Once in a while it’s nice to get some fresh perspective and look at alternative ways of tackling similar problems. I’ve been mostly been operating in and around WordPress for quite a while now – but there are some other bits of software out there that can do similar things which I’ve always wanted to take the time to explore.
Habari is one of those and with the release of version 0.9 I thought I’d spend a little time looking at what on the surface looks like it might be a lighter, cleaner blogging platform than is WordPress.
Installation is straightforward, just as it is with WordPress, and features a single page installer. What I liked about this was that it also gave a choice of theme and basic plugins to enable right off the bat.
I opted for the new (and responsive) Wazi theme, since I had just read about it in the 0.9 announcement, and went with the default selection of plugins. One click later and my new blog was installed and active, all as easy as pie. Next, I decided to login to the dashboard and was pleasantly surprised.
If you’ve used WordPress then you’ll know that the dashboard is a busy, meta-box festooned place. By contrast, Habari’s dashboard contained nothing unnecessary – it felt very clean and ordered.
The editor was just as spartan, with a title field, the editor textarea itself and an input for tags, plus save and publish buttons. Once again, this couldn’t be further removed from the WordPress post editor. However, the lack of any formatting tools (with the exception of writing paragraphs, straight out of the box you would have to type in HTML to format your documents) might be a tad uncomfortable for many.
Personally, I liked it and I was confident that I’d be able to find a plugin to add a few bells and whistles to the editor. This was where things started to jar a little; it may be that the community and infrastructure that has built up around WordPress has rather spoiled me and raised my expectations – but for instance Habari Extras was not quite as easy to search as the WordPress plugin directory.
Now given that there are far fewer plugins in Habari Extras than there are in its WordPress equivalent you could say I was simply being lazy in not just looking through the list (which is what I did in the end) but, for instance, though I alighted on jWYSIWYG as a possible option to abstract away the need to write directly in HTML, searches for terms like visual editor or just editor didn’t yield anything, probably due to the lack of descriptions.
Installing my first plugin (jWYSIWYG) wasn’t quite pain free, but then I am new to Habari and there is always going to be a bit of a learning curve with a new system. That said, on this occasion it was enough to make me abandon the use of this plugin.
Another feature I thought showed some real potential – though I admittedly couldn’t get much out of it after just a few test posts made in quick succession – was the loupe.
The loupe allows you to select a period of time you want to focus in on with just a few clicks and drag operations – clearly it has the potential to make retrieving a post from a large archive fast and easy. I couldn’t really put it through it’s paces after such a casual spot of testing but it is definitely a great concept.
All in all, Habari looks like an interesting package with a lot of potential where the bloat of WordPress is undesirable; that said my feeling is that a novice would not be at home with this unless the initial setup work was taken in hand by a developer – of course since that is anyway not uncommon when putting together a new site and so may be a moot point.
Yet there are clearly some rough edges, rough enough to be a bit of a deterrent. Even so I could imagine Habari getting under my skin, it’s got a nice aesthetic and I definitely feel encouraged to explore it further.
- I was working with a client, a busy shop owner who needed a little coaching on how to manage their website, a month ago or two. It was a real eye opener into just how busy and crowded a place the WordPress admin environment can be – easily forgotten when you spend every day working on WordPress projects. The mental note I made that day to look for a simpler solution was, in a roundabout way, one of the reasons I decided to look at Habari.
- Where should you look when sourcing a plugin? I found references to three different locations and felt that was a tad confusing for a Habari noob like me. Perhaps they are all interlinked or some are official and others not … but it did feel just a touch disorganized.
- Ultimately I abandoned my attempt at using jWYSIWYG. I initially installed and activated jWYSIWYG, discovered the need to enable it on a per-user basis – which I thought was actually quite a neat feature – but after again trying to edit something I was tripped up by the fact that it’s scripts, which depend on jQuery, are enqueued before jQuery itself – so nothing happens except a JS error. In fairness, this could be a result of recent changes in the 0.9 release.