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@Ren I’d say that a good next step for you is to get a little more familiar with the development side. This is a step that I really had to push myself to evolve. Depending on the types of clients you get, you never know what will get thrown at you. If a client comes in with some off CMS, or something you may not be familiar with like Modx or like Textpattern (known but more obscure).
Perch SHOULD be a breeze – if you had trouble with it, you would definitely have trouble with Squarespace doing anything beyond the prebuilt solutions with no real customizations. LightCMS is in the same boat IMO. I really like the functionality, but after downloading a few themes and messing with it, I found it to be very clunky to work with. Perch seems on par with solutions like PageLime (which I’m not a fan of because of the remote management).
Great info guys – thanks for the suggestions. I’ve lined up a project that I think Perch will work out on, and luckily the client is someone I know which’ll be nice to go into it really seeing how well it works.
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@Ren I’d personally say that Perch should be super easy for a competent front end developer. I am not by any means a backend developer and PHP is not my strong suit. The template system for content areas, pages etc are all HTML based and you don’t need to know PHP code inside out to develop with it. I’d posit that it’s about 10x as easy as WordPress.
The only thing you may run into that may prove complicated are PHP arrays which you sometimes need to get Perch to output exactly what you want, but they have an extensive docs library at docs.grabaperch.com that usually have example arrays to help.
They also have videos and support there. Also, with their support they’re always really hot on it, whenever I post a ticket Drew or Rachel come back within a half hour with information or request more details and do really try to help.
If all you want to do is create simple editable zones than yes Perch is easy but as soon as you start to use any of their applications, such as galleries, events or calendars it can become very complicated. I’m glad you have a lot of support from Drew and Rachel Andy because I have found them incredibly unhelpful. I feel like every time I ask for help they just brush me off or say something incredibly obvious and unhelpful.
I ended up having to pay a developer to finish the project and there are still glitches, which funnily enough Rachel just palmed me off to this forum because she says it’s a CSS problem, which I don’t think it is.
Personally I don’t think developers should be recommending perch as a ‘easy’ CMS to designers, many designers just simply don’t have the skills to use it and the support provided is inadequate! I used it after being recommended by a developer on a similar forum and it is one of my few regrets in life. Perch wasted a lot of my time, caused me a lot of stress and cost me money. So Ben_boomer, unless your confident with PHP code I would stay well clear of Perch and stick with something like word press that seems to work for many people.
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I’m sorry but I completely disagree, Perch is not complicated for front end designer/developer, or at least it really shouldn’t be if they know the standard amount required to create straightforward well coded sites.
It’s all HTML based, creating templates is easy and all of the required PHP is included in their documentation (if you read it) so I fail to see the complexity for a front end developer, especially compared to other CMS systems like Joomla, Drupal & WordPress et al. It’s the simplest of all of them.
Can you mention the issue you had? I’m sure we can confirm if it was a CSS or Perch issue.
I had the same experience with Perch as @Ren. Making some editable areas was simple. But the moment I tried to take the next step it was awful.
Perch is advertised as giving a great support. And it is true – you get answers from the developers quickly. Mainly on their forum. But those answers were exactly like @Ren described them. Frugal. Short. Useless. In my opinion (my opinion) the developers of Perch lack empathy for non-developers. I could see, that questions dealing with complicated code problems were answered more thoroughly than stupid questions like mine.
All of my emails with questions I asked if Perch was the right thing for me, that I addressed to the developers before buying Perch, were ignored.
The documentation of Perch is very rich and complex but for me it was a labyrinth. Just to give an idea of how navigating through their support/documentation is in real life :
The main nav bar at the top of the documentation site has 14 menu items (fourteen). Then there is a sidebar with up to another 9 menu items. Thats 23 menu items. Plus sub menus. Plus links in the text. What Perch really needs is a designer. Not to pretty things up, but to manage their content.
I think it is remarkable that the developers of Perch offer a tool for managing content on the web and at the same time don’t seem to have an idea of how to manage their own content on the web for being accessed for understanding. At least by non-experienced developers, as in “ambitious starters”.
Now I guess that their software is actually excellent. But it is far from being “easy”.
Hi! Drew from Perch here.
Just to be sure @zander‘s circumstance is clear, he only posted twice for support and seemed happy with the help he got in both cases. After 3 days with the product and frustration getting his local MAMP dev environment set up, he asked for a refund. We processed the refund same day and wished him well.
One of the most difficult challenges in software design is being both simple and powerful. Throw in ‘flexible’ and you have a simple-powerful-flexible Triple Constraint triangle. Pick two. In fact, hitting even one is hard.
We try and make Perch very quick and easy for the simple cases. That enables you to get up and running with some content managed pages pretty simply. Once you want to get into more advanced techniques and building more complex pages, there’s a bit more learning to do. Some will take to that easier than others, which is fine.
It’s a bit like CSS. Learning some simple CSS to apply font styling is quick and easy – most people could master the basics in under an hour. Want to lay out an entire page with a grid system and have it work in multiple browsers? That’s more work – and it’s not just learning syntax, you have to understand some fundamentals about things like floats, inline and block layout, media queries, the box model, all sorts. It’s not super difficult, it just takes time and bunch of learning.
And that’s what we all do if we’re professional designers and developers who are charging clients money to build them websites. They’re paying us to have this expertise, and to implement it on their project. That’s the job, and it’s one that most of us love.
As for designing documentation, man, that’s so hard to do. I think we must have been through maybe five or six designs for our docs in the 7 years Perch has been going. The massive, massive challenge with documentation is that everyone needs something different and thinks about documentation in a different way. Finding a structure that matches the needs of every user in every circumstance is impossible. The other challenge is we have a lot of it.
At the moment our approach is to put all the docs for templates together, and then all the docs for retrieving content together. (The alternative approach would be to cluster things by function, or by task.) This tends to work well, but you need to understand some fundamental principles first. To address that, we have a massive amount of video content, including a full walkthrough from installation to building a site. And then we try to have good search on top of it all.
It’s not perfect, but we have put a lot of thought and work into it – it’s not just random. And yes, there’s 14 items in the global navigation on that page, but in three hierarchies. This page as 13. Usability is more important than accountancy.
Hope that’s helpful!
Was it 3 days? I thought it was four (plus some nights).
But you are probably right with what you say about the learning curve of this stuff in general. But since you only give 7 days to decide and get a refund, one has to hurry up with Perch.
For setting up MAMP, there is a tiny real world detail to know, which is provided by Chris Coyier in his Screencast on MAMP, because he obviously stumble into that same pitfall.
I think it would be a good idea to provide help for such real world pitfalls into a support documentation, when they have an effect on using your product. Even if that means giving support about someone else’s App. Like some people do, when they give a hint if things work differently on Mac or Windows. Its not a big deal, but it can help with the little things, that can drive you nuts and take for hours. The answer from the Perch support was basically: Ask the MAMP support. Now, that might be correct, but there is a better way to handle these things, especially when you praise yourself with your support.
Yes, I was happy with the support a user on your forum gave.
As for usability, I think this page is a good example of what I mean:
Its a wall.
Yes, there are video tutorials but they have the same character as your support answers. They don’t help so much if you are not a developer, who already knows the concepts of a CMS in more detail than just in general. If you want to address customers that aren’t full stack developers, than you might want to consider this problem.
And maybe this was my biggest misunderstanding. I hoped that Perch would give me, as being a beginner, an entrance into that. But it just didn’t.
Now, I don’t mean to troll Perch here. I also gave you some of my thoughts on improving your documentation and tutorials in an email. I would be glad if it was helpful.
Talking about it:
There is a little detail that is so obvious, that one can oversee it. On your site you don’t differentiate between documentation and a user guide. Its “Documentation” only. There are tuts and explanations and stuff, but there is basically no user guide.
If you already had 6 re-designs of your docs in 7 years, than you are holding it wrong. Its a sign that you are in a trap. It doesn’t make sense to shuffle complexity around in different clusters while being in the need of adding more to it. You need to straighten things out.
A good way to un-complex things would be to separate stuff into these two major blocks. A user guide and a documentation. You could have all the nerdy details in the documentation and create a real world user guide. An area with tutorials, how-tos and pitfall-avoiding hints. And since Perch is mostly about inserting lines of php into html, provide a first class cheatsheet with those commands plus an reminder or a hint of what they do and where to go for a deeper explanation.
You could separate this user guide area into three sections:
You could draw the line for “getting started” after simple templating.
Think of your docs and a possible user guide as an app. Let real world average users use and test it. And get a designer.
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