Composr development update - January 2017

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Here's your Composr development update for January 2017 :party:. Most functionality is being developed for v11, our next major version.

Themeing and site demoing

We've been implementing a range of features for v11 around themeing and site demoing, broadly achieving these objectives:

  • Easy installation and uninstallation of test content, so you can see a fully working site as soon as the Setup Wizard is completed:
    • Useful for themers, so they don't need to add test content to start themeing
    • Generally useful for people who want to test out features immediately
    • Allows us to maintain our demo system more easily
  • Many theme options now overridable across individual themes:
    • Allows different themes to make big changes without having to force a particular global configuration or override a lot of templates
  • Additional theme options to disable some complex features on individual themes, such as the Logo Wizard and inline editing links:
    • Allows themers to make exotic themes without worrying about supporting all the Composr features
  • Tying of themes to a Setup Wizard install profile:
    • Allows "site in a box" kind of functionality (in co-ordination with the test content) - you pick a theme instead of an install profile, and the correct install profile is used, with test content - for a very tuned output
    • Allows themes to make wider assumptions about the setup of a site, including forcing some particular settings and addons, and de-emphasising Composr features that would likely break a theme if not used by a skilled web designer
    • Simplifies the Setup Wizard by removing some unnecessary questions

We're very aware that a lack of 3rd party themes is a big problem for Composr, so this is what we're trying to solve.

Regrettably, we haven't been successful so far in persuading many people to make and release their own themes. It's an unfortunate chicken & egg problem, the majority of people either want to keep designs unique to their own site, or don't have the skills/resources to make their own themes – and that stops growth to find those 0.1% of people who are both skilled enough to make professional quality themes and to release them. It's also been a bit harder to make themes for Composr just because there are so many features to consider in a design – a problem these changes are designed to reduce.

We want to be able to bundle some new themes with Composr at some point, but we will likely need the financial support of our community to do this as it will be costly, especially because we'll need to maintain the themes across versions (a problem we ran up against when we hit v9).

eCommerce

The Point Store and eCommerce functionality have been merged together for v11 (thanks sponsors):
  • You can now have products that can be purchased either with money or with points, or a combination
  • Most of the former Point Store products now support multiple payment methods like this (you can specify how much they cost in money vs how much they cost in points – we decided that kind of flexibility is better than trying to make some kind of exchange rate)
  • The eCommerce purchasing module has a nicer user-interface, benefitting from the cleaner browsing that the Point Store had, with further enhancements like icons
  • The former Point Store products are now easier to buy, as rather than typing in things like how many points to gamble, you now just click from a selection of pre-defined choices
  • The purchasing system's behaviour is more obvious (previously there were no out-of-the-box products available within it, it was reserved for custom coding)
  • The eCommerce system now has a nicer sales logging screen, taken from the Point Store
  • The system is more stream-lined, easier to explain and learn
  • The system will be easier for us to test and maintain
Work continues to make the eCommerce in v11 amazing.

Other things

We also have implemented:

  • Configurable chat message direction for v11 (thanks sponsors)
  • Allow mass-setting banners into a banner type from the banner type edit screen, for v11:
    • Enables easier segregation of advertising, you can make spots that you can individually control without having to take on the burden of individually assigning all the banners into it
  • Allow non-latin URL monikers and codenames, for v10. This is great for Cyrillic languages, for example
  • The "Themeing compatibility" tool can now do sophisticated filtering:
    • look at subsets of files you care about
    • define which version jumps you want to look between
    • see code files (for programmers who have overridden source code files)
  • As always, all bugs and little usability issues we become aware of are getting fixed promptly.
  • We are currently releasing video tutorials to our YouTube channel. You may want to Subscribe.
There is still a lot of work to do before we can release v11. In particular the changes are currently strewn across 3 different development branches, as we continue to work on a major JavaScript modernisation effort which is disrupting the main branch from other feature work until it's concluded. We'll need to bring these 3 branches back together.
Edited
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