Thomas Schedler
Thomas Schedler
Co-Founder & CEO – Sulu GmbH
Sulu's technical Master Blaster. Tries to keep our code on it's toes and to master Heston Blumenthal recipes on his very seldom free days.

Why extending Sulu’s admin UI makes business sense for agencies and enterprises

Did you know you can leverage Sulu’s admin user interface (UI) for much more than content management? This is great news for projects where content doesn’t play the leading role. Take advantage of Sulu’s intuitive admin UI and state-of-the-art content management features, while building out all the business logic you need.

Check out our guide to extending Sulu’s admin UI.

Agencies and enterprises that need content management features within multifaceted business applications are faced with a dilemma. 

  • Option 1: Adapt an off-the-shelf CMS. You’ll have an editor interface, but you’ll also have to force the rest of your custom application into it. This usually requires many workarounds and shortcuts that are difficult to maintain and add cost and overhead over time. 
  • Option 2: Build your admin interface from scratch, using a front end framework like React.js, on top of your custom application. This can lead to incomplete or poorly thought out user experiences (UX), and headaches when it comes to internationalization. It’s also unnecessarily costly, because reinventing the wheel takes a lot of time

Neither of these two common solutions is satisfactory. There is, however, a better way: choose Sulu and leverage its consistent, practical, flexible (and beautiful!) admin UI for your custom application.

Why reinvent the wheel?

If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of using IBM Carbon or Material UI to build your own admin interface, you know what we’re talking about. It’s a costly process and developers find themselves reinventing the wheel for every project. With open source software like Sulu, there’s no need for that: developers can build on the shoulders of giants.

Why do developers do this (to) themselves?

  • Junior developers like the challenge of building their own UI for the learning process. This time can be spent more productively.
  • Some CMSs have polished admin UIs, including user management and structured editing interfaces. But these are difficult to reuse if you’re not building a business application that’s not primarily content-driven.
  • If you want an admin interface that doesn’t get in the way, you can use Symfony bundles such as Sonata or EasyAdminBundle—but these are, with respect, not particularly well-designed from a user perspective. You can see they’re designed by developers, not UX designers.

Still, unless you know about Sulu, it’s no surprise that you would choose this approach. Maybe because we call it a “CMS,” people often don’t realize how much more you can do with it. Perhaps you’ve been burned in the past and don’t want to implement custom business logic in a CMS. (This was actually the reason we built Sulu in the first place. We feel your pain!)

Cost savings before and after launch

Sulu has a beautiful—practical, and efficient—user interface. You can reuse, adapt and extend it. It’s straightforward to use whatever entities your application requires under the hood. You can keep it as it is, make tweaks, sprinkle in more extensive customizations, or write entirely new views using prebuilt components or even your own. Sulu doesn’t make your developers code more than necessary, but lets them code as much as they want.

The benefits for agencies are manifold:

  • Save expensive developer time.
  • Benefit from documented, supported, tested, standardized tooling.
  • Faster onboarding and virtually frictionless project handover: developers who work with the hugely popular Symfony PHP framework can get working straight away.

Bringing your application into a single polished admin UI saves your organization time and money long after launch:

  • Save on staff education and get new recruits productive sooner: Editors and admins do their work through a single interface: they only need training in one tool.
  • Staff are more efficient: Straightforward processes mean there’s less detail for them to remember.
  • More secure: Fewer login details to administer, lose, or leak.
  • Less friction and more productivity: Fewer moving parts and only one agency to manage communication with.

Avoid repetitive tasks with prebuilt, maintained functionality

While Sulu gives you the freedom to develop custom functionality, we are also dedicated to helping you avoid repetitive tasks. If you don’t want to build an admin interface from scratch, you probably don’t want to build the following features either:

  • Multilingual and advanced productivity features such as reusable “shadow pages” to avoid re-entering duplicate content that needs to be maintained over time.
  • High-performance rendering engine that takes care of complex issues such as caching.
  • Webspaces to manage multiple websites across several domains from a single interface without duplicating content—excellent for businesses with multiple brands, or separate campaigns such as employer branding initiatives.

Let your USP shine and serve your customers

In today’s marketplace, the best businesses stand out from the crowd by doing things the way their customers like while keeping costs down. Existing content management and e-commerce systems have rigid data models, whereas Sulu gives you a better balance between freedom to extend and effort-saving, pre-built building blocks. You can move fast, do your own thing, and avoid the waste of rebuilding everything from scratch.

Allianz Cinema is a great example. During the completely unexpected covid-19 pandemic, they adapted by switching to drive-in cinema. Their integrated ticketing and content system kept up thanks to Sulu’s combination of standardization and flexibility. Would this have been possible if they had still been using a separate ticketing provider with many manual processes? Probably not. As before, the new business logic is all in a single interface, already familiar to staff who don’t need retraining to keep things going, even in tough times.