Sometime in the past couple months, the October CMS released its first stable version, usable on production sites. October is built using the Laravel PHP framework. It’s open source: all the code is on Github.

Since it’s stable, I decided it’s time to give it a try. I downloaded the installer package and loaded it onto a development site. As far as installation is concerned, it’s easy-peasy. Once you have a fresh database ready, it’s just a matter of extracting the installer files to your web root, navigating to domain.com/install.php and entering the database credentials. The site is up and running in two minutes.

After that, things get a little slower on the first entry into the admin area (backend). This is not a Wix/SquareSpace drag-and-drop experience. For those not accustomed to code, it’s not even as friendly as a WordPress editor experience. Everything is HTML with a bit of Twig templating thrown in. Some components are draggable, but when dropped, they insert their template code within the html. Others set themselves into a page properties section and then need to be opened to configure various data fields in order to work correctly. All that is fine for those accustomed to code. But seeing all that template code will likely be enough to send an end user into full-scale panic.

I installed the blog component/plugin as well. Within the blog, once it’s configured (which requires looking at the blog demo video for an idea of what’s what and then occasional referral back to the documentation), writing new blog posts is more user friendly than an ordinary page. It uses Markdown, which is still going to be a learning curve for non-techy users. But at least it’s not HTML/twig.

As is, October isn’t yet a CMS I can install on a client site – not without my having to do most of the updates myself. I could see using it for my own blog. And I’d guess that for an enterprise business with their own IT department (or willing to outsource their website updates on an ample retainer contract of some kind) will find October to be a highly flexible, extensible CMS. The code is way cleaner and faster than WordPress, for example, and isn’t encumbered with requirements for supporting PHP previous to version 7. October sites are going to run fast and lean.

Overall, I like it. For geek bloggers like me, I can see it quickly replacing WordPress as a go-to CMS, especially those who are ambivalent about the direction things are going with the WordPress Gutenberg project. But it will need some significant GUI improvements for non-geek users before it can come into its own as an option for most do-it-yourselfers and businesses who can’t afford to dedicate a couple people to dive deep into template coding.