As we've noted in previous posts, we're fans of the hosted CMS approach. There are times, however, when you need a self-hosted system that lets you directly modify the back-end code—especially if you need to add your own server-side logic.
The most widely used CMS systems, including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, and Expression Engine, are all built in PHP. While PHP has its advantages, the more modern Ruby language, and the model-view-controller framework Ruby on Rails, are the technologies of choice for many leading-edge web application developers.
In the Ruby on Rails world, however, there are fewer choices when it comes to content management systems that you could build upon, and the systems lack the breadth of support that surrounds PHP offerings. Often, Rails developers simply build into their applications a little bit of custom CMS capability, so content can be easily edited. This, in fact, is the path that led to Webvanta (several man-years of programming later).
The most established Rails CMS is Radiant, an open-source project begun by John W. Long, extended by Sean Cribbs, and now supported by a team of volunteers. In designing Webvanta, we adopted several concepts from the Radiant system, and a little of its open-source code.
In the early days of Rails, Radiant was the only CMS in town, but there are now other options as well. In particular, you may want to look at:
The WebvantaScript tag language began from Radiant's Radius tag language, to which we added a lot of additional features. Our templates gained inspiration from Radiant's "layouts," and our snippets and page regions also have origins in Radiant. We're grateful for the inspiration Radiant's developers provided for ways to approach the general-purpose creation of web pages.
If you're looking for a self-hosted CMS you can modify that is conceptually similar to Webvanta, take a look at Raidant. You'll need to be comfortable with Ruby on Rails software development to deploy and use it, but as with any case of the hosted vs. self-hosted tradeoff, in return you get complete flexibility.
Note there are things you can do with Webvanta that are not part of Radiant; Webvanta is not a hosted version of Radiant, but rather a different system that uses some common approaches. In particular, Webvanta's designer-friendly database setup is not part of Radiant; in the Radiant world, you'd write Ruby on Rails code to add custom database capabilities, which is easy enough if you're a Rails developer — but impenetrable if you are not.
For more about some of the open-source bits that we use, see our Technology Stack page.