Textpattern: TXP is my Gibson "SG"

Looking back on our 6 years with textpattern, I'd say it was unquestionably the right choice for the work my business does.

In 2005 circumstances found me needing to retool my extensive print-based design experience toward web work and to start a small design firm from scratch. After examining many options at opensourcecms.org (mambo, netnuke, drupal, and a few others) I came across Textpattern.

Content and Presentation

Textpattern immediately appealed to me for one key reason; a clear line between content/presentation. The Admin layer's organizational differentiation between content and presentation struck me, conceptually, as a perfect way to reinforce the difference in roles between site editor and site developer. As I introduced client's to site admin, I found myself repeating the mantra "As a client you are responsible for content and you can leave the rest to me".

Inside Out

I could see right from the beginning that textpattern's approach was "inside-out" with respect to other CMSs. While most CMSs at the time required a designer to learn how to build a theme to a particular CMS's spec in order to build truly custom sites, textpattern encourages designers to build their site and place calls to textpattern (xml style tags) inside that markup. This may seem merely semantic, but makes all the difference in the world to a fledging developer; Rather than putting your site on Drupal and bend everything you do to fit those capabilities, you put Textpattern in YOUR site and make the CMS work for you... it's inside out.

Closed Loop Learning

This inside out approach actually results in a flatter learning curve at the beginning and a steeper one at the end. Here's how. When you first start with textpattern you will likely experiment with a small subset of tags. You'll put one at a time in your site and see what happens. It's not at all intimidating, because you're controlling the scope of Textpattern's activity/influence on your site. being able to isolate elements this way let's you see exactly what the CMS is doing, and how all the attributes of a tag work.

This is a whole lot better for learning than trying to examine an entire theme full of CMS calls at once, which is what you have to do with many other CMSs.

And most tags work in a very similar fashion, sharing a lot of their attributes, so you can apply what you learned with one tag to another.

And when you do run into something that doesn't seem to work, there's an active forum full of helpful Textpattern users and developers. In my case in particular, using this forum has had swifter results and on the whole been better than any formal learning experience in my life.

Extending Textpattern

Out of the box, Textpattern is lightweight. It has a small, focused feature set that provides a suprising amount of function, reliability and speed. At some point though, you will inevitably drive right off the map though as you begin building sophisticated sites that require more advanced functionality.

Textpattern allows you to extend it's function with plugins, which are simply php extensions to the core code. These can be simple or complex and can include Admin layer interaction in the back-end. Most plugins are available free of charge, and a handful of others require a modest courtesy fee.

From time to time my clients have needed plugins that provide very specific niche functions beyond the scope of existing plugins. We've always been able to find developers in the Textpattern community to step in and build plugins for us on a commissioned basis at very reasonable rates.

Just around the corner

The new crop of developers are pretty amazing (wet, bloke, jsoo, sam) and are pushing ahead with some really great new capabilities for version 5. I'm really looking forward to this version. 

All in All

Looking back on our 6 years with textpattern, I'd say it was unquestionably the right choice for the work my business does. I've occasionally used other CMSs under extenuating circumstances but I usually have to hold my nose a bit while doing so. Nothing has the straightforward simplicity and the gracefulness of Textpattern.

Creatively speaking...

Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) > 

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities.