Archive for December 2015
Posted December 16, 2015on:
Nowadays content management systems (CMS) have become not just publishing tools, but also a powerful means for automotive management of a web-project. CMSs allow display, edit, indexing and publish content easily, make the adjustment of the interface and functional features flexible.
There are a number of systems that require being a high-qualified web-master to work on the project successfully and this article deals with how to choose the right CMS that would be the best match for a project in terms of design, programming and usability.
The choice of the CMS could turn out to be a backbreaking task because the choice is extensive. However, a structured approach towards evaluating of the existing systems could make the choice easier.
Thus, let us talk over the criteria and what we should sharp our attention on, while taking a decision.
Below you could find 8 characteristics, that a good CMS should have:
1. Intuitiveness (easy in mastering and use)
Your CMS should have pretty simple and easy graphic user interface (GUI). A good interface means that the publishing of the content will be fast, will save a lot of time and increase productivity.
It is also vital from the end user point of view; I mean that if you develop a CMS that requires deep technical knowledge for an IT illiterate customer, he unlikely will be able to use it; therefore, it will abolish the whole idea of the CMS- to widen the customers’ opportunities.
2. Flexibility, easy adjustment
While choosing a CMS make sure that, you are not obliged to use your own templates. A number of CMSs allow using custom design with no limitations. In case a CMS gives you a limited template library, you are deprived of creative freedom and your site will not look individually.
Some of the adjustable CMS in accordance with the selected templates: Expression Engine, WordPress, Joomla, etc.
3. Module and plugin adjustment
A good CMS will allow you to add its useful features to your project, increasing the standard configuration with the help of plugins.
Plugin/ extensions/ modules (a various terminology is used for each platform) allow users to improve their project with useful parameters for interaction with the site.
It is better to select a CMS with powerful Application Programming Interface (API) in case you need custom extensions. Make sure that your CMS has an extensive list of the applied plugins. Though in the beginning you may not require a lot of them, still this need could arise later and it is vital that plugins are available for you in future.
4. No Need in Coding Knowledge
If you are more «design-oriented» than anything else is, make sure you select a CMS where you will not need to have extensive programming abilities to publish and maintain your site.
There is a wide selection of CMS’s that have WYSIWYG editors, letting you edit content without the need for code. Having to edit text through HTML markup can be time consuming and takes you away from other aspects of your managing and building your site.
Complex sites, however, can require a CMS that will let you type in some code, edit files with extensions such as .php, .css, .html, and make changes without that need for a third-party source code editor.
5. Optimized for Performance and Speed
Taking into consideration the speed your pages load on the browser, and how fast your site can make a connection to a server, is vital. Choosing a CMS that is bulky will drive away visitors rather then bring them in. By visiting examples of live sites, you will be able to gauge somewhat how fast pages load.
Keep in mind that you can increase the load time of your site by choosing a good host, and adding plugins that cache/compress/minify feeds, CSS, JS and also caches your database objects.
A simple and free tool that you can use to evaluate page response times of your CMS candidates is YSlow. Install it and head on over to demo sites of your CMS’s to see how well it’s front-end performs.
Adequate security for your site is very important and must be in place in order to protect your content. There are CMS’s that allow you to install specific plugins and edit files/permissions in order to increase security levels. Make sure you choose a management system that offers modules to protect the integrity of your site. You can also protect your site by selecting a CMS that allows you to assign easily a different username and password to each user. This will let you view and control what each user has access to.
7. Documentation and Community Support
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out how to do something, and not have references online that you can take advantage of. One way to ensure that you will not be running into this problem is by reading through the documentation of your candidate CMS’s. In addition, a quick Google search will tell you how popular and well documented a content management system is.
The availability (or lack thereof) of support from users of the system can be a dealmaker or deal breaker. When users are active and proud of being part of the community, you not only have access to individuals that are more familiar with the system, but also, you can be assured that the project will be developed continually. Nothing is worse than investing your resources and effort on a dead (or soon to be dead) project.
8. Emphasis on Web Standards and Best Practices
Content Management Systems developed under web standards guidelines and best practices will ensure that you won’t get burned later down the road. When applications are designed with best practices in mind, you can be assured ultimate cross-browser compatibility, lean-and-mean code, and ease of maintenance.
Look for content management systems that promote the use of web standards, and those that put it at the forefront of their development and design philosophy.
Some Key Content Management Systems to Consider
Now that you know the key characteristics of a good content management system, let’s take a look at a handful of major CMS’s that excel in most, if not all, of those areas.
ExpressionEngine (EE) is a flexible CMS for any scope of project. Within a few minutes, you’ll understand how to easily begin creating content. EE’s templating system lets you quickly see instant changes live. EE also has a multi-layered caching system to try and minimize the database usage. In addition, EE lets you embed and run PHP directly within its templates, very similar to WordPress.
ExpressionEngine has various features such as allowing you to have multiple sites with just one installation of their software. Just as we spoke in the above section dealing with connections and load times, EE has a unique template caching, query caching and tag caching keep the site running at a quick pace by storing database queries in memory to reduce database connections when generating web pages.
Nowadays WordPress is one of the most renowned publishing platforms.
It is widely known as a great blog-platform. WordPress is an open source product, could be downloaded, and installed unlimited number of times.
WordPress installations are very quick and easy. It only takes a few minutes for your admin panel to be operational. If coding is not your strong suit, then no worries, WordPress offers its users a WYSIWYG editor (called Visual Editor).
Business Catalyst/Goodbary (owned by Adobe) is a powerful ecommerce CMS for developers. This content publishing platform has an array of useful features such as email marketing and in-depth site analytics. Business Catalyst gives you an easy way for your business to gain an online presence in no time. GB allows you to easily keep track of a customer’s actions, build and manage a customer database of any size, and sell your products and services online. Business Catalyst integrates well with a lot of popular payment systems such as PayPal, Google Checkout and pre-integrated gateways.
Joomla! is an advanced CMS with excellent function and content management. The installation process is pretty quick and easy. Joomla! is a complete CMS allowing you to build simple to advanced sites. Joomla also has super support for access control protocols like LDAP and OpenID, and can interface with popular and open API’s such as Google APIs.
With Joomla!, you’ll have more than 3,500 extensions at your disposal along with the support of an entire community. With a simple extension, you can add almost any needed functionality to your site.
One downside to Joomla! is that their heavy-artillery list of extensions often require you to purchase them. Hopefully, in the future, they will make their plugins free in order to aid users on a tight budget.
Drupal, a great open source CMS supported by a very active community, lets users publish content through any time with very little restrictions. Once the installation is finalized, you will discover features such as forums, user blogs, OpenID sign-ons, profiles and more. This CMS was written in PHP/MySQL for ease of customization and has one of the highest-regarded API’s in the open source content management system field.
Cushy CMS is a hosted and free content management system that is lightweight, though powerful enough to jumpstart your site in a moment. With Cushy CMS, you have to add CSS styles to the sections that you will eventually change or edit. This CMS allows you to access and store content while it uploads this same data to server.
Cushy was built for content editors and designers and so it is very simple and easy to manage. Being a SaaS, you do not need to install or self-maintain the CMS.
TYPOlight is a great match for assembling and support of several site simultaneously. Thus, it is an ideal solution for web-developers. With the help of TYPO CMS you are able to create a simple-designed site as well as a complex one with extensive functionality.
RadiantCMS is a Ruby on Rails app. Radiant has a very active community for core support and updates. If you are a RoR developer, it is right up your alley. Radiant has concentrated on making things much more user-friendly for end users and web designers. RadiantCMS also contains an innovative custom tagging language (called Radius) that is easy to pick up.
SilverStripe is an open source application written on top of PHP and was designed with emphasis on flexibility. SilverStripe has many configurable options and is geared towards content-heavy websites.
This CMS was completely built on its own PHP framework, called Saphire. SS offers content version control and great SEO support. All users alike are welcome to customize the administration area for their clients or themselves.
The only downside with SS is that the default templates are garbage; however, that is nothing a little hard work would not fix.
Textpattern CMS is a very popular system for many designers due to its simplicity.
Textpattern strives to provide great content management that produces quick, easy, and desirable web standards-compliant pages. There is no WYSIWYG editor because Textpattern utilizes textile markup for content generation.
The backend is very easy to use and follow. New users will learn the administration section with super speedy ease.
Alfresco is a JSP enterprise content management solution that is quick and easy to install. Alfresco lets you drop files into folders and convert those files into interactive web documents. This CMS is not as easy to become familiar with when compared to others, however, with a little bit of time investment, you will definitely get the hang of it. Alfresco could be targeted more towards the intermediate developer, although its pure functionality allows it to become very usable. The administration GUI is very organized, well maintained, and easy to navigate.
Thank you for your attention!
I hope that this article will help to make a reasonable decision on what CMS suits your particular project in the best way.
If you have experiences (good or bad) with the content management systems shown here or any tips on how to evaluate the right CMS, feel free to share in the comments, I will highly appreciate!
Business Development Manager
Professional Software Development
VR review: headsets (Oculus Rift, Gear VR, HTC Vive), platforms (Unity, WorldViz, OSVR), VR for business
Posted December 7, 2015on:
Nowadays one can easily become overwhelmed by all the virtual reality news. There was new hardware announced, heaps of games to play and peripherals that will be released for hardware soon. The majority of VR technology is on curve to come out in 2016.
Before going into the details of high-tech world, it’s important to define the difference between virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality is able to transpose the user and bring him someplace else via closed visors or goggles. Augmented reality takes our current reality and adds something to it. It does not move us elsewhere, it simply “augments” our current state of presence, often with clear visors.
Below you will find a brief breakdown of the most popular virtual reality headsets.
Oculus Rift is the most famous headset that gave rise to the current boom in VR-technology and HMD.
The latest version of the device promises a resolution of 1080×1200 in both of its OLED screens (2160×1200 total), a 90 Hz refresh rate, and a FOV (field of view) greater than 100°. It has integrated headphones which provide spatialized HRTF audio. The consumer version will be shipped in Q1 2016.
HTC Vive was created in cooperation with the Valve games creator. Valve is one of the biggest names in game publishing and digital distribution, though HTC wants to tap the headset’s potential for immersive education. The Vive lets users walk around a 15-by-15-foot space in VR, complete with two included controllers for interacting with the environment. 90 Hz refresh rate provides a good performance without any delay. Vive is connected to a PC and operates with its own gaming ecosystem.
Razer OSVR (Open Source Virtual Reality) is an open VR ecosystem meant to encompass a range of headsets, accessories and software experiences. Creators can download the software and schematics necessary to build their own OSVR headsets, or can register to buy pre-built OSVR Hacker Dev Kits. OSVR has a ton of development support, with major players such as Leap Motion, Ubisoft and Gearbox Entertainment. Razer OSVR is focused on VR developers and enthusiasts. The headset is compatible with additional components from third-party manufacturers.
Gear VR operates from your Samsung smartphone. You just need to insert your phone into the headset body. Co-developed by Oculus, Gear VR is smaller and lighter than its PC-based gadgets, and offers a mix of VR games and entertainment experiences. The Gear VR Innovator Edition is available now for both the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6. A new version was released in November 2015, and it supports the Galaxy Note 5 as well as all variations of the Galaxy S6, including the S6 Edge Plus.
Google Cardboard is an Android-based platform meant to allow anyone to experience VR cheaply. Users can build their own Cardboard headsets using Google’s schematics or buy inexpensive third-party viewers such as DodoCase or I Am Cardboard. Once you insert your Android phone into your viewer, you’ve got a virtual reality headset.
VR development tools
We reviewed most popular VR platforms for building VR projects. Most of the platforms are famous for their powerful systems which connect range of products from software to solution designs.
Unity is a flexible and powerful development platform for creating multiplatform 3D and 2D games and interactive experiences. It’s a complete ecosystem for anyone who aims to build a business on creating high-end content and connecting to their most loyal and enthusiastic players and customers.
Unreal Engine is a complete suite of game development tools made by and for game developers. From 2D mobile games to console blockbusters and VR, Unreal Engine 4 provides full cycle of tools for the development.
WorldViz is a full range of products and support, including enterprise grade software, complete VR systems, custom solution design, and application development. Its Vizard VR Toolkit provides a powerful platform for creating a new breed of visual simulations. One can build applications that provide users with the good experiences across virtual reality immersive technologies such as displays and sensors.
GameWorks VR is NVIDIA’s set of APIs, libraries, and features that enable both VR headset and game developers. GameWorks VR is aimed at game and application developers, and includes a feature called VR SLI, which provides increased performance for VR applications where multiple GPUs can be assigned a specific eye to accelerate stereo rendering. GameWorks VR also delivers Context Priority for providing control over GPU scheduling to support advanced VR features such as asynchronous time warp. There’s also a Direct Mode for treating VR headsets as head-mounted displays accessible only to VR applications. GameWorks VR is being integrated into leading game engines, such as those from Epic Games, which has announced support for GameWorks VR features in an upcoming version of the popular Unreal Engine 4.3.
OSVR platform is fully open-source, so you can have complete access to all you need (from motion control, to game engines, and stereoscopic video output) whether you’re interested in working with hardware developmental kit designs, or software plugins. Companies such as Unity, Unreal, Intel, Bosch, Razer, Sixense, and Leapmotion are all supporters of the OSVR.
High Fidelity is an open source virtual reality platform for creating a social metaverse. It’s still a work-in-progress. High Fidelity supports Java Script, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Unity, Unreal Engine, PrioVR, Sixsense, HTC Vive headset and Razer Hydra. High Fidelity has the potential to be the next Facebook in VR. For now, the majority of development in the space happens in traditional game engines like Unity and Unreal. High Fidelity’s worlds put it somewhere between those professional tools and customizable video games, opening up innovation in the space to those who are willing to get technical but don’t want to build something from the ground up.
VR technology is already right around the corner, and one must admit it’s awesome. Finally VR is becoming accessible, and it’s only the beginning, when you can now put yourself in the action of your favorite digital worlds, instead of simply gaming on a TV.
Nearly every industry will soon use VR for teleconferencing and training. VR in gaming already allows travelling into gaming titles (Rigs: Mechanized Combat League, P.O.L.L.E.N, Eve: Valkyrie, etc). All the Virtual Reality headsets currently in development will make going behind the screens feasible. For some non-gaming professionals, 3-D experiences are already transforming the way they do their jobs:
– Real Estate
Instead of spending hours driving around looking for the perfect house, savvy realtors will give clients VR tours of properties. Matterport (real estate agency in the US) is already selling a 3-D camera system to help agents create these walk-throughs.
– Mental Health
Doctors at research hospitals have used VR for decades to treat patients with burns and PTSD. But now a company called Psious offers a headset and software bundle to help therapists treat anxiety disorders like arachnophobia and fear of flying with a VR version of exposure therapy.
– Design and Engineering
Ford Motor is using Oculus tech to evaluate virtual versions of vehicles before they’re built, and startups are developing VR design tools for everyone from architects to nanotech engineers.
According to Altabel’s experience in VR development, we believe that VR has the promise to improve every aspect of technology, whether in the medical field, education, or in gaming, and with all of the emerging developers approaching this tech from their own perspective, virtual reality should be a fully realized technology by 2016.
And what do you think of Virtual Reality? Have you ever thought of trying VR in your business? Which VR platform do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments section below.
Business Development Manager
Professional Software Development
With the end of the year approaching, many experts make predictions for the market directions at least for an upcoming year. Such organizations as Gartner have already announced their visions. So let’s have a closer look at the top tech trends and discuss how it will influence of lives and business strategies.
1. The Device Mesh
The device mesh refers to an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses.
The device mesh is basically a part of Internet of Things. We all have noticed a tremendous growth in this area this year. Many companies are stating that they’ve got the best platform for internet of things. Still most of them ignore the fact that they all are just fragmented. It’s quite obvious that users would benefit more if there was an ecosystem where data was shared more broadly. This trend is expected to evolve in 2016. The value of the combination is much greater than the sum of the parts, experts say.
2. Ambient User Experience
This trend results from the previous one. It’s expected that sensors will gather more contextual information. Here experts are talking about a long-term future of immersive environments with augmented and virtual reality, but for now it’s mainly about continuity between devices and location.
“Instead of the user having to go and look for something like hotels, the device would already know what kind of hotel they are looking for based on what hotels they have picked in the past.”, experts say.
Context comes from both human and physical elements. The former is emotional state, habits, interests, group dynamics, social interactions and colocation of others, present tasks, and general goals, while the latter is the user’s absolute position, relative position, light, pressure, noise and atmosphere of the area.
3. Information of Everything
According to Gartner, by 2020, 25 billion devices will be generating data of all possible kinds about almost every topic imaginable. Looks like a chaos, doesn’t it? So the most challenging trick is to be able to sort out this data and make sense of it. Hence the need in different semantic tools, classifications and data analysis will only arise. So this is where some companies might consider expanding into.
4. Advanced Machine Learning
Another tech trend for 2016 and beyond – and tied up with the Information of Everything – is advanced machine learning. It basically means that computers are going to automate data processing by learning and adapting. The end result is artificial intelligence. In the process, much of the initial analysis can be done by machines and people will need to engage at a higher level as a result.
5. Virtual assistants
The software virtual assistants are also bringing the change. Google Now, Cortana, Alexa and Siri are just the beginning. Many specialists are exploring how they can use autonomous things and agents to augment human activity and free people for work that only people can do.
6. Adaptive Security Architecture
The majority of CIOs list security as their top priority, especially with an increased number of companies that have experienced breaches. That’s why the development of adaptive security architecture is inevitable. Techniques to avoid detection include frequently checking antivirus results and changing versions and builds on all infected servers when any traces of detection appear. Cloud-based services and open APIs only make the demand for adaptive security higher.
Among other trends, experts mention 3D-printing and bioprinting in particular, bluetooth beacon and others. These trends have already set foot in our lives, they are just going to expand further. So which of them have influenced your life in particular? Do you think one of them will outpace the others? Please share your thoughts and predictions here. Thanks a lot!