Quick Take Review - Vivvo Web CMS
Vivvo is an Web Content Management System based on the popular LAMP stack of technologies. Built by Serbian software house, Spoonlabs, the product is designed to deliver and manage interactive publishing websites.

This PHP-based Web CMS features a modern AJAX-ified user interface, a clean and easy to use backoffice set of tools, and the ability to create your front-end website without having to write a line of code. Come along as we take a closer look under the covers.

A commercially available web content management system built on an open source stack, the Vivvo content management system is targeted at the small publisher who wants an interactive publishing website.

While it doesn't have all the basic functionality you would expect in a content management system -- specifically workflow and versioning capabilities are missing -- it does provide a clean and easy to use website administration interface, and enables you to create and manage your front-end website without much of a learning curve or much technical skill.

Vivvo also provides the ability to have subscription-based membership sections on your website, a common need for small publishers.

The Basic Story

Vendor Spoonlabs d.o.o, launched in 2005, based in Belgrade Serbia
Product Name
Vivvo CMS (online demo)
Product Category
Simple Web CMS (on LAMP), evolving towards mid-level or department level Web CMS
Typical Scenario
A good web content management system for small to mid-sized interactive publishing websites with a small number of writers/editors.

Company & Product History

The company behind Vivvo CMS is Spoonlabs d.o.o, a privately owned company located in Belgrade, Serbia. Started in 2005, it has nine full time employees and is privately owned and operated. Vivvo CMS is their only product.

The concept of Vivvo was brought to life in 2004 by Spoonlab's founder, Boris Krstovic. A freelance web developer at the time, he wanted a CMS that was simple use, yet modular and powerful, to help him deploy websites for his clients.

The solution -- Vivvo CMS -- started life as a simple bundle of PHP scripts and has gone through several major evolutions to become the web content management solution it is today. The current version,  recently released, is v4.1.

Market & Pricing

Vivvo is what we at CMSWire would term a "simple web content management system". It is currently suitable for the small business market, primarily targeted to smaller publishing companies who don't have a large number of writers and/or editors. It could be used for blog sites, magazines and online journals, including publishers who want subscription-based capability on their website.

Some of Vivvo's current customer base include websites from across Europe and a few in North America. Examples include:

There are also licenses targeted towards web design/development studios who want to integrate a content management system into their website designs for their customers (Clover Content CMS has the same type of offering).

Vivvo is a commercially available software product. There are four types of licenses you can purchase, as defined below: 

Standard US$ 195   Single Website, Full source code, Standard SLA, Customization Rate US$ 60/hour, plug-ins and add-on cost
Professional
US$ 295 Single Website, Full source code, Private Label, custom users/groups, Fast Caching, Custom Fields, Standard SLA, Customization Rate US$ 60/hour, plug-ins and add-on cost
Developer
US$ 999 Unlimited websites, Full source code, Private Label, custom users/groups, Fast Caching, Custom Fields, Premium SLA, Customization Rate US$ 40/hour, plug-ins and add-on free
Corporate
Inquire
Unlimited websites, Full source code, Private Label, custom users/groups, Fast Caching, Custom Fields, Premium SLA, Customization Rate US$ 40/hour, plug-ins and add-on free, direct input into development process, emergency telephone support, multiple developer and technical contact support

Depending on the license one selects, you are paying for a level of support (technical and developer) and free add-ons (like plug-ins and themes/templates).

The Developer License enables you to use Vivvo as the underlying CMS for websites you develop for clients as long as the solution is a not a packaged solution you sell to multiple clients. So basically, each solution you develop must be a unique, standalone website.

All four licenses enable you to download the source code and extend it for your use as defined in the license. The license is renewed every year and includes access to the Member section of the Vivvo website where all patches and upgrades are located and access to the support area of the website.

Spoonlabs does plan to release the PHP framework (Vivvo framework and VTE template engine) for public download under the BSD license sometime this year.

Key Features and Ratings

Core Technologies

Vivvo CMS is built on the LAMP stack of open source technologies: Linux, Apache, PHP and MySQL. It is an object oriented solution developed using a MVC (model-viewer-controller) application architecture.

The system runs on the Apache webserver, and although the company claims that it will install on any webserver that supports PHP, they state that it will probably not work properly if run with servers other than Apache.

Additional system requirements include:

  • expat - PHP extension for XML parsing
  • GD Library - Image manipulation
  • PCRE extension - Regular expression library
  • Write Access - Ability to write files to the webserver
  • SendMail/SMTP - For email notification functionality

Content Entities

The most basic content entity in Vivvo is the article. Each article includes fields such as title, abstract, body, image abstract and caption, and can include images and attachments. Additional metadata includes publishing date, article category, status and author.

Vivvo_ArtEdit_Sm.jpg

You can also provide a search engine friendly article page name and metadata keywords and descriptions.

Custom Content Fields: In instances where you need more fields than are currently provided for the Article content entity, Vivvo does provide a custom field mapping feature that allows you to add new properties (fields). This is done through programming and thus requires technical skills.

In addition to the core article content entity, you can also create static web pages, for example an About Us page. 

Articles are placed into Categories (one category per article) and displayed on the website by their Category. Categories can be nested.

Editorial Features

The WYSIWYG editor is TinyMCE and users can also easily cut and paste from MS Word or another word processing application.

The editor does not include an option for spell checking, nor is there any version comparison capability.

You can easily see what articles you are working on by setting search criteria on the Article Listing Home Page. You can also view articles by Date, Publishing Status, Author, Keywords, Tags and Category.

In addition you can create custom search filters and view articles by these filters.

There is no task list capability available.

Security

There are several different roles out of the box for authoring and editing content in the Vivvo CMS:

  • Writer: Writes Articles that need to be approved prior to publishing, restricted by category if required
  • Editor: Writes and edits articles for either the entire website or selected categories
  • Admin: System wide controller
  • Trusted Writer: A special writer who can directly publish their own articles for specific categories

In addition, there are two roles for users of the website for membership subscriptions.

  • Member: Reads articles free of charge, can make comments and rate articles
  • Premium Member: Created when you have special sections that cost money to view

But you don't have to use these roles. With Vivvo you can create an unlimited number of roles and groups with customized permissions.

 

VV_UsersRoles.jpg

 

You can create a group that has specific rights to read, write or edit all of the website or only selected categories. You can also specify if users of this group can moderate comments on articles, access the Admin site or Upload content to the site. So for example you could create a group called "Comment Moderators" and just allow them to manage comment submissions. Again, this is probably a handy thing for publisher.

In addition, you can create a basic workflow rule for the group that includes how the status of an article can be automatically changed. There is no limit to the number of rules a group can be assigned.

 

VV_GrpWorkflow.jpg

 

You can also indicate what rights a group has on the front-end (the actual website), including whether they can comment on, tag or rate an article (useful if you want to create a number of different types of membership options).

And finally, you can specify which plug-ins a group can manage.

Content Versioning

There is no versioning capability in Vivvo at this time, though it's expected in a future release.

Workflow

Out of the box workflow is basic. It consists of being able to mark an article as Pending for Review by an editor. Depending on the role assigned to a writer, articles may automatically be set in this state when saved. See the Security section for more details on groups and roles.

Multi-Lingual Support

Vivvo CMS is a multi-lingual content management system. However, the out of the box website and administration are based on a single language only. The product currently has 20 different language packs including some languages that are right-to-left based.

Content Administration

The Administration Website is AJAX-powered and is easy to navigate and use.

Vivvo_Admin.jpg

Vivvo Administration Dashboard

The main screen has a dashboard that provides a number of things such as:

  • Basic Website statistics (number of categories, tags, articles, comments, registered members)
  • System Statistics (database size, files uploaded, cache size)
  • Today's Statistics
  • Activity Log
  • Quick Link Navigation to Manage Categories, Articles, Comments, Users, Plug-ins, Layout)

There is an Administration Preferences Section that lets Administrators set preferences for the website and how it will operate.

Vivvo_Preferences.jpg

Vivvo Administration: Website Preferences

In the Preferences section you can set basic information for the website such as title and metadata, you can specify the modules that are active and available for use, set page caching parameters (if you have that feature), turn on membership capabilities, manage how comments and articles are set-up and more.

There's also a maintenance section to manage the back-end for things like backups, indexing and cache clearing.

Vivvo Layouts

One of the nice features with Vivvo is the ability to create the front-end website (content presentation) without coding. You can use the default templates and themes that come with Vivvo or download any number of themes and templates from their website (assuming you have the correct support option).

You can set the look and feel for the entire website, including what elements and content to display and where. You can also select themes for the entire site or for categories.

Vivvo_layouts.jpg

Vivvo Administration: Managing Presentation Layouts

Through the Vivvo back office you can directly view layouts, themes, and additional widgets and plug-in available on the Vivvo website and download them to your webserver.

The product is quite flexible and you can use the layouts and templates as is, or customize them directly in the admin tool.

Vivvo_ModTemp.jpg

Vivvo Administration: Modifying Presentation Templates

Social Media Capabilities

Vivvo CMS has a number of built-in Web 2.0 capabilities including:

  • Article tools: Email to Friend, Print, Subscribe
  • Comments (RSS subscription, Moderation, CAPTCHA, optional support for 3rd party avatars)
  • Tagging
  • Social Bookmarking

Along with these out of the box Web 2.0 features Vivvo is able to integrate with third party social media solutions like Vbulletin® and Invision Power Board forums.

Vivvo provides additional tutorials on integrating with Apture to provide rich multi-media solutions for your website.

If you're interested in Web 2.0 content management concepts, see our previous article entitled What is Web 2.0 Content Management.

Customizability & Integration

Vivvo is based on open source technology and as a product is moving more towards becoming open source (the Vivvo framework is due to be released as BSD open source). At this time however, it is our understanding that while clients will have access to the source code, the core product will continue to be protected under commercial copyright, and presently there is no public source code repository available for contributions and updates.

Clients can extend the product. Thanks to the modular interfaces, you can develop new plugins and extensions on top of the Vivvo framework.The framework is made up of of Modules, Objects , URL Handlers and Actions, and Services. Although there is developer documentation available to help to understand the Vivvo framework, like many young products (perhaps all products?) it is not fully complete.

Vivvo provides a large number of widgets and plug-ins which come from the open source community. Some of these are free and some are not. All can be easily downloaded and integrated in the Vivvo CMS.

A few plug-in examples include:

  • Mobile/PDA plug-in: Ability to browse the website using mobile devices
  • Feed Importer: Pull XML/RSS feeds from other websites into your Vivvo website
  • Newsletter Plug-in: Manage a newsletter for your website
  • Image Gallery Plug-in: Manage images for articles and show an image gallery within an article

In addition there are a number of widgets also available.

To help with customization of the Vivvo framework and other support type information, Vivvo has a number of community forums available.

Content Delivery Architecture

The Vivvo CMS is a fully dynamic content management solution that leverages a custom template engine and multiple caching options (if you purchase a Professional or above license).

 

Vivvo_Framework.jpg

 

The Vivvo Template engine (VTE) is the core of the delivery platform. It is lightweight and easy to use and develop on. Documentation is provided to help you learn and work with the VTE, but as previously noted, documentation is an evolving project.

Vivvo is not currently built to run on a multi-server architecture. What this means is that your front-end website runs on the same server as your Admin site. It also means you have to get a bigger server to support your website as traffic grows -- and we know there are limits to how well upsizing will work.

Some of the largest site it supports today have 10,000 unique visitors per day and roughly 5 million page views per month.

Down the road a ways Vivvo is moving towards a REST architecture, which will allow the presentation tier to be distributed across multiple servers. This will enable better scalability and high availability implementation designs.

Similar Products

There are a couple of ways we could look at products similar to Vivvo. The first is looking at similar LAMP-based web content management systems of roughly the same size. A few that bear mentioning include: ExpressionEngine, SilverStripe, CMS Made Simple and MODx.

The other way we would look at similar products is based on usage scenario -- in this case publishing and media based websites. Here we would have to mention: Kentico Web CMS, Website Director and SiteFinity. And up the complexity scale a bit, we'd need to mention Clickability, Nstein and eZ Publish.

In all cases, the feature matching is not exact and some offerings may have more or less capabilities that Vivvo in different areas.

Summary

Here's a summary table of the review (rating is 0.0-5.0 with 5.0 being the best):

Feature Description Rating
Product Core Technology LAMP Stack - PHP, MySQL, Apache, Linux  4.0
Content Entities Articles, pages, programmtic customization  2.5
Editorial Features TinyMCE, no spellcheck, no versioning  2.5
Content Versioning  None  0.0
Content Workflow  Limited states, no extensions  1.0
Multi-lingual Support  Supports 20 different languages, LTR and RTL support  5.0
Content Administration  Clean, easy to use,  quick links, search  4.0
Social Media Capabilities  Basic for commenting, tagging, social bookmarking  3.0
Security
Customizable users/groups based on needs, able to create basic workflow rules for user/group, limited permissions  4.0
Content Delivery Architecture  In-house solution, does not support multi-server environment, does have multi-level caching  2.5

At its simplest, Vivvo is suitable for a smaller publishing and media website. It has the basic functionality required to create and publish articles and basic information pages. Articles can be categorized and visitors can rate them, bookmark them, make comments, etc..

You can secure sections of the website and make them available via subscription. This functionality is available out of the box.

The ability to create a security schema for authoring and editing based on your own needs is a great benefit to this Web CMS. Especially considering the membership subscription functionality and commenting moderation that must be applied.

What's missing that is usually critical to publishing websites is the ability to version the content and provide workflow (i.e., reviews and approvals).

Also missing a robust digital asset management feature -- something most media websites have a great demand for. There is an Asset Manager plug-in that comes installed with the Web CMS by default that provides basic functionality for managing images (including image galleries) and files, but it isn't a full featured DAM solution. Spoonlabs has more robust DAM functionality on the near side of the roadmap, we're told.

Up Coming Releases

According to Spoonlabs founder, Boris Krstovic, there are big enhancement and feature plans for Vivvo Web CMS over the next two years. These include more complete workflow functionality, content versioning, improvements to the DAM features and more sophistication in the presentation architecture. Version 4.2, expected in Q2 of this year, will bring the first big workflow improvements.

The coming architecture enhancements -- breaking the system down with a REST API and front-end and Admin API clients will be a bit longer in development and are expected in the next major release.

Additional features on slated for the next two releases include:

  • Robust document/asset management
  • Lucene-based search (both PHP and Java based)
  • Ability to integrate popular authentication protocols like LDAP

Final Thoughts

If you have a small publishing company that needs a website and have only a few content writers and editors, then Vivvo Web CMS is a solution to consider. Fewer writers generally mean less need for workflow and versioning (something you may be able to accomplish using a word processing application).

Perhaps it's what is promised from Vivvo in the next couple of years that makes it an interesting option. Having a well laid out roadmap is something all content management providers need to show they are keeping up.

What is just as critical is the follow through. The next 12 months will tell the tale for Vivvo. If they prove able to deliver on their promises, we think they have a bright future ahead.