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nclud is a small web design firm in Washington DC. A couple days ago, they relaunch their site, this time with Expression Engine instead of Textpattern. Head developer Dan Drinkard gives the skinny for the switch:
Textpattern has served us well at nclud for the last two years; it’s a fantastic CMS with some killer features, but it’s got a couple of frustrations as well—commenting on blog posts is a bit convoluted. Extra, unnecessary markup gets added to the database as a result of the baked-in textile formatting. A hard limit of 10 custom fields out of the box is not only incredibly limiting, it makes me question how well the concept of custom fields has been optimized in the system in general. We decided that as a part of our re-align this year we’d look into a new CMS option.
And regarding the maintenance of the site:
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone ask Alex to make a change to the old site because they were afraid to break something, I’d probably retire early. It’s cute when you’re just feeling too lazy to push an update yourself, but what if something went really wrong and the person who built the site wasn’t around to fix it? Do me a favor: go to http://textpattern.com real quick (I’ll wait) and Apple+F for ‘documentation.’ Don’t get me wrong here, textbook is top-notch; among the best CMS documentation sites out there. But it’s hard to find. There’s no link to docs from within the control panel, and while it does come back on page 1 of a search for “textpattern documentation” there’s no description whatsoever of what it is. Wikipedia is doing a better job of directing users to it than the site itself.
I was intrigued by the rational the nclud team provided. Especially considering how their squad relied on just a couple guys whenever someone wanted to update the site. There seems to be a gap between Textpattern and the documentation. Dan is right—all help in textpattern is internal, and there are no links to Textbook from within the admin.
Of course, there are two current efforts underway to update Textbook and textpattern.com. Hopefully we can take nclud’s input into consideration.
Useful food for thought there, thanks for finding it. Lots of valid points that we need to take on board.
I think there’s (now) a link to Textbook from the “welcome to your site” article but of course once that’s ditched/overwritten you’re right, there’s no link to Textbook from the admin side (it’s a standard feature of thebombsite’s ABitBlue admin skin, btw, which goes to show that he at least noticed this deficiency :-)
Perhaps it should make an appearance somewhere in the interface — even as an option in the ‘go’ menu would be something, especially since wet took the trouble to make the sandbox .com redirects for Textile and (I think) Textbook too. As and when the .com takes shape a lot of these other concerns should be addressed. And again, Textbook is making a comeback. Slowly…
As to the other ‘technical’ reasons, custom fields I fully agree with. Commenting on blog posts, I guess he has a point if by “convoluted” he means “has forced preview”, though I happen to like preview. Not noticed the extra markup in the comments but I rarely go into the DB to look. Maybe that’s a textile thing that someone can look into.
Changing an old site without breaking something is surely something one runs up against in almost all systems; especially during an upgrade? I know the devs work hard to not introduce backwards-incompatible changes in the stable .0.x branch and it can’t be easy. But how many times have you upgraded or changed a tag and a site has thrown warnings or has not worked quite right because of core changes? Couple of recent examples:
escapeattribute outputs raw HTML character entities after 4.0.7
To be fair, most of the above are due to not doing things ‘right’ in the first place (either plugin authors or site designers taking shortcuts — I’m guilty on both counts) and as TXP progresses its features tighten so sloppier markup/code is flagged for correction. But I’ve not known a site ‘break’ to the extent that it stops functioning unless it’s using hacks (e.g. MLP). Upgrading/tweaking TXP is one of the upgrades I worry least about and I’m forever altering tags without any repercussions.
If there’s a chance something might bugger up, I’ll of course use rvm_maintenance for a few hours while I iron it out, or use a subdomain to test the site and then copy it over when it’s running sweetly. But if others have this ‘fear’ of upgrading or altering the markup then it should be addressed in some way, be it documentation or some reassurances given (umm, somehow!)
Anyway, we should address the Textbook thing pronto, imo: just noticed there’s no meta description on the home page :-\ I’ll also try and focus some more time on tidying some of the pages over the next few weeks. Then it’s just down to giving it some visibility from the admin side/Google/other TXP resources. If he hasn’t already, Jonathan could add a link back to it from TXP Tips for one extra blean of relevance on the SEO scale :-D
Last edited by Bloke (2009-03-10 12:47:56)
The thing that was enlightinging for me was how he had to consider his team that was not familiar with Textpattern. Personally, I am so engrained in Textpattern, I feel like I have a good hold on how to really bend it to my will, but how can I make it the easiest experience for a non-techie user who is completely unfamiliar? Also, how steep is the learning curve for Textpattern?
Not noticed the extra markup in the comments but I rarely go into the DB to look.
It’s faster on the front-end to store the Textile-generated HTML in the database instead of running Textile on-the-fly, so I don’t see an issue with that aspect. There were some complaints about
.caps when it was introduced, but that little bit of markup doesn’t hurt anything (and usually enhances).
Linking to the TextBook would be nice too. A few months ago, on #xpat we were discussing some kind of internal documentation (modified phpDocumentor) for TXP tags. It’d certainly make keeping docs up-to-date easier.
Last edited by jm (2009-03-12 23:46:15)
Please see tweet 1 …
I still remember the glory day when I discovered the
REPLACE string function in SQL. How much manually editing this would save me in the future! Oh the relief! Great moments in life!
I still remember the glory day when I discovered the
REPLACEstring function in SQL. How much manually editing this would save me in the future! Oh the relief! Great moments in life!
You would trust a computer to replace strings? Inconceivable!
I just read the article, and while I don’t think finding the TextBook link is hard (search for “manual”), TXP could include a PDF of the wiki’s taglist and/or replace the tagbuilder with TextBook links. Also, does anyone know the status of the homepage redesign?
Also, does anyone know the status of the homepage redesign?
Me, me, me!
(Sorry for the blurriness. The artists are working on a more focused version as we speak)
and/or replace the tagbuilder with TextBook links.
I like that idea! Not only does the tagbuilder create a lot of unnecessary code (attributes with default values), but I also think that using the tagbuilder doesn’t help new users very much to really understand how the tags actually work.