Road to Incredible CMS Version 6 - Part 1

Welcome to the Road to Incredible CMS Version 6. A series of articles that I’ll be writing whilst developing the latest version of our proprietary Website Builder.

For the last 9 years, I have been steadily building and improving on the platform from which all Incredible Co websites are made. Unlike most other Website Developers, Incredible Co doesn’t use WordPress or Squarespace to make websites. Instead, we use our own in-house platform and Content Management System to deliver exceptional quality websites that are modular, lightning-fast, secure, and above all, user-friendly.

Towards the end of last year, I began work on Version 6.0 thinking that like Version 5.0 before it - I could get the basics up and running in only a few months. Six months later and I’ve already spent more time working on one feature than I spent developing all of Version 5.0 alone. Believe me when I say Version 6.0 will be a serious contender when it comes time to consider which website platform works best for you.

Working without Wordpress

When you work with an established platform like WordPress any shortfalls you can simply put down to that’s just the way it is with that platform. Gutenburg editor too tricky? Blame WordPress. Website got hacked? Blame WordPress etc. This makes it easy to brush off genuine concerns from clients. Developing your own framework is nothing like that - you alone are accountable and that means you’d better do something about it. 

One of the most common gripes that clients have with Version 5 is that they are unable to create their own templates. This was intentional from the outset. With the modern web, templates have to be responsive. This means understanding concepts such as breakpoints and re-positioning rows and columns to fit with the size of the media. Mobile-first is a concept that even I slip up with from time to time. When I designed Version 5 I did so under the premise that any junior developer with no back-end knowledge should be able to easily knock out templates. Whilst this was achieved, it still meant that a developer was required whenever a client wanted a new template. For clarification sake, when I say template, I don’t mean page — clients have always been able to make new pages — I mean page layout.  

But that was 3 years ago and now we have HTML 5 Grid Layout which is supported in all modern browsers. This new layout feature makes it a lot more straightforward to order and re-order content blocks. With the right interface, the right UI / UX, clients for the first time could create and modify their own responsive templates. Well, that was the conclusion I came to in December 2019. Six months later and I’m still working on that interface which I’ve simply named “The Grid” - mostly as a nod to Tron because I am your typical sci-fi geek.

Here comes a New Challenger

Other developers have already had a crack at a grid interface but, I’ve not seen anything yet that ticks all the boxes. When developing a UI there’s always a balance between flexibility and complexity. So far I’d argue that everyone else is coming at this from a too-simple and not complex enough approach. The result is templates made in 2020 with the grid don’t look that much different from templates made in 2016 - 2019 without it.

Complaining that an interface is too simple is not something you’ll often hear me say. Especially as I put user-friendliness at the top of the list when it comes to developing a website. As someone who spent 10 years making Video Games (see LinkedIn profile) I really value the importance of building software that is easy to use. The fact is we can do a lot more with HTML 5 Grid Layout than what we are doing now. When you have something as flexible as HTML5 Grid Layout, the possibilities are endless. The problem is, designing an interface for all of those possibilities involves a lot of planning, trial and error. Several times now, I’ve spent weeks building a part of the interface a certain way only to discover, during testing, that it doesn’t quite work if I push it in a direction that I hadn’t originally foreseen. But this is how agile development works. You build, you test, you iterate until you get something that not only performs well but also feels natural. It can be frustrating if you’re not accustomed to it.

I had hoped to time this article with the completion of our proprietary grid layout tool, however, I’m not quite done building it. It’s a lot more complicated than I first imagined - but the progress made so far IS promising. Fingers crossed that when it comes to writing part 2 of this series I’ll be able to fill you in with a few more details. In my next article, I’ll talk more about how HTML 5 Grid Layout works and why it’s such a game-changer. Hopefully, by then, I’ll also have something to show.

That all said, for many of our clients, Version 5 of the Incredible Co platform continues to support their wants and needs as their businesses grow and evolve. When released, it is highly likely that Version 6 will go through a long beta / prototyping period. The Grid is only one of the many new systems I am introducing to the platform / CMS. 

Should your business need a new website sooner rather than later and on a platform that has been tried and tested - Version 5 of the Incredible Co CMS will serve you well. Businesses from all over Australia continue to use and rely upon this proprietary software. If you’re interested in knowing more, feel free to give me a call.

Philip Bretherton
Director of Incredible Co