Open source content management provider Magnolia (news,site) has set a clear, but lofty aspiration for itself – provide the best user experience of any web-based CMS on the market. Magnolia has set a goal and is adjusting its focus to achieve it. The company has selected web framework Vaadin to revamp its interface and, it hopes, become known for the most intuitive user interface in the market.

Simple, Usable Content Management

Magnolia has always strived to provide a CMS that is intuitive to use and supports most common enterprise use cases; the company even adopted the mantra “simple open source content management” to signify its commitment to delivering an easy to use platform. Magnolia believes the new interface will be a significant factor in achieving its goals.

The current version of Magnolia’s user interface (UI) leverages a custom, internally developed library. Magnolia’s UI is the only major area of the platform that hasn’t embraced standards. The team decided to address the issue with Magnolia 5. In the next version of the software, Magnolia plans to switch to an existing, established, well-proven, documented and externally maintained library instead of continuing to enhance its proprietary solution. This change will allow the company to focus on user interface functionality instead of low-level details such as fixing browser incompatibilities in widgets.

Moving to a standard UI framework is probably a wise move for Magnolia. But, which one? After a significant amount of testing, discussion and debate Magnolia selected Vaadin an open-source Java toolkit for building rich web applications, to implement version 5 of the CMS. Vaadin provides numerous benefits such as:

  • A rich framework for developing UI widgets
  • Intuitive for Java developers
  • Customizable look and feel using CSS
  • Out-of-the-box theming
  • Extensive documentation
  • Support for a variety of web servers

The framework also provides a collection of UI components for composing an application. Magnolia is enthusiastic about the benefits Vaadin will bring to Magnolia 5. According to Boris Kraft, Magnolia CTO,

“We conducted a rigorous review and testing process in selecting the underlying technology for our next-generation, open source web CMS – employing such criteria as agility, security, efficiency, theming, collaboration, and community backing – and found that Vaadin consistently scored at or near the top.”

Leveraging Vaadin, Magnolia’s upgraded interface will support touch, mouse and keyboard input, allowing the CMS to support iPad and other touch devices that are replacing traditional computer interfaces. The framework will also allow Magnolia to be more consistent in its appearance. Whether a module was created by Magnolia’s core developers or a contributor, the components will look and feel the same.

Magnolia is betting the rich, easier-to-use administrative interface will be a differentiator in the competitive open source content management market. Magnolia CMS 5.0 with its Vaadin-based GUI is slated for release in the second half of 2011