Seven improvements to propel MODX to leadership
By David Walker (Google profile)
MODX is a fine CMS, but it has shortcomings. None are fatal, but any one of them may make Modx a less compelling proposition. If you're going to use Modx, understand these issues before you commit.
How sure am I of this list? Most of these issues I have to explain to clients. Usually I have to do it before they sign off on the selection of the CMS, because I follow the no-surprises rule.
Note that of the items on this list, seven relate to the editing interface. MODX is all about back-end architectural elegance and front-end site design flexibility. These are great things, and they are the places where most CMSs get into trouble. The interface can be fixed. The MODX team just need the will to do it.
So here's how to turn MODX from fine to brilliant:
The seven must-haves
Speed up the manager
Create a simpler interface
The current interface works fine for technical types, but not so well for people who spend most of their day in Word and Outlook. Wordpress gets this right. MODX could too, without much difficulty. And in theory customization of the backend is built into MODx. In practice, it's hard. Provide an option for each user to be presented with a "simple interface" that lets them create a new document and edit documents from selected folders. Loading just a few folders might speed up the user interface too.
Improve document uploading
Document uploading in MODX simply has too many stages. You create a resource which links to the file which, oh, you need to upload so you go and upload it and come back and find it and link to it and then you're pretty much done and ... hey, where did everyone go? If document uploading is a central function for managers of a particular site (uncommon, but it happens), you simply cannot recommend MODX for that site right now.
Fix image insertion
When you're dealing with images, you are mostly uploading them from the same folder. But the MODX file browser asks you to work your way through the folder tree each time, and then serves up distorted versions of all your files. Not that good.
Build an integrated shopping solution
Not many CMSs have genuinely terrific online shopping integration. MODX Revolution isn't one of them - at least, not yet. The most obvious choice is SimpleCart. Of the other alternatives, VisionCart is no loger maintained and miniShop and Shopkeeper are both Russian with limited English documentation.
What is "online shopping integration"? Online shopping has three main components, just like physical shopping - looking ("catalogue"), choosing("shopping cart"), paying ("checkout" or "payment gateway"). The payment gateway is best handled by an outside solution like FoxyCart that will keep credit card data safe - you really don't want to implement credit card security yourself. And you can probably use Articles as a product catalogue. But MODX lacks a completely convincing shopping cart solution.
Stop people clicking out of their documents
You right-click, intending to add a new tab. Instead, you hit "Refresh all". Oops, all your content just disappeared without warning or opportunity to repent. That can happen in MODX. Why? Implement autosave, as Google does in its email and office apps. Heck, just pop up a "You have unsaved work - do you really want to leave?" warning. I wrote a Cold-Fusion-based CMS in 2002 that did this, and I'm not a programmers's bootlace.
Simplify user management further
As of MODX 2.2.4, we now find a sort of wizard for MODX's notoriously complicated user permissions. The permissions system actually has a reason for being like this, but it's still too hard to use. Most sites have no more than four back-end roles: contributor, editor, senior editor, super-user. Make these four the default. Please.
And four nice-to-haves
Allow users to select document types
Many systems (yes, including Wordpress) let users create "news articles", "video pages", "product pages", "directory indexes" or whatever. Usually what this means is that you create a page with a particular template and all its custom fields (template variables, as MODX calls them). For whatever reason, many users find this simpler than creating a document and then choosing a template for it. A MODX extra could solve this, fast.
Restructure the layout for wide screens
More and more people have 1920-pixel screen widths. In MODX, this means a 1600-pixel by 400-pixel content window like the one I'm typing into as I write this. This window is about 1100 pixels too wide and about 500 pixels too short. Create an option for user to shove all the metadata over on the right-hand side and have the content take up the middle of the page.
Enable one-click updating
Another trick that Wordpress gets right. MODX requires you to FTP the updated software over the top of your existing installation, to use software that will merge directories, and then to rerun the installer. Which FTP software supports directory merging? Good luck finding out, if you're on a PC (apparently Cyberduck works). Backing up your installation is recommended too. It's not that hard, but it does make people less keen to update.
Write an end-user manual
Still not done three years after Revolution came out. What do you hand to the marketing assistant who will have to edit content twice a week? Because in some cases she matters a lot more to the site than most of the fancy widgets and functionality on the site. OK, this one I can do something about. So I am. You should feel free to post your suggestions too.