Samples, and Templates, and Themes…oh my!

I’ve been using glFusion for the last couple of weeks, trying to get the hang of it, figuring out its strengths and weaknesses, being a pain in their discussion forums.  So far, I think I like more than I don’t like, but one of the suggestions I made early on in the forums (one that the dev guys behind it had already started to address) was to remove all the sample content that gets installed by default every time you setup a new glFusion site.

The default install (default theme is called Nouveau) for glFusion shows some off some of the features and capabilities

In an effort to help new users quickly understand some of the key features and capabilities of the system, the developers included several “stories” (the glFusion term for articles or blog-type entries) and “static pages” in the install.  That’s cool the first time you install it, which for me is the time I’m just checking it out and seeing whether it’s something I want to use.  Unfortunately, that means that every time I install it on a new domain, I have to go delete all that sample content or somehow otherwise disable it so it won’t show up on my new site.  That becomes a bit of a pain about the 3rd time you have to do it, especially because the method to delete each static page or story involves several clicks and scrolls.

So I asked in the forum whether they could:

  1. make it easier to delete sample pages, stories, etc (i.e., single-click delete on the list of stories/pages)
  2. change the install procedure to at least make it optional to install sample data

One step ahead of me
As I said above, luckily the developers had already begun to address this based on other requests from users.  They’re currently working on a new 1.1.2 version and they incorporated an option to install (or not) sample data into the installation script.  Great…but as I started to dig deeper into glFusion, I realized that the issue is a bit more complex than that.  See, I’ve used (or at least tried) a bunch of Content Management Systems (CMS) over the last several years, and I think I’m beginning to develop a feel for what I like and don’t like about them.

Some systems (Joomla, Drupal, etc.) tend to focus on community-driven and/or blog-style sites.  That’s not to say you can’t use them to setup a simple store-front or info-only site, just that by default they install as a full-fledged community/news/blog site.  Other systems (CMS Made Simple, ModX, etc.) seem to be very good for setting up a more static (info-only) site, but those systems make it a bit harder to setup blogging, news, and community features.  I find glFusion to be a pretty good compromise between those two.  It has features built-in for community and blog/news, but it can also be stripped down to be a simple static site.

What now?
The more I started to synthesize all my thoughts around this, the more I realized I’ve been searching for the perfect open source CMS, one that can be all things to all admins and users.  OK, I admit…that’s a bit unrealistic and maybe too much to ask of free software.  But I’m going to keep searching.  Better yet, I’m going to continue to get more involved in the development communities for some of these systems and suggest/request ways that they can become more (if not all) to more (if not all) admins and users.

I’m also thinking about a set of criteria that I can use to determine for each site I want to setup what type of CMS I want to use.  Here’s a very high level first attempt at classifying sites based on the way you expect potential viewers/visitors to use the site.

If you expect visitors to be… …you might want to use
[visit your site only to find out more
about your organization, company,
service, etc.  No need for specialized
or customized content]
CMS Made Simple, ModX
[Some customization of content
based on membership.  Limited
participation in forums, subscription
to news categories, etc.]
glFusion, ModX
[Highly customized content based
on membership.  Members able to
add articles, media, etc to create
true collaborative community site.]
glFusion, Drupal, Joomla, etc

I’ll develop that further in another post. For now, I’ll just close by saying I think glFusion can easily become that be-all system, but it’s going to take some adjustment on the part of the glFusion dev community, as well as some compromise from me and other users.  One such compromise might be the use of templates/themes to make a given site act/feel the way I want it to without requiring the underlying system to change its focus or features.  In other words, If I want a community-driven site, I need a theme that has community-type stuff on the page (i.e., a Login block, Who’s online, polls, forum/news posts, etc.).  If I want a static store-front site, I need to use a theme that is mostly blank except for navigation, header/footer sections, and a main content block.  glFusion is sadly lacking in ready-made themes, so maybe that’s the first and most obvious place for me to start to contribute.  It would be for my own good and, I hope, for the good of the glFusion community (devs, admins, end-users) as a whole.

2 Responses to “ Samples, and Templates, and Themes…oh my! ”

  1. cornelius Says:

    I think the themes thing in glFusion is what will frustrate most people. It is a bit challenging to figure what file controls what theme at present. Otherwise it seems to be a quite complete CMS.

  2. squiggly Says:

    I agree, themes may be my least favorite thing about glFusion. I think the way they’re doing it is a left-over from GeekLog, and I personally think it needs to change before glFusion can be a mainstream cms.