Day 1 Review of the Pagekit CMS

pagekit9 months ago we wrote a Day 1 review of the Ghost platform.

Ghost is designed to be nothing but a blog.

Now along comes the Alpha version of Pagekit, which aims to be more of a true CMS.

Pagekit is developed by the YOOtheme team from Hamburg. We've used their work before on projects, including on the redesign of this site.

So we were curious about Pagekit. Keeping in mind that this is only an Alpha version, let's take Pagekit for a test drive.

What is Pagekit?

According to YOOtheme, Pagekit is designed to be a more lightweight and modern alternative to Joomla / WordPress / Drupal.

Pagekit is written in PHP and relies on Symfony components, which will also power Drupal 8.

For design, Pagekit uses it's own templating engine called Razr.

The whole project is under the MIT license and is free to download. Presumably commercial extensions will be coming shortly and, as this is the project of a theme company, commercial themes certainly will be.

Installation

If you go to the Pagekit website it will encourage you to register.

However, if you don't want to you can download Pagekit from the docs page or from Github.

Pagekit comes in a 9 MB file that extracts to show this folder structure:

  • App: the configuration, cache and user sessions.
  • Extensions: the core and 3rd party features.
  • Storage: your uploads like pictures and videos.
  • Themes: your design files
  • Vendor: external libraries that are used by Pagekit.
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The database tables for Pagekit look much more like WordPress than the far larger structure of Drupal or Joomla:

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Installation is a quick 5-step process. It's worth noting that you will need at least PHP 5.4 to run Pagekit, which isn't the default on most shared hosting.

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The Dashboard

When you first login to Pagekit you see a very basic dashboard with three items:

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Navigating the Pagekit admin is done entirely from the menu in the top-left corner:

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Creating Content

Pagekit has two options for creating content: Pages and Blog.

Think of these as exactly the same as WordPress Pages and Posts. The Pagekit Pages are for static content and the Blog is for time-sensitive content.

Pagekit offers either Markdown or HTML for writing posts. There's no real WYSIWYG option.

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Multi-media is really well done. As with the latest WordPress versions you can just take a URL of a video from YouTube and drop it directly into the content. Not only will it work, but it will show in the preview:

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The linking system is nicely done. It's very easy to create internal links to other pages:

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On the other hand, the image handling leaves a lot to be desired. There are no options beyond an ALT tag::

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Pagekit very directly borrows the full-screen preview mode from Ghost. I'll admit that I'm no fan of markdown. However, seeing the markdown on the left and then the live preview on the right did make it much easier for me to write.

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Extensions

Apps in Pagekit are called Extensions. There are only two by default, the Pages and Blog features we mentioned above.

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There is a marketplace to install new extensions, but only two are available at the moment:

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One confusing part of the extension process is that you need to register on Pagekit.com and go to the Settings area to get an API key. You'll need to then go back to your Pagekit site and enter the API key into /admin/system/settings/.

Without the API key, no extensions will install. It's not clear why this API key is necessary to install even free extensions.

Themes

Themes also have a marketplace that relies on an API key. Here's what the basic Pagekit theme structure looks like:

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And here's the content of the main template file, showcasing the Razr template engine:

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Widgets

Menus, blocks and other sidebar elements are all called Widgets in Pagekit.

YOOtheme have done a nice job here. There's the drag-and-drop re-ordering of Drupal and some of the sophisticated options from Joomla, all in a cleaner layout:

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Menus

Menus are widgets, but like all the major CMSs, they're handled in their own section of the admin. Like the widgets screen, YOOtheme have done a good job here.

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The menus are easy to navigate and it's easy to drill down to different types of link:

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Permissions

Pagekit users are placed into "Roles". The default roles are "Anonymous, "Authenticated" and "Administrator". Each role is given permissions via a series of checkboxes.

Stop me if you've heard this before. The permissions system is almost exactly the same as Drupal. Everything from the layout to the terminology is borrowed directly from Drupal.

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Weaknesses

I've covered all the major Pagekit features. What about where it's lacking?

  • Support: This has never been strength of YOOtheme's core business. For Pagekit, there's a Google Group, a Google Plus community and a HipChat link: "We are usually online between 8:00 and 18:00 UTC". None of that was easy to find.
  • Documentation: There is quite a bit for developers to get started with at http://pagekit.com/docs/quickstart but there's very little for users yet.
  • Roadmap: Beyond a short description here, I couldn't find any information about the future. What's on the roadmap? How difficult will version upgrades be?
  • Community: Ghost had a huge fundraising drive which helped drive publicity and involvement. Pagekit must built that momentum. There are no themes or extensions available yet and no large companies I've seen, apart from YOOtheme, has committed to building them.
  • Business model: I'm always much more comfortable with projects that have a clear business model. How do YOOtheme plan to make money from Pagekit? Simply from themes or is there a bigger plan? What's the API key for? In comparison, Ghost has been very clear and upfront about this.

Final Thoughts

It seems as if the YOOtheme team deliberately sat down to borrow the best from Ghost, Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. To some extent, they've succeeded. However, a good platform is never enough.

A lot of these simpler platforms are launching at the moment. Right now I'm reminded me of 2003 / 2004 / 2005 when a lot of the older generations of CMS platforms launched. From that era, only WordPress, Joomla and Drupal succeeded in getting much traction. I suspect the same will be true of this generation too. There's 101 new lightweight platforms being created. Only a handful are likely to succeed.

Will Pagekit be in that group? It's way too early to tell, but this is a promising start.


About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.