The Best Way to Blog with concrete5
I've been working on these two pieces for awhile, and they've really come together exactly as I was planning. It's quite simple to create a very sophisticated management system for any type of page you want. Just a few clicks, and you can set up truly amazing content management systems
The demo here takes you from a blank installation to a full featured blog with far more features than anything else out on the market for concrete5 now. Why pay $40 for something inferior or $20 for something that's 'almost' what you need and complex to set up and use? You could get a system that can be infinitely customized exactly to your needs for only $25!
Watch the video now, or continue reading to find out more about this system!
New Ways of Thinking
The whole thinking behind these two packages is to move a little bit away from in-context editing for everything. It's truly one of the best things about concrete5, the editing interface is amazing.
But does it work for everything?
Changing Page Management
Often you want to manage something that doesn't really make sense to do from the front end. Think of things like recipes, employee directories, events, testimonials, or anything else. Often what developers do is create a composer page type for these, and then when you edit them, you are directed to the front end to continue editing. If you want to edit again, the simplest way is to do it like every other page, from the front. You can open them in composer again from the site map or the dashboard page search, but it's not intuitive or documented anywhere.
So what can you do?
With the Dashboard Page Managers add-on, you can change the flow for creating and managing these simple page types. You don't have to pay a developer thousands of dollars to make you an application that adds, edits, and lists these custom pages. That's what many popular add-ons in the marketplace are based on. It's the work that a lot of shops do for their clients because they don't have the skills to. Often it takes several days to a few weeks to make the custom interfaces to meet people's business needs. That is a LOT of development and a LOT of money.
You can avoid all of that!
Now, you can just set up a page for composer, then go to your site map, add a couple of pages to the dashboard, and you are DONE. Seriously, there's nothing more to do. You end up with something that looks like this:
For blogging, I think it's nearly perfect. But the beauty of it is that it's designed to allow you to manage any type of page that you can edit in composer. You don't need to know any code to create the management interface. Depending on your needs, you might need to do some work on the front end to display those pages the way you want, but that basically takes it into the realm of designers.
I think that's going to be a huge thing for a lot of shops. And for a lot of individuals and small businesses who are making their own sites without assistance. It extends what you can do, while at the same time simplifying things. Which is what I think is the main goal in creating any system.
Changing How You Add Content
Another thing that I find a bit bittersweet about concrete5 is that almost everything on the front end is controlled with blocks. That's not in and of itself a bad thing, but it's not ideal, either. But it is limiting.
If you want to add a bit of content from flickr, you need to find one of seven different packages that might do what you want. Youtube? There are dozens. Medial players that do one system, ones that do dozens. The same with audio.
Even if you find a block that's exactly right for your needs, you're probably going to have to adjust it to work with your system. And it won't fit in well with a composer type of work flow. Several of these blocks in the marketplace are not easily integrated into composer for one. For another, you can't really set composer up to handle every content situation.
What if you want something like "content block" "youtube video" "another content block" "vimeo block" ?
You could maybe set up a composer page with four blocks, but then when you decide that vimeo and youtube need to be switched on another page, you're kind of screwed.
Is there a better way to do things?
When I was working on Grease Rag, I found out that there was a system called Oembed that replaced URLs in Wordpress sites. I kind of learned that when I started doing the import. Suddenly there were all these pages with just a blank URL in them, and I had no idea what was going on. Eventually I figured it out, and had the basics of a system that allowed you to do the same thing with content blocks.
It was another year at least before I had time to sit down and really, really get it ready to release to the marketplace. I didn't want to just have a custom template for stuff. I wanted it to be a very robust system, not just a little hack. Fully responsive, extensible for other developers, integrated light box, ability to extend it... All of that kind of 'candy' on top of the basic functionality.
It seems like it's turned out quite well. When paired with the Dashboard Page Managers, you can start making pages that don't require front end editing at all. The whole process of adding a lot of blocks can be tedious, especially if you are first editing it in composer, then have to work from the front end once it has multiple blocks. So many more things are possible with it.
What's the conclusion?
With either or both of these packages, you can do some pretty amazing things that were always quite difficult in concrete5 before. They will save a ton of time and money for a lot of developers. So many sites can benefit from what I've built here.
I hope that people enjoy them.