform has been in service since 2002 and now powers up 2M+ websites across the globe. The secret of GostGator’s popularity is in the high reliability of its services, although its hosting plans are quite affordable (you may start at $2.75.) What is more, HostGator has a unique Quick Install wizard allowing you to easily set up Concrete5 in a few minutes!
Based on all the reviews of website builders and hosting providers we have conducted so far, Bluehost appears to be one more solution that can serve you as the best option to pair with Concrete5.
Bluehost is one of the most popular CMS shared hosting companies worldwide. The main benefits of this web host provider include low pricing plans starting at $2.95 per month, a diversity of hosting plans involving cloud, shared, dedicated, reseller, and CMS hosting, solid uptime stats, user-friendly tools, reliable customer support, decent average loading times, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Concrete5 Alternatives and Competitors
Still searching for an alternative for Concrete5 or simply wishing to know how it competes with similar products? We are ready to provide you with a comparison of Concrete5 and its top-popular competitors you may consider using for site-building.
Concrete5 vs. Webflow
Webflow is a CMS with quite similar functionality to that of Concrete5. However, you should prepare yourself for a more complicated process of tuning up your web project via it. Both the interface and feature set are not the simplest things to get unscrambled. The platform’s learning curve is more complicated than the Concrete5 one.
Webflow’s advantages include more deployment options and the ability to request in-person assistance. It has several important features that Concrete5 doesn’t, for instance, the Version Control option or a Loyalty Program tool. However, Concrete5 is richer in eCommerce features. Its integration potential is much higher. Concrete5 offers better customer support.
WordPress vs. Concrete5
Frankly, the only difference between WordPress and Concrete5 is their different levels of popularity. Both CMS platforms have impressive toolkits and perfectly integrate with multiple add-ons. Since WordPress covers at least 40% of the entire market, it grows and updates its functions a bit faster.
So, WordPress benefits include the ability to launch and manage a website without a single touch of coding. In the Concrete5 case, there are several points at which coding remains advisable. WordPress is definitely more beginner-friendly. It has many more themes and offers exclusive premium plug-ins. However, you might find the Concrete5 eCommerce features more interesting and customer support more responsive.
To sum up the comparison, you may choose any of these platforms and implement your website project quite successfully. But, when choosing Webflow, remember its weak integration capacity. From the same perspective, WordPress is ideal, but sometimes, you may feel it is too ideal. That is, your website will be dependent on piles of side extensions and their constant updates.
As to Concrete5, it is hard for this platform to compete with WordPress in usability and integration potential. Practically every hosting company offers separate WordPress hosting plans, which is a big plus of WordPress. However, picking a great hosting solution for your Concrete5 website won’t be a problem when opting for Concrete5-friendly hosts like Bluehost or HostGator.
The tests of Concrete5 we conducted proved this CMS to be sleek, easy to use, and responsive. It features easy-to-work-with inline editing and a powerful system. It would be wrong to compare Concrete5 with other CMS such as Joomla or WordPress since it is in a different realm – it was created to be easy to handle and deliver the same services for free which are offered at inexpensive costs by other companies.
Concrete5 is constantly being enhanced with new extensions and templates offered on a regular basis. Moreover, the documentation and tutorials that Concrete5 developers offer to their users are exhaustive and highly helpful. The active forum, too, is addressed to helping beginner site developers to create attractive and smoothly running sites they want.
However, the only thing we find important to warn new users about, is that you may need some time before you get used to its interface. This, however, can’t be considered an issue. Concrete5 is the powerful and customizable free CMS solution we would recommend using paired with Bluehost website hosting provider to get the utmost productive results.