BuilderEngine is a new content management system that aims to bring together the best of the CMS worlds of open source, enterprise and software as a service (SaaS). We spoke to Chief Executive Officer Keith Killilea, and the first part of our interview with Keith is below.
You consider BuilderEngine to be like the ‘Apple’ of CMSes. How is that?
Clear design. Intuitive controls. Just how you “ed” basically – how you edit the site.
For example, one guy had emailed who’d used WordPress, and was quite used to it. The BuilderEngine interface in itself is kind of similar to WordPress – still different, but it’s quite similar to make it familiar enough for people. But he couldn’t figure out how to edit a page, because he kept going back to the dynamic composer that we have, which is basically the composer like WordPress, and that’s one way how you can build pages. But we have two different composers: there’s the dynamic composer which is for dynamic modules like blogs, etc., but when you actually want to edit something on the page, you edit inline – you edit on the page. So you don’t have to go to the back end, edit, and then go to the front end. He discovered that – came back and told us he had discovered it – and he was like “Wow, this thing’s so powerful, I didn’t even know”.
Just from the editing side, it’s really fast for editing – what do you want, do you want content, do you want YouTube, do you want something else – whereas there’s plugins for WordPress or such systems. When you add something to a page, another block, you just pick from a list. You just pick what you want. And that just works a treat for end users, or administrators updating the site – not necessarily the web designer – so they really love that sort of stuff, and it looks slick.
Actually, one person was comparing BuilderEngine and had put it up against the default WordPress, because BuilderEngine right now can only compete head-to-head with all of them out of the box: whatever they deliver out of the box, and what we deliver out of the box. We cannot compete with all of the plugins yet. We need a community, we need to build all that stuff. But just out of the box, what do you get? And just looking at WordPress, even at the system settings, you see a few nice things in their system settings, but BuilderEngine is just a whole bunch of nicely-categorised options.
BuilderEngine is combining the ease-to-use of SaaS – for end users where they just edit here and quickly change a colour there, just that real ‘ease-of-use’ – with enterprise features – like a proper file manager, document system, versioning, which are not really in the open-source world. (I’m sure there might be plugins, but just out of the box, they’re not part of the system.) So we have these as part of the system, as an enterprise CMS compared to other CMSes and their main features, wrapped in the bubble of the open-source world. Within the open source version and what you miss out of the other platforms, we’ve got the enterprise and SaaS parts in there.
So it’s not trying to be… like a mobile phone with the best camera, but the rest is rubbish: we’re trying to be an all rounder, we’re trying to set a new standard that has what was in enterprise and SaaS and open source. They should be all combined – the main features – there’s always room for developers to add all the small stuff, but we’ll never add all the small stuff. This is how it should be, moving forward to Web 3.0. We can’t move from Web 2.0 to 3.0 with just more small updates out of the box for a system, creating plugins or whatever. So BuilderEngine is setting a standard: what you download and install straight away, these are the set of features you should have out of the box, regardless of whether it is open source, enterprise or SaaS. And this is only version 1! Go back to version 1 of WordPress, see what they got, even though it was a different time, and a different, lesser language.
It’s also got gaming engine techniques from the games development side I have; we’re trying to bring those into it. There’s still a lot more – there will be more updates and there will be more of the gaming techniques coming in.
So what do you mean now by gaming techniques?
Let’s say with gaming engines – I’ll try and compare as best I can – it’s not there right now but it’s what we plan to bring in more of. You go to your page lists, you see your parent pages, your sub-pages in the back end. So when you create pages, you should be able to link them up, and then add their linked features. Let’s say you want a secondary design system, compared to the front, for ease of use – you’re a designer, you’re a developer – we want to give you more control. So from the pages, you’d have a page there in the middle, and you’d say “I want YouTube on this page” in the features, so a new bubble pops up, like a whiteboard, and you can link to that page. So basically your bubble is your page and with supporting bubbles you can link in what you want to apply with different settings for each one. So in the gaming engine, that’s sort of like one of the GUIs that is there for the Unreal Engine or Unity. We want to kind of bring that in a lot more, because HTML 5 has a lot more fancy stuff compared to Flash so some of these things wouldn’t have been possible before. We’re not creating something completely brand new but it’s just…
…a nicer way of allowing people to make connections between pages on the site and…
…pages and features. The idea is it just makes it faster for a designer. Let’s say it’s a graphic designer, or even for a programmer. If it’s a graphic designer, they can just go ‘connect’ and ‘connect’. Like right now, we have the page list, and you have to click on it and you get a whole bunch of options and you can do some stuff, but it’s not as versatile as what we plan to add in. So the idea is not to have a thousand different types of ways to do it – there is through the code – but the front end, what’s there via edit really is for someone that’s updating the website to get there quickly, for new users who are not too familiar with Drupal and who can manage WordPress, that side of things. Even enterprise CMSes, for those who use Terminal 4 for example, there’s no reason why they couldn’t use BuilderEngine. What Terminal 4 has, we basically have all the main features that can be applied. So for administrators trying to update a site – I was talking to one to find out what is their process is for updating the website with another system, and they were finding it very confusing and time consuming just to get what they needed to get done. So the idea with BuilderEngine is it’s fast. In the Apple philosophy it’s like, you’ve got your app, you click on it and it just does what you want. And you don’t have a thousand apps all on your screen: you can pick what you want, swap in and out – just clean, simple, and less is more. So that’s what we were trying to do with BuilderEngine.
Screenshot of BuilderEngine’s file manager
So what about the apps side of things, because there are obviously plugins for WordPress and modules for Drupal. How does the module system work in BuilderEngine, and how is it different from the other module systems that are out there? How can you extend, or how will you be able to extend BuilderEngine in the future?
To extend it, there’s controls within the core that you can hook in external scripts, or you can build your own one, or hook in the ones we’ve built – we’ll be building a few of the key modules that everyone really needs. You don’t have to put your code directly inside the core: you can build it outside the core, and connect it – we have the connectors there to do that. It just means you don’t have to mess with the core too much, so when system updates come up, they don’t break the core. Even in saying that, we have an internal security check for people adding something to the code, so if they modify the core files or anything. In most systems, if something has a conflict of interest, it will at worst will put a site offline – everything breaks and says “Big Error”. In BuilderEngine, it just bypasses it and then says “You’re not allowed to access this”, which is the code basically saying this is not working, we’ve just shut that portion off. It’s quite good in that way – you can add your stuff, even to a live site – the website won’t come down at all. It will stay up if there’s a mistake made, and mistakes can be made, even by the best of us. It’s just one of the things we wanted to do right, that you could add your stuff without too much fear that you’ve destroyed the whole thing. That in itself solves an industry problem that is quite common. We also have all kinds of security measures for external threats – all the normal stuff – also, in the top line of every code file, it checks itself as well.
How about SEO?
For WordPress, you need an SEO plugin to properly put in your SEO stuff. In BuilderEngine, it’s all there: there’s no plugin needed, so you’ve got your title, your meta tags, everything else thrown in. With the SEO as well, there’s some extra stuff. We’ve got a thing called automated jobs, which is also going to be an expanded premium feature. You nominate jobs that you can run to resubmit your sitemap several times and do some other miscellaneous stuff. Let’s say with versioning, as you update pages or make changes to pages – pages are automatically versioned when they are saved basically – you can roll back and forth between them all. So you could have hundreds of thousands of versions, depending on how many people are administrating the site, for example, if it’s a corporate one. You can set your automated jobs to clean up – leave the last 10 versioned pages across the board and remove all the rest at a certain point and time – so automated jobs do a few features for the SEO, making sure things are clean. Versioned pages are kept away from the robots so you don’t have duplication of content.
The next part of this interview will follow shortly. More information on BuilderEngine can be found at builderengine.com where you can download BuilderEngine Version 1 for free.