Bacon Tacos, Unicorns and Creative Freedom

At MODX, we believe the tools and process of communicating on the web should be liberating, unencumbered by geeky assertions of how the web should work. We use “Creative Freedom” as our tagline, and over the coming days I want to share what creative freedom really means to us, and how it relates to everything we do.

Ryan's pet unicorn hard at work fetching bacon tacos

Quest for a Bacon-Taco-Fetching Unicorn

Nearly a decade ago, I began looking for a web content management system (CMS). In my search, I quickly became frustrated with complex theme systems, arbitrarily fixed content blocks, or being forced to use tables for markup when Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Web Standards were the future of the web.

As an experiment, I refactored osCommerce to output pages using lightweight, semantic markup styled just with CSS, forgoing the use of tables, sliced images and inline styles. This resulted in a ~30% speed boost, and I was sold. Faster sites meant better conversions, happier customers, and outperforming competing sites in search engine ranking, all things being equal.

Speed and SEO aside, I also needed a CMS I could hand over to non-technical clients without worrying about things breaking. If they were capable of filling out a form, they should be able to manage and publish content on the web.

We Built It, and for Once, They Actually Showed Up

Eventually, I gave up searching for a system that was as mythical as a bacon-taco-fetching pet unicorn. So, along with a few other like-minded individuals, we built one that gave us the creative freedom that was missing from the CMS landscape, and we happily shared it with the world.

We had no aspirations of becoming one of the leading open source CMS platforms used by hundreds of thousands of websites, but that’s where we find ourselves today. It took dozens of releases over 7+ years, but we’re happy about where we are now, and eager to share what’s in store.

Now, we’re on a mission to find new ways to give creative freedom to the people that work on the web.

Ryan is a Christian, the lucky husband of an amazing wife, and father of two usually great kids. A native redneck from East Texas living in Dallas for over 20 years, he's lost a bit of the verbal twang over the years, but still loves to get back to his roots over charcoal with a chunk of meat and a few frosty bevs. Ryan co-founded MODX in 2004, where he works every day helping build the company and its products.


  1. Brett Florio
    Jun 29, 2012 at 06:34 PM
    Funny, our story is almost identical, except that we took our unicorn quest a little further.

    > Eventually, I gave up searching for a system that was as mythical as a bacon taco-fetching pet unicorn. So, along with a few other like-minded individuals, we built one that gave us the creative freedom that was missing…

    Seriously though, this quote is pretty much exactly what we ended up doing for FoxyCart. We didn't want to reinvent the CMS wheel because we'd already found MODX :)

    1. Jason Imani
      Jul 01, 2012 at 02:14 PM
      Good story! Having used MODx for several years now (and tested many others), I love MODx's ease of templating and support. As you said, I can turn something over to clients and not expect phone calls about how to do this or that. Awesome work...look forward to 3.0!

      1. Jeff Miranda
        Jul 11, 2012 at 10:08 PM
        Hate to create an echo chamber, but I agree. I use MODX all the time and recommend it regularly to my clients. The problem I run into is that most of my clients end up saying something to the effect of "MODX? Never heard of it...". I'm constantly running through my sales pitch for MODX particularly when my clients ask me to develop on other platforms like Wordpress. The Wordpress "brand" has permeated Google's search results for "content management systems" and whether you think it's a good CMS or not (I obviously do not), you can't deny that it has pretty good name recognition. That's why I find the last paragraph of your post especially hopeful. The more we can spread the MODX name, the easier it will be to get more web creators and businesses using it. Great post and great work!

        1. Donald Atkinson
          Jul 20, 2012 at 08:40 AM
          I'm actually really glad that you posted this story here (although, I would have loved a little bit more detail). As a relatively new user to ModX (2 months) and having used several other CMSes, I have to say that you've met that goal. I'm really impressed with the ModX software, team and community. The flexibility of the software alone has inspired me to create again for the web platform, something I have been staunchly against for over 7 years. Thanks for this cool software and for sharing your story!

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