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Month September 2008

Pixie Content Management System Review

 

Note: Oct. 9, 2008: I updated the Criticisms section.

pixie cms logo

 

Ease of Use

I recently installed Pixie CMS. To start I have to say I’m really impressed. It is easy to use and set up. Pixie also seems pretty flexible and customizable as well as having some pretty nice code. But I make my living building websites so it should be pretty easy for me. So what about the average person or, an even scarier scenario, a client.

If the end user isn’t familiar and comfortable with HTML and using URLs then I fear they may find creating content frustrating.

History

According to the getpixie.co.uk—home of the project—the CMS was created because the creator Scott Evans needed a website for his band. This was in about 2000 – 2002. He states:

…I found that most of them left me confused and frustrated. … After a long time searching it became apparent that I would be better off trying to make my own software, that worked in a way that was logical to me (and hopefully to you too).

The site doesn’t say when the CMS was released as open source. But it is an open source project under the GNU General Public License v3.

Criticisms

Pixie CMS is only in version 1.0, but compared to other 1.0 software Pixie is rock solid and full of features. When compared to Expression Engine, WordPress, or Drupal it definitely isn’t as feature rich. The main area that needs improvement is the feature available to you when your using the WYSIWYG editor. Pixie CMS uses the popular TinyMCE editor, but a lot of its features aren’t enable.

Here are my main grips.

  • Placing images in a post or page requires multiple unintuitive steps.
  • Lacks a paste from Word feature.
  • Placing any media other than images require xHTML skills.
  • Not many plugins or modules.

If your a skilled or even intermediate online content creator this problem probably won’t slow you down. But because of these issues I don’t feel I could use this CMS to power a client’s site. I’ll go into each of these point in start from the bottom of the list.

Sparse Amount of Plugins or Modules

Pixie CMS is only in version 1.0 so this isn’t a fault of the CMS team. It does seem pretty easy to create modules. Pixie is built on PHP so once the size of user base increases I’m sure the plugins and modules will too.

Placing Media

Placing media such as video may seem like an advanced feature, but WordPress seems to do a pretty good job with it. And a lot of are getting into making videos. I generally recommend them to stick with YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, or Viddler, for their video needs. Then they don’t have to worry about bandwidth, and their content is more likely to be found. Pixie doesn’t have a paste code button so you’d have to teach them how to use the HTML portion of the WYSIWYG editor to paste the embed and/or object code.

Lacks Paste from Word Feature

I never use Word, but most people use it or something similar. I’m sure most of you know that when you paste from word the em dashes, ellipses, ampersands, and apostrophes generally either don’t show up or mess up the code.

Images

 

This section has been edited. View the original version.

 

 

This is the biggest problem I have with Pixie. To upload and insert an image to a blog post or page requires the user to use two different screens. The WYSIWYG editor doesn’t allow the user to upload images. You need to use the file manager which means you have to save the post and change screens.

Pixie does have a nice file manager that you can upload images and files into, but it’s not without problems. For example, if you upload an image that has a file name with a space within it the file manager will not except the image. It’ll tell you there is a bad character, but it doesn’t tell you how to fix it. For a beginner this would be confusing.

If the user uploads the images first and then proceeds to write the post then it is pretty easy to insert an image. You just click the image icon in the editor then a dialog box will pop-up. In the dialog box you can select the image from a drop-down list. The selector doesn’t show you a preview of the image just the file name so the user will need to remember the name of the image. Lastly if the user tends to use two to three images per post after 25 posts they will have a long list of images—a list of 50 to 75 images with no previews will be pretty hard to navigate.

Praises

Overall I’m pretty excited about Pixie CMS. I will definitely keep an eye on each release of this software and test it as new versions are released. If Coda wasn’t so easy to manage sites with I’d consider using it for my site.

My favorite things about Pixie.

  • Installing it is a breeze
  • It’s really easy to Admin the site, create pages, and multiple blogs
  • Admin interface is nicely designed
  • Creating themes seems pretty easy to do
  • Lack of complicated features makes it streamlined and easier to use
  • Open Source

Summary

To wrap up, if they solved the usability problems regarding adding images to posts and pages Pixie would be strong consideration as a CMS for simple client sites that need to manage pages. If the site is mostly going to be about blogging then WordPress would still be my choice. If the site owner needs a lot of flexible, special features, or need a database of products that’s when Drupal, Expression Engine, or Zen-Cart come into the picture.

It was fun playing around with Pixie. You can test the admin screen yourself on getpixie.co.uk via their demo. But to have the most fun take five minutes and install it yourself.