Posts Tagged ‘theming’

Reviewing Habari

Yesterday, I decided to install the blogging software Habari on my computer to see what the buzz was about. Overall, I’m impressed with the system and I think it shows a lot of promise for the future. It’s all written in modern PHP 5 (5.2 is the minimum) with PDO so you are not tied to MySQL. Installation was very easy (after I added FollowSymLinks to my .htaccess file). The backend is slick and powered with keyboard shortcuts. Performance seemed fast, but a localhost environment doesn’t really give you a good measure of this so YMMV.

My only complaint about the system is one that I also have with WordPress: the theming system breaks everything into entirely too many pieces. Tags open in one file and close in another. Loops are all over the place. You have to create a class in theme.php to pull in and assign data to the theme. This will certainly difficult for most designers to get their heads around.

I’m definitely a fan of Joomla!’s templating system. While Joomla! is a more general-purpose content management system and Habari is focused on blogging, I think the overall concept could be ported. In Joomla! templates, you have all of the essential markup from <html> to </html> in one file. Within this file, you add named placeholders (bottom, left, right, main, banner, etc…). What goes into these placeholders is determined by the admin of the Joomla! site. This makes it easy for admins to rearrange the elements to suit their desires, while template designers need not touch a line of PHP. In Joomla! templates, desigers can rely on the default core output, then override specific elements only when necessary.

Habari is still in alpha (version 0.6), but it seems to be maturing very quickly. If you’re doing blog sites and are up for something new, definitely give Habari a test. I’m looking forward to the betas and stable copies, but hope that the templating can be simplified drastically.

WordPress, one month later

A month ago, I switched not only the theme and title of this blog, but also the software underneath from Joomla! to WordPress. I always intended to expand my Joomla! based blog into something more substantial; a new way of presenting and sorting information, opinions, reviews, and recommendations. However, I didn’t get very far in achieving this.

Meanwhile, blogs have become so prevalent that people will assume you website is actually a blog if it feels somewhat like one. With this in mind, visitors have a certain expectation of how your “blog” will behave; if it doesn’t, people can get confused and possibly frustrated. So now I’m using blogging software instead of content management software.

Here are my impressions of WordPress. The user interface gets all the points for KISS principle. Writing posts, seeing new comments, scanning incoming links, and adding images are all a pure joy! It’s also nice to see the autodraft saves so that you don’t accidentally lose your work. WordPress also has enough functionality for building a very basic non-blog website if you need one. Finally, I’m happy to see the WordPress folks following a web software convention I feel is crucial: the backend has an interface distinctly separate from the one seen in public. (Not going to mention the names of any offenders here.)

However, not all is rosy with WordPress. Within hours of putting up my blog, dozens of spam comments were pouring in, making me wonder whether I should turn back before it was too late. Fortunately, they died down after a couple of days and a few keyword filters. I have comments set to be displayed only after the email and name have been approved. (If you use your OpenID, your comment will appear automatically.)

The other gripe I have about WordPress is the templating. I took a peek to see if I could quickly throw together a basic theme to match my main website. Unfortunately, I was in for a rude surprise. While this isn’t the worst system I’ve seen, WordPress themes are broken into too many pieces in the wrong places, with poor internationalization to boot. It’s very irritating to work in a world where an HTML tag opens in one file and closes in another; this is just begging for mistakes to be made.

Despite these speed bumps, I’m definitely enjoying WordPress and will change the theme to something else once I find one that suits my tastes (or have time to build a new one).