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Posted (edited)

I've spoken briefly in other topics on how lamentable the Pages app is for those who do not possess the skills to create their own templates and layouts. The Pages app is heralded as one of the most powerful applications in the suite, and it may be for those who can harness the power it yields.  For everyone else it is a minefield to navigate and a lot of people either just give up on it or resort to plugins from the marketplace, which are generally pretty good at what they offer but they are limited by the functions which developer has designed the plugin to do.

One of the most powerful page layout generators I have come across is a WordPress plugin called the Divi Builder (made by www.elgantthemes.com) - it is one hell of a powerful tool that allows you to develop complex pages using adaptable rows and columns.  An example of some of the basic layouts offered (which can be applied on a row by row basis) is shown below:

image.png.dde95503e308199e9bc204972c59a5c4.png

At present, Pages is constrained to 1,2 or 3 column layouts which cannot be applied on a row by row basis.  For example you CAN mix some columns in Pages but you are stuck with X number of columns on top/bottom with a single column that sits above or below; you can't have single column, two/three column another single column and another two/three column layout, etc.

The other pain with Pages is that the column widths are non-negotiable; two columns will span the width of the container equally - you can't have one column take up 60% of the real estate with the other column taking up the other 40%, that is incredibly restrictive.

I'm not advocating that Pages mimic the Divi Builder in all of the features it brings - it's module based and there are loads of different modules that can be dragged into the layout - but Pages can make a start by giving more power to layouts.  That would be a massive improvement on what sits there now.

The other noticeable missing aspect is the ability to add pages to a page layout.  Very long articles would be better if they were broken into pages much like a book.  Single column layouts could have an added feature of making a page columned where the text will flow naturally from one column to another, much as it does in Microsoft Word, for those reading on wider screens.

Stacking order for columns on smaller screens would be another feature bonus where you can choose to stack the most important blocks near the top with the least important below.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as to what Pages can become as truly outstanding CMS application within the IPS Suite.  How much work would lie behind such an undertaking I have no idea, but it would be worthwhile and it would be a huge boon to those who want to harness the power of the Pages application and create some beautiful page layouts that capture the imagination.

Thoughts? More suggestions also welcome as this is something that can be of benefit to everyone.  Thanks for reading.

Edited by Davyc
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I know you are looking for changes to be made to core, but in the meantime have you looked at CSS grid template areas? I appreciate that in most cases you'll have to target entities using CSS :nth-child(), or nth child range, which is a pain, but you can come up with some very cool layouts (also see point 2 below *)

https://css-tricks.com/simple-named-grid-areas/

Two things I'd like to see in Pages:

1/ Repeating fields - see ACF Pro for how this might work.

2/ Entity CSS class names. Same goes for custom blocks, forums, in fact anything that has a config section in the ACP should have the ability to assign a class names string to the entity being edited/configured. Would make client side positioning* so much easier. I appreciate we can create and assign our own pages templates, but the lack of literal class name assignments seems a bit of an oversight to me.

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13 minutes ago, christopher-w said:

I know you are looking for changes to be made to core, but in the meantime have you looked at CSS grid template areas? I appreciate that in most cases you'll have to target entities using CSS :nth-child(), or nth child range, which is a pain, but you can come up with some very cool layouts (also see point 2 below *)

I can do all of these things myself, being a website developer for the last 20 years has stood me in good stead when it comes to this type of exercise.  However, I am not aiming this at the developers like myself who can create new templates and add scripts, CSS, etc, but for those who don't know how to do these kind of things.  Being more versatile, initially in layouts, would be a huge boon to people who don't want a rigid 1, 2, 3 column layout that is inflexible.  I imagine a lot more people would feel comfortable using pages if it were more user friendly.

I love dabbling and fiddling with templates and code, it's in my blood lol.  But those souls who haven't a clue are left out in cold and prevented from using a very powerful application.

My example of Divi is what I would like to see Pages become, initially in terms of layout options; it could then progress to being a more useable and powerful application with additional modules (or blocks) being created, not just by IPS, but also third parties.

Your other mentions of options 1 and 2 above are another area that would prove very useful for those of us who do like to get our hands dirty and fiddle with code and CSS.  Anything that can extend the usability of the application for both novices and coders would be a boon.

Thanks for taking the time to comment Chris, always appreciated 🙂

 

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Posted (edited)

I agree - I've been exploring use of Pages as a means to potentially migrate a long-running Wordpress into InvisionCommunity (I've used Invision for my forums for the last 15 years or so), but as much as I adore the concept of having a unified theme/account integration for forums and site content, Pages isn't quite there yet for me and needs some attention. Hopefully now that 4.6 is out the door, Pages can be the next app to get InvisionCommunity's full focus.

I certainly think that being able to splinter longform articles via pagination is a useful idea, as is the ability to dynamically modify a page's layout using different block formats.

I've been thinking about it, and I'd love to see the following improvements implemented into the Pages app in some way too:

1. Multiple Category Selection

It would be great if it was possible to assign a record in a database to more than one category. My Wordpress blog allows me to set a news post as either a ‘Games’ story, a ‘Movies’ story or both if the news concerns both mediums.

2. Change URL Slugs per Database

At the moment, the definition is [domain.com]/[database_name]/[category_name]/[record_slug], and this is true for any and all databases you can create in Pages. Would be good to get some options on this - being able to use [YEAR]/[MONTH]/[record_slug] instead would keep things in uniform with a blog style.

3. Remove "-r" suffix on URL per Database

I can understand the reason for the 'revision' suffix in a record URL if you're using it for a "wiki" like database of some sort. Doesn't really lend itself well for blog-style page URLs, or other potentially interesting uses of the Pages app. Should be a setting on the database-level in AdminCP to automatically remove the "-r" in a Page record slug by default, instead of asking writers to manually remove it after creating each post.

4. Pages Media Library

I still don't really understand the use case for the internal Pages Media Library in AdminCP (Pages > Page Management > Media). What is it for, exactly? I thought it was going to be a 'media gallery' that could be used by Page authors across the entire database (similar to Wordpress' Media Gallery). But its use is extremely limited. It doesn't appear when creating a new article/record. The only way to use an image uploaded to this Media Library is to remember the media tag for each image and include it (and even then it only works in Page templates). It's quite useless, especially when the Theme Resources section exists.

This should be re-imagined as a dedicated Page Database media library, accessible to usergroups with the ability to post records - with editable filenames and support for images, video, files etc. It should be accessible via the WYSIWYG post editor and the media contained here sandboxed from all other media uploaded by users (Gallery entries, Attachments, etc). You could set either a 'global' media library for everything related to Pages, or a separate media library for each Page Database.

5. Allow Categories to be set in Menu Manager

I can set specific Pages as a Primary/Secondary navigation menu item in Menu Manager, but not the categories associated with a particular database. At the moment I have to set them as External Links, which doesn't allow for a consistent design when using CSS to style 'active' secondary nav links.

6. Ability to pull from multiple databases in Widgets/Loops

This might already be possible re: the Loop and it's something I'm not aware of, but I have two databases ('News' and 'Articles') that I want to be able to combine if I wanted to. For example, on a Homepage I might want to build a block that contains latest News specifically, and a second block that pulls all the latest posts from both News and Articles. I feel like that shouldn't be too difficult to do...

7. Do Not Post Duplicate Topics when using Copy to Database Function

8. Do Not Modify Original Topic Content when using Copy to Database Function

9. Add Post Topic Meta when using Copy to Database Function

I explain these last three in more detail in a topic I created a month or so ago, but basically the 'Copy to Database' function doesn't lend itself well to non-wiki style Page-Forum integration. The idea currently is that, if an author decides to write a news story (for example), a Page record and an associated Forum topic is created together, with Page comments and Topic replies merged. However, if an author decides to write a news story based on a topic that exists already, using 'Copy to Database' will result in a Page record, a new duplicate Forum topic AND the existing Forum topic. There needs to be a way to override the Post Topic feature, while keeping the Comments-Replies integration.

When using 'Copy to Database', the existing Forum topic content is also changed to reflect the new Page record. For instance, an author re-writes the text from the Forum topic when developing the Page record, to make it read better as a news story. The original topic should not be modified if this happens; I'm not entirely sure why this is considered normal behaviour in Pages anyway.

The Topic Meta idea just adds a little nice site-forum integration to the Copy to Database feature, and isn't really necessary... but I think it would help make a forum community feel more connected to the news/article side of the website, if they were made aware that their topic contributions were also having an impact on the associated news story.

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Sorry for going on and on - there's a LOT to Pages that I like but I think if your ideas and the above ideas are followed through on, I would feel a lot more comfortable taking my Pages install out of a test environment and look to fully building it into a revamped version of my community. 🙂  Thanks for making the topic, great ideas!

Edited by Dreadknux
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6 minutes ago, Dreadknux said:

Sorry for going on and on - there's a LOT to Pages that I like but I think if your ideas and the above ideas are followed through on, I would feel a lot more comfortable taking my Pages install out of a test environment and look to fully building it into a revamped version of my community.

Sometimes you have to take a longer route to express your desires for the application to provide for.  Everything you mentioned I agree with and I am not under the illusion that this is something that can be cobbled together and added quickly.  The whole Page application needs a complete overhaul and revamp.  It's showcased as potentially the most powerful application in the suite, but its use cases are incredibly limited, especially for novices who would probably love to use the application but user experience is sadly lacking for this group of users. Not everyone is a coder, not everyone can manipulate backend code and CSS to achieve a desired outcome, so for the uninitiated Pages is taken out of their reach.  

With some imagination and seeing what other page builders can do, especially with drag and drop, Pages could become the most sought after application in the suite.  Let's see what the dev team come back with in response to our observations and request 🙂

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  • 5 weeks later...
On 7/6/2021 at 11:03 AM, Davyc said:

One of the most powerful page layout generators I have come across is a WordPress plugin called the Divi Builder (made by www.elgantthemes.com) - it is one hell of a powerful tool that allows you to develop complex pages using adaptable rows and columns.

There are quite a few very, very powerful page builders out there, which do a great job at giving you easy-to-use tools to create awesome-looking and super-customizable (!) pages without any coding knowledge. Wordpress has these, Joomla has these, Drupal (to some extend) has these... just to name some big, free CMS.

Personally I think this is the future. There will always be tech-savy people who know how to create templates, use html, css, js, php and whatnot... and of course a community software should offer everything that allowes for maximum customization by anyone who is able to do so. But the vast majority has (very?) little knowledge regarding the technical background, and honestly, they just do not care. They want to focus on both creating and displaying content. For that they need tools... easy to use, with a maximum of flexibility. In the upcoming years, I think a complete community software has to offer more than "just" forums, galleries etc. They will always be needed and there will always be room for those, but around all that it needs a powerful CMS.

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2 minutes ago, MMXII said:

There are quite a few very, very powerful page builders out there, which do a great job at giving you easy-to-use tools to create awesome-looking and super-customizable (!) pages without any coding knowledge. Wordpress has these, Joomla has these, Drupal (to some extend) has these... just to name some big, free CMS.

Yep - and that's where we (or at the very least, I) see the future of Pages - but those apps also have huge open-source communities or a large development team focusing only on that product. It's not something we can click our fingers and bring to life, but it is in our minds.

Speaking personally, I have a pretty clear picture of what Pages could be and what would set it apart from the other visual page builders out there, but for the time being that'll stay internal until a definite roadmap is planned out.

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5 minutes ago, Rikki said:

It's not something we can click our fingers and bring to life, but it is in our minds.

Of couse creating a next-level Pages app requires lots of work... - and thinking, because if it is not done right, I doubt it will have a chance on a market that is heavily influenced by said page builders more and more people get used to. I am glad though that you have this on your minds and I am very curious what you will come up with in the (hopefully 🙂) somewhat near future.

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20 hours ago, Rikki said:

All of this is on our radar - it's obviously not trivial though. Trust me, I probably use Pages more than anyone else, so I'm certainly aware of the pain points and potential future for it 🙂 

Thanks Rikki - great to see that there's interest in these ideas! I know that some of them might require a bit of heavy work/rework (I'm thinking the categories idea I mentioned in particular might involve some reworking of how Pages works with taxonomies/saved records in database). But I know that there's loads of ways Pages can be integrated into the Core community app - for me, fine-tuning the relationship between Pages-As-A-Blog and Forum/Topics would really elevate the Pages app into something special. 🙂 

Happy to be patient and wait for when some of this can come to fruition - looking forward to the next generation of Pages!

Edited by Dreadknux
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  • 2 weeks later...

I would love to see improvements in the pages module. I see there are many features being added to the core software instead of improving the existing and powerful ones. It's as if IPS wanted to add as many features as possible when they should focus on the key ones and improve them before starting with another. The Pages module is great but it's not being updated. It's a very powerful module but I can't see any updates or new features being added. However, I can see other features like points, badges, etc, that not everyone will use.

 

Edited by OptimusBain
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