Back in mid-2008, Kyle from JoomlaPraise.com approached me about writing a guest post. He was trying to promote AdminPraise, a new design for the Joomla administrator area.
I was sceptical. Very. So sceptical that I asked him to basically defend the need for AdminPraise. His guest post became Are Joomla Admin Templates Worthwhile?.
Fast-forward to early 2009 and I was able to review the next version AdminPraise2 and say: “No-one else is building administrator templates”. I didn’t see the point and it seemed many others didn’t either.
Now in 2010, I’ve got this to say: Kyle, you were right. I was wrong.
Why Was Kyle Right?
I’ve been spending more and more time with both Drupal and WordPress lately as we’ve expanded our training to include them. It’s become more and more obvious that an easy-to-use administrator area is a killer feature.
- Drupal. It still sucks, even in Drupal 7. Even with a dedicated usability team, it’s still clunky according to our students. Even DrupalGardens.com which is meant to herald a new era of usability is judged to need: “a lot of polish to address the market segment of people who don’t already know Drupal. As it stands right now, an inexperienced user will reach the point where their site is created and not really know what to do next without going to read the help documents, which isn’t a much better situation than just installing Drupal yourself.”
- WordPress. This is where the real progress is. The corporate firm behind WordPress has hired Jane Wells, a usability expert, to push things forward. I heard her speak at Wordcamp Atlanta recently. She mentioned they were planning to run usability tests in over 30 countries and languages. I can tell from feedback in our classes that it works. People genuinely get the interface.
- Joomla. The admin interface hasn’t changed since the days of Mambo. It needs to keep moving forward, keeping up and even exceeding the usability improvements made by other CMSs.
So how does Joomla compete with Drupal and Joomla who can muster milllions of dollars of Venture Capital money to support improvements? It needs to compete the same way it does in every area … by setting it’s fiercely innovative 3rd party developers loose. That’s Joomla’s strength. Usability improvements will come from designers like Kyle developing, testing and improving in friendly competition with each other. That’s how real-world Joomla usability testing can get started on a large scale. The best and most useable features will hopefully be absorbed into future default administrator templates.
What About Training Materials?
One of the most common complaints about admin templates is that they’ll confuse beginners. The answer to that is very simple. All training materials use rhuk_milkway right now as it’s the default frontend template. So all training materials will just use the default administrator template. When people get more experienced, they change the administrator template.
Admin Template Examples
Here are some of the best admin templates out there right now. Hopefully we’ll see many more in months to come:
AdminPraise2 from JoomlaPraise.com
Secret New Design from JoomlaPraise.com
Crisp from JoomlaBamboo.com
Simpla from JoomlaBamboo.com