Even though I've spent a lot of time with web development, I never really delved into the world of Content Management Systems (CMS). I'm of course aware of WordPress, Drupal, and such. I've managed to get away with either something entirely custom or a static site generator. Even this site has been developed using one.
Given how much effort developing a static site generator takes, I can only imagine how hard it is to develop an entire CMS. Bruno Mota and friends have developed a system known as Relax on top of React and Node.js. He claims it is a new generation CMS. What does this mean? Let's find out.
Relax is a CMS, in longer terms a content management system, with some additional powers. The idea behind relax is that anyone should be able to build a website without needing to make a single line of code.
The two most important features on Relax that differentiates it from other CMSs is the page builder and the content types builder.
The page builder lets you build any page with drag and drop, providing you instant feedback on how your page will look. It is component based, so you have a bunch of components from the most basic such as text and image, to more complex ones, such as music player or video. For each of these components you can alter a bunch of settings to change its looks and behavior.
The content types builder let's you create data models to use in your site or just to save information. A good and standard example of a content type is a blog, each blog post might have a featured image, a title, a description, etc. With Relax you can create this in a simple and graphic way on the admin area.
But wait, isn't there already page builders and content types builders around? Yes there is, but Relax takes it up a big notch integrating the both. You can link data from your created content types in the page builder itself, and all with drag and drop! So you can create a blog posts list using the page builder only. You can also create singles for the blog posts by linking data in the page builder as well.
Relax was product of my user experience perfectionist frustration with other CMSs such as WordPress. Don't get me wrong, WordPress is a really solid and a great CMS that has been in the top for a long time. And I used to work with it, making plugins and themes, which is where my frustration comes from.
It all started on a project to make a multipurpose WordPress theme to sell on Themeforest. A multipurpose theme is basically providing a lot of control to the theme user to customize their site with almost endless possibilities. This proved to be a hard challenge. Almost endless work on creating options and plugins such as: a page builder, a menu builder, options to control colors, sizes, fonts, etc.
I definitely needed help, and that's when José Magalhães and Ivo Silva started to work with me on it. Short after, we came to a conclusion. Not only it was a lot of work but we were also being limited by the CMS itself. By creating plugins and options for the theme we were adding dynamism but loosing big time in user experience. It was literally hundreds of options bloated into the already bloated WordPress interface.
We thought it was time to change that. The technology is available, so why not do something that prevents these issues and give total control to the user? That's where Relax, the idea, started to take its form.
Whole sort of challenges! But there are two main reasons:
We're now at a stable path with the techs we're using. User experience is something that is never finished but something that is constantly worked on. We do have almost everything designed and planned for the beta release.
Well, we should finish the dashboard design development the next 3-4 weeks. It will be a fresh face to Relax and a much better user experience overall. Then it's a matter of concluding some pendent issues towards the beta release. We've set up a macro view of what's missing at the roadmap.
We have bigger plans later down the road for Relax. Relax CMS will always be free as an open source project. Although, we have plans to make a marketplace where developers and designers can sell themes and more complex components for Relax. It will be a review based marketplace to assure every item will be top notch.
React broke a lot of barriers as a "view layer". Composability enables us to focus on each piece of our application at a time. And this is a trend I see growing even more in the future. With recent build processes such as Webpack, not only components define what they show, but also how they look, the assets it uses and, in more recently movements, the data needs from the server with GraphQL.
Relay is an awesome solution provided by the facebook team that takes this step exactly of defining server data needs in the components. For Relax we've made Relate, a custom solution that meets its kind of demands, which we open sourced separately so other people can use it. There is still a lot of experimenting to do in this area, and I think there will be great advances in the following year.
Thanks a lot for the interview Bruno! It is definitely an exciting time to be a web developer. Projects like Relax are a good example of that.