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Here we are on winter solstice launching version 5.5.0 of concrete5. This is a huge version release for us. Over a year ago we started discussing the need to update the design of concrete5's dashboard. Of course one thing after another kept pushing the schedule back, but low and behold just in time for the Holidays we're basically ready to go!

For the geeks...

Much of the thinking we put into this version is really geared towards site operators, but there are some cool improvements for developers as well. We completely changed the way installation works so it is much easier to build a starting point. You can even install completely from the command line. We also took the time to rethink Scrapbooks which had evolved "organically" and had any number of issues. Now there's Stacks which let you clump different blocks together into one reusable element. Permissions, versions - everything you'd expect from a concrete5 page all work on a Stack. Very cool.

We also spent a fair amount of energy on performance concerns. Lots of cleanup on less than optimal queries, extra object loads, etc. We even consolidated and rearranged javascript a bit more to just create that snappier feel everyone likes.

For the content peeps...

I'm not sure where to even start. If you liked concrete5 before, you're going to love it now. Everyone always responded well to our in-context editing, but our Dashboard was an afterthought to us. Some of the concerns were:

  • It's hard to find the news or learn anything more about concrete5. Some people didn't even know there was an eCommerce add-on available!
  • It was super intimidating. There were a few pages for settings that just scared the pants off of anyone who wasn't an expert. Too much unrelated stuff on one page with no explanation.
  • It was a pain to use. Often you'd only go to the Dashboard if something wasn't working, and when you did it took a lot of clicks to get in where you needed to be. You basically had to learn the hierarchy of the Dashboard to get around, which was silly as there was very little rhyme and reason to the hierarchy.

What was the solution? Decentralizing the dashboard with Twitter bootstrap. The bright boys at Twitter have released this awesome interface design project open source and we took full advantage of their style guide and code, where it helped. We also turned the dashboard landing page into a more flexible news layout that let us better communicate all the interesting things and potential of concrete5 to the members of our community. The marketplace is more deeply integrated into concrete5, you can actually purchase stuff from within your own site. Really there's a lot to write about, so it probably makes more sense to just watch this video of some of the improvements.

I just wanted to thank everyone who contributed to this release at github, and put up with our ever changing launch date on it. I know it's been a long time coming, but I bet you'll agree it was well worth the wait.

FYI: 5.5.0 is great for new sites, but with all the UI changes a lot of the add-ons and themes haven't been quite updated yet. If you're running an existing site and want to upgrade, you should ABSOLUTELY backup and perhaps even apply the upgrade to a staging copy of your site first.

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