The topic of content management systems isn’t sexy anymore. Natural selection has pushed development illuminati to node.js, Rails and high-availability APIs that rival the complexity of London’s sewer system. Blogs are passe. Technorati shriveled to a Digg-like husk of its former glory. SXSW isn’t about microformats or RSS or hacking, but start-ups and VC pocket-picking. WordPress won the general popularity category, and now it’s a game of long-tail and niche.
In short, no one cares.
So it is with some quiet satisfaction that the content management system I started using eight years ago (seriously) is still plodding along with regular updates.
Version after version of Textpattern, starting from the hairy beta’s beta of RC3 into the new world of 4.x, has focused on stability, security and careful feature expansion that takes into serious consideration the extensive community-built plugin library. Never a revolution, never an upheaval. But that’s OK, because not once have I felt like a client’s website was in danger of imploding from an update or a gaping security hole via a plugin.
In all these updates, the UI has never changed. It’s been the same yellow, the same tabs, the same awkward dropshadows. It got to the point where people were writing convoluted admin themes to circumvent this. Complicating everything, the markup underpinning the admin interface was written in 2001-2002. Yes, tables.
So even though versions 4.0, 4.0.1, 4.0.2, 4.0.3, 4.0.4, 4.0.5, 4.0.6, 4.0.7, 4.0.8, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 and 4.4.1 were welcome — in fact, some brought functionality I actively celebrated — they never gained much ground on CMSs with more flashy interfaces.
Textpattern 4.5 is completely unlike those previous releases.
4.5 focuses on aesthetics, design, performance and modernity. The markup has been gutted and rebuilt, the skin is slicker, the actions are more responsive, and the whole thing is more mobile-friendly. I have deployed it to two client sites already and the feedback has been, predictably, bodacious.
The UI improvements go beyond article writing. Across the application, the team has squashed, trimmed and fixed those stupid inconsistencies and interface quirks that sent my OCD meter into Ludicrous Speed. The sections interface, plugin management, even the adding of categories is simpler, more intuitive, smarter.
And of course there are tag improvements and security enhancements along with a host of clever API functionality for plugin developers that’s way over my head. But it all sounds cool and I am easily impressed by things like “publish/subscribe hub” and “txpAsyncForm”.
The whole product now feels better. In 2005 I declared Textpattern suitable for client sites, and this release delivers what clients have always wanted: a more user-friendly admin UI to complement the brawny functionality that’s made their websites so successful.