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Surreal CMS - Review


SLR Web Design

9:13 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Please be gentle, as this is my first review of any description.

    A bit of History:

I was looking for a way to keep my customer's current site design and formatting, but give them more control over the content. I had trialed a Fully CMS site with Joomla and it was absolute overkill. All I needed was something to allow my customer the ability to edit the text in certain sections of each page on their site.

I thought that there must surely be something out there that would take a static HTML existing site and make it editable using a CMS.

Through these forums I was put onto Surreal CMS.

    How it works - in a nut shell:

You sign up with the existing sites you own/manage & want to use in their system, by inputting ftp access data.
Their CMS through the ftp connection works out which pages are on the site and adds them to their system under your log in.
You go into each page and use class="editable" tags in the sections of code (e.g div or td) that you want your customer to have access to. To make this easier there are also tags to label these editable regions, using title or id attributes in the same sections.
You set up user accounts for your customer and customise how much editing ability they have.
When they log in they see a list of pages from their site, click on a page, then they see a heap of tabs for the content regions on their page which open up an editing field with WYSIWYG editing tools.
When they are done they click publish to web and it is done.

It gives control of any content you choose including text and images.

You can manage up to 3 sites for free, then it costs $30 a month which allows you to manage as many sites as you want. The money spinner is that you can charge your customers a monthly fee, say $10 a month, for the privilege of having a CMS. Once you get to 3 sites, its already paying for itself before you spend any money.

    Usability as a designer:

This system is great. It is so simple, and I love simple systems. The hardest part is putting in the editable and title or id tags, which is extremely easy.
There are a few region tags which you cannot make editable, such as a whole table or a tr, but I would rather not give my customers that much power to destroy the site anyway.
One thing to keep in mind if you use an editing tool such as Dreamweaver; make sure you ftp a current copy of the code from the host before you start working as opposed to using what Dreamweaver has stored locally on your machine.
Designer usability gets 10 out of 10!

    Usability for the content manager:

My customer has basically no computer skills beyond the basics of email, web browsing and office products. They did find it difficult to use at first, but found it easier to access and use than their Joomla site.
Once we worked out which editing tools they needed, things ran very smoothly.
The customer has now edited several regions of several pages without any major issues and the site formatting still looks great.
CM Usability gets 9 out of 10.


I think this is a great lightweight CMS that will transform your current static HTML site into a great CMS site. Give the power back to your customer to edit their content freeing up your time and theirs, it saves them money while it makes money for you.
The system is so simple to set up that a web design newbie could do it.
The editing suite with WYSIWYG editor is up to the task and tabbed editing sections makes it more workable for the content manager.
Overall I give it a 9 out of 10.

I hope this review helps someone.



[edited by: ergophobe at 7:45 pm (utc) on Mar 17, 2010]
[edit reason] Signature deleted [/edit]


9:37 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Nice, clean, concise review, Steve! Thanks!

SLR Web Design

9:55 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

You're welcome. It is a great CMS which made it easy to review.


7:49 pm on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Steve - thanks so much for taking the time to do a really good review.

It's great to get a review from someone who's actually building a first site with a CMS rather than my "first look" reviews which are just a quick little look over on a dummy site, so it's hard to really get a feel for a CMS from that.


7:53 pm on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

>>several regions of several pages

What is the interface for editing these regions?

Can the client edit site-wide aspects easily?

SLR Web Design

9:23 pm on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Basically the designer just sets up the editable regions throughout the page for certain divs, tds, etc.
The Content manager gains access to the editor for the page they wish to edit by clicking on the page they want to edit from the list of all their pages.
The editor comes up with tabs along the top, so the CM can just select a tab. TO make it easier for them you use the title or id tags to identify these regions/tabs.
There is no ability for them to edit multiple regions at once or formatting of the entire site. Most of my customers would destroy the site if I let them do that kind of editing. It may be possible to allow them access to edit a whole page by making the html tag editable, but I am not sure if that tag is editable or not. That is one of the restrictions with this CMS, you cannot make every type of tag editable.
It is purely for people who want control over the text and images on their site, e.g. it is cheaper and easier for them to update new course info themselves every few weeks.
It is ideal for small businesses who want to have a professional looking site designed properly and edit just the content of their site.


9:59 pm on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator mack is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Nice review, thanks :)



4:32 pm on Mar 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

>>no ability for ...formatting of the entire site. . Most of my customers would destroy the site

That's what I was thinking!

That sounds perfect for the case where you want them to be able to change up info on pages, but not giving them so much rope they can hang themselves.

SLR Web Design

2:17 am on Mar 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



4:52 am on Mar 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks so much for the review SLR. I love this forum - the people here rock ;)


8:35 pm on May 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Excellent review Steve, it was extremely helpful to me! I'm a Dreamweaver gal considering the move to Joomla or similar for the exact reason you mentioned (making portions of text editable) because Adobe Contribute is such an extra expense for the client. You've sold me!

Just wondering if you found any compatibility issues with Dreamweaver & specifically Dreamweaver Templates (other than ensuring you get the server version before working on it)? Thanks!


3:02 pm on Jun 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for sharing this with us! I keep it in mind in case I would need it one day.

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