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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977


Designer CMS on Rails

Paul Jarvis (of twothirty fame) and I have been discussing an idea over the last few days, centered around this concept: many designers (especially those who, like us, believe in and evangelize web standards for our projects, and care about building user-friendly interfaces) bemoan the absence of a CMS that meets the following requirements:

So we started chatting about this problem in more detail, since the only solutions either of us have found thus far (for projects requiring a CMS) is to create something from scratch (time-consuming if you are a programmer or have one on your team, and usually expensive if you choose/need to hire a developer — for designers with no programming knowledge, the latter is almost always the case), attempt to customize one of the many open source CMS projects (which seem to have a long way to go), or hack/bend/twist blog-oriented systems (which is a less-than-elegant approach on many levels) such as WordPress, Textpattern or MovableType.

After agreeing on the poor state of the CMS union, we decided that something needs to be built from the ground up to target these specific requirements, as well as some others, including:

Paul and I discussed a combination of Rails and AJAX as the perfect companions to web standards, and since neither of us are serious developers (we can both do a few fancy things with PHP, but that doesn’t really count for a project of this scope), I decided it would be interesting to find out what I could about the Rails world — being a front-end designer, I haven’t yet been able to dedicate enough time to Rails to really understand how to use it, though that’s still on my list (especially after using Basecamp and now Backpack so successfully, such great examples of the framework have me sold on its benefits completely). A brief discussion with David Heinemeier Hansson about potential Rails developers resulted in a short description of the concept on a public Backpack page (what else?) which David was kind enough to publicize on the Rails blog, with the hopes of generating interest from one or more developers.

Is this a project that interests you, either as a user or a contributor? Are you a Rails or AJAX developer interested in collaborating with a few of the better designers within the web standards world to design and develop an answer to this missing-link in the web standards development toolbox?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, concerns, ideas, and anything else I’ve left out if you care to share them — I’d love to see this done in Rails, especially as Rails is picking up speed and popularity day by day, and this kind of project (whether eventually sold or purely distributed for the greater good) would both benefit from the press Rails is receiving as well as add to it.

This item was posted by Dan Rubin on Friday, June 10th, 2005.


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63 comments on “Designer CMS on Rails”

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  1. Posted by HybridIndie on Wednesday, September 14th, 2005.

    I am a Rails developer and a standards based designer. I started out as a developer in my early years and realized that developers only want to get the product done without concern for the user. Hence, in my opinion why there really isn’t a good over-all CMS package out there. I started Posted about a month ago and the app is beginning to mature enough to be usable. The main goal initially was a web engine for myself to be easily customizable via CSS (I get bored with my personal site quickly and wanted to easily be able to change it). The goal is almost realized and would love input from users even contributions to the designs (why have themes when you can just replace a style-sheet) Work is progressing quickly, current goals are static pages, customizable sidebars, and a cache controller for a little bit of a speed boost. Check a demo out at beta.hybridindie.com understand that the layout is very minimal specifically for development, but I am running my personal site with it as well, and does not support IE due to my use of PNG24 for images. (get with it MS) but obviously that compatibility could be rectified easily.

  2. Posted by Jukka-Pekka Keisala on Saturday, October 1st, 2005.

    I have been looking for years good PHP CMS without finding one. Previously I posted about ex-Mambo developers who are now known as Joomla!. Seems like Joomla developers are now cleaning up their code to meet Accessibility and Standards Compliance. There is also AJAX framework under development. I think there might be coming up something intresting in version 1.2 (probably spring 2006).
    Check out Forum in Joomla! site if you are intrested.

  3. Posted by Tuten on Thursday, October 6th, 2005.

    I am interested, I keep coming across your posts throughout my search for a ruby on rails cms that might replace a phpnuke installation i have.

    I am really looking for a sleek portal with many interactive features all wrapped in a simple, consistent wrapper with registration that would allow users to function as if they were in a phpnuke istallation but much, much simpler.

    I am afraid my programming skills are just short of useless, although I am putting together an RFP for such a program that might be of benefit to you. The app I am looking to develop would be broad enough to be applicable for many uses.

    If you are interested in seeing the direction I am pursuing, let me know.

  4. Posted by Liz on Friday, October 28th, 2005.

    I have been using Typo (http://typo.leetsoft.com) for maybe two months now, and really, it’s the best CMS I’ve used so far. Since its written in ROR, it’s incredibly easy fiddle around with (the language and organization of files is very straightforward). It is also filled with nifty AJAX things for live searching and comment previews and such. It is very easy to set up, it has a *very* simple themes engine…no crazy template language to memorize. It already has importing scripts for MT, WP, and TXP, too. So yeah, I’d recommend Typo as a wonderful ROR CMS solution.

  5. Posted by assente on Friday, October 28th, 2005.

    I don’t want to talk about a yet another cms, but Drupal is an extreme modular cms.
    http://www.drupal.org it’s php but a port of it could be a good point to start

  6. Posted by Kim Fransman on Sunday, October 30th, 2005.

    in reply to Liz.

    I dont categorize typo as a CMS , for me that is a blogging engine

  7. Posted by Simon on Sunday, October 30th, 2005.

    We built one too. It’s grown over the last couple years and includes cart, gallery, mailer, forums and more. Much cleaner and easier to use than other stuff we’ve looked at using (especially once we’ve gotten rid of the darn WYSIWYG editor). It’s in PHP but we’ve been thinking about a fresh new Rails rewrite. Not GPL’d as yet but considering going that way. Anyone else started? If so hows it going? Can we help?

  8. Posted by Sagem Hosting on Thursday, February 2nd, 2006.

    I Think the best Open Source CMS is joomla…

  9. Posted by credits report on Sunday, February 5th, 2006.

    im going to use cms but which one? which one is the best?

  10. Posted by Erik Mallinson on Friday, April 14th, 2006.

    Drupal simply rocks. Being a designer and creating Drupal sites for three years now, I have to say that it’s really, really hard to look elsewhere. PHPTemplate (a theming engine) is pretty straight forward to create designs for. There are some things that take a while to get, and some things that def. need improvement. But Drupal is brilliantly built. So why did I land at this post?

    I’m one of those “designer/programmers who are new to ruby and want a cms” … like Drupal.

    If you’re looking to do it right, look at how Drupal works.

  11. Posted by Ale on Saturday, June 24th, 2006.

    Eribium is a cms new one the scene. It’s an easy-to-use, full featured, extendible content management system built with Ruby on Rails. Web 2.0 features including: rss, tags, ajax ‘quick’ editing, gmail style spell checker and overlays. It’s in active development so any features you want, just ask. There’s a demo here.

  12. Posted by Jeromy on Friday, June 30th, 2006.

    Not sure if this one has been noted – but it looks pretty good and they stole their design from basecamp


  13. Posted by Yuval Ararat on Tuesday, August 1st, 2006.

    For the time been making a Joomla website in the current version is very easy when you get the administration and the relations of it to the website apearance.
    It is easly customizable with no programming knowledge.
    and if you use the extentions that are available you get a decent result in a very quick time.
    i have done a decorated cacke site in hebrew in a 2 nights period
    look here and see.
    i mostly edited the images and added content in the administration.
    the gallery is an expose gallery.
    to edit it you get a very nice tool.
    so in no time i got a site up.
    thogh Joomla! is not for an elaborate sites and is more sutible to small scale sites.

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