We’ve been thinking about this upcoming major version release for over a year.

In-context editing has been foundational to Concrete CMS from the get-go in 2003. While some other open source CMS’s now try to tackle in-context with extensions, it generally feels like an afterthought. It has been a huge competitive advantage for us. However, in-context editing has become somewhat ubiquitous across the commercial web builder market. Services like Wix, Weebly, Yola, Webs, and SquareSpace are spending tens of millions and more in marketing dollars today convincing small business owners that they should build a website themselves for $10/month with the Print Shop Pro of web design. Out of professional curiosity, we took trials through a couple dozen competitors in this space. While they’re all far from perfect - we have to admit that some of them would serve a short need just fine and are bearable to work with.

It was by accident that concrete5 ever competed in the “web builder” (as supposed to CMS) space at all. We designed it to be a building material that provided a balance between a developer and a site owner’s needs - so it’s always been pleasantly surprising to see folks with no programming background engage with concrete5. Feeling like we never sat down to really target that market, we decided to update the entire user experience of concrete5 to provide as friendly an experience as the emerging hosted web builder market did - but with the extendable nature of a open source platform driving it. Why should the ability for the average Joe to express themselves online be controlled by just a handful of rich companies? We want the tools to make stuff to always be fully accessible to everyone who wants to get at them. This is what open source has always meant to us. 

We weren’t in a rush, and we wanted to think big. We agreed upon some broad truths and little more as we started 5.7 thinking:

  • We knew the entire UI was up for grabs.

  • We had some deep architecture rethinks that we really wanted to make.

  • We were willing to rebuild concrete5.org.

  • We wanted to improve the community building aspects of concrete5.

  • We wanted a big new feature.

Now I wish I could say “and we’re done! Click here to upgrade.” but of course there is still a long road to travel before a production ready version of 5.7 is on the streets. What we do have now is a solid rebuild of the important parts, a clear roadmap of what needs to be in 5.7, a known list of remaining issues, and if we could just get enough help - this thing could over the finish line in no time.


Where we’re at now...

UI Redesign

Comps are done. Basic structure is done. Lots of cleanup and implementation work remains.

Composer, Page Types, Themes and Templates

It’s always been frustrating that Page Types are used for both form factors and data objects. These have been separated now so form factors and object models are completely unique as they should be. Composer has really been integrated as part of the editing experience for anything. We’ve also introduced a new idea called a Featured which lets you more easily summarize what types of data have organically been added to pages.

Single Sign On

We redid the way we deal with authentication to make it much easier to add new authentication systems.

Conversations

We built in a clean way to handle comments. We just got to a point where it seemed that more sites needed this than not, and it’d be nice to let everyone depend on it working the same way. There’s also performance challenges around the way our discussions add-on is built today, so having the opportunity to rethink this with less overhead was a pleasure.

Image Editor

We built a new javascript image editor from scratch so we wouldn’t have to deal with license issues or 3rd party services going down.

Topics

These are hierarchies of tags. Super handy. Being in a child means you’re also in a parent, so its a great way to organize content.

Groups

We turned groups into a hierarchy. Again being in a child means you’re also in a parent, so you can start to use permission groups for much more complicated things easily now.

Gathering

This is the shiny new toy I’m so excited about. Point your site to a couple of social feeds and have a page automatically aggregate content you can curate. We can see the obvious appeal to an online magazine, but we also imagine people using this as a new way to collaborate or publish to their website. This also might be a great way to import your old existing Wordpress blog. (just sayin)

My Account Area

We flushed out the way my account pages were handled, and introduced a new concept called relationships which are a more flexible way to handle the connections between users.

Known Unknowns

There's a small hodge-podge of things we're still a bit up in the air on, that we know of...

What’s next...

We’ve all had that experience of just needing a minute to collect our thoughts. The work on 5.7 up to this point has been very much in that vein, and due to the way we collect our thoughts, we tend to want to do that in private. This isn’t news, but I know we’ve been demanding a lot of faith from our community by going dark on the big picture development of 5.7

We’ve spent a lot of time trying ideas out and trashing them this year. The image editor is on its third major build. Page types & composer have been re-whiteboarded so many times we have stains. Robert’s made more comps than anyone can count, and they’re still not exactly what we’re going to end up shipping with. We’ve just been trying to get to a place where we had a known list of things to do so the valuable time of our community wouldn’t be wasted on exploring things that might immediately go into the trash.

We now have reached that point, and we’re really ready for your help.

So 5.7WIP is now active and public in Github. This is the branch we will be maintaining and actively reviewing pull requests on until it's production ready. We’ve put together all our thinking on 5.7 into these pages you’re reading now, including some videos of us describing the goals and thinking behind some of the more complicated stuff. We’ve also got a bunch of Git Issues that we know we need help on, and we will be adding more as progress continues.

I’m thankful that you respect our process and the product that has emerged out of it in the past to give us the room we needed to get a clear vision together. We now are confident in this direction and we really need help. We are ready, willing and eager to get as many hands contributing to this as we can now, and ship 5.7 out the door. Thank you for being a part of concrete5!

Some Comps

Just as setting, Robert (Designer) sits right to the side of Andrew (CTO) so we tend to look at the comping process as an organic ongoing event and not a black box. There may be things in these comps that are off, and there are surely features that are missing. It's a conversation and creative style guide more than an absolute goal.  That being said, download a whole pack of comps here.

Where to get it

From github, in the concrete5.7.0 repository. If that doesn't make sense to you, 5.7's not ready for you yet. ;)

 


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