Plunging into the gaping unknown: RefineryHQ goes live.

2 minutes and 36 seconds read.

We didn't set out to create a hosted CMS, but that's what we just did.

The beginning

Five years ago we needed a CMS that our small business clients could actually use, so we made one. We called it M-Tools, and all our client sites were built with it. M-Tools was extremely rudimentary, but had the key advantage of simplicity. It allowed us to build custom sites without burdening our clients with a complex CMS interface.

As our client work continued to evolve, so did M-Tools. We steadily made improvements to it, tweaked the structure of the UI, stripped out any unnecessary elements, made continual improvements to the technology behind the system. We changed the name, and M-Tools became Refinery.

The middle

In 2009 we decided to release Refinery as an open source project. We have been happily surprised by the growth and enthusiasm of the Refinery open source community. There are now many developers working on their own Refinery projects, and we'll continue to support and contribute to the open source version.

The focus of Refinery has remained absolutely unchanged since day one. The end-user experience must be simple. So simple that users with even the most unskilled user can, with minimal assistance, understand how it works. The upshot of this approach is that Refinery does not do all things for all people, but does some things for some people, and does them very well.

The present

About a year ago we started tinkering with the idea of releasing a 'hosted' version. We wanted to bridge the gap between developer and end-user, and bring the same degree of simplicity to a 'DIY' website building tool. And so we're excited to introduce RefineryHQ - our hosted content management system.

Having never released a product of this nature before, we have no idea what to expect. But we love Refinery, and we hope others will too.

Refinery over the years:

Refinery Iteration 01

Refinery Iteration 02

Refinery Iteration 03

Refinery Iteration 04

We'd love to hear what you think of Refinery. Give it a try at and let us know what you think.