Release Bolt 4 |

Release Bolt 4

So, Bolt 4 is released. Just another new version of another open source CMS. No reason to get excited, right? Wrong. At least, that is what Ivo Valchev is going to try to convince me of.

Ivo is one of the main developers for Bolt. He is of what I call “the internet generation”. He grew up with online and mobile. He speaks code like others speak their mother tongue. Still studying for his master’s degree and absolutely in love with this product. Moreover, he has ambitions towards product management and marketing. Time for him to defend Bolt from several perspectives and not just as a developer.

Now I (Anne van der Heiden, project manager at Two Kings*) might not have this solid technical background, but I do have working experience. No, I am not going to tell you how old I am. But I worked at one of the first tries at a CMS when the internet was still about keeping the phone line busy and only large companies could afford a website. I worked with a fair share of CMS’s in marketing jobs. Not to mention the project management for those who actually build websites and sales of those websites to companies. So, I think I am pretty qualified for the role of devil’s advocate.

Dear Ivo, let’s say I am not that easily impressed. Give it your best shot. Can we start with a lot of my clients? At least older than 45, not very tech savvy. Why is this so awesome?

Where to start? First of all because right from the beginning we built it from the idea that anyone who knows what they want to say to the world can work with it. Without any knowledge of technology. Just think about your experience with CMS’s from any marketing job: often you have to make your content fit because of the limitations the system has.

Oh yes, many frustrations there. Not just pictures that need rescaling or downsizing, but also having to switch from the WYSIWYG and start fooling around with the HTML until it actually showed on the site what I wanted. The way I wanted it. Or even the way it was supposed to work in the first place. I dreaded the updates. Chances were that things were going to act weird or even stopped working whenever even one of the extensions needed an update.

Well, it should not be that way. In my view a CMS should fit around the content and the experience of adding content should be just as easy as editing in Word. Which is what Bolt has to offer right now. If that does not make you happy, at least your clients will rejoice to see something they do recognize.

Aw, good old Word, old hags like me learned to work with it. Are you trying to tell me I can actually work in it like in Word?

And even better: you have all the possibilities that you’re familiar with transferred to the website. And more. Layout columns, embed pictures, video’s, just as easily as you were able to do in Word. Knowing that the end result will fit around your website design the way your designer intended it to be. Bolt uses, literally, one of the best rich content editors out there. And we made it free for Bolt users!

Now that you mention it: let’s move on to the designers. Why does the designer in my team even want to work with it, what’s in it for him or her?

Oh, trust me, your designer will definitely want it. Because he or she will never have to deal with, read, configure or even think about PHP.

Yeah, that's nice. But any CMS can edit, put pics in there. And Word is very much old school. Is Bolt old school as well or can they create sites with it that belong in the 21st century?

You mention the two end points of a spectrum. One extreme are those website builders based on drag and drop with ready to go options, but often in those cases you cannot create the personal look and feel you’re actually aiming at. On the other hand, some CMS’s force you to start from scratch, the bare bones of HTML, blank pages. Scary! Bolt is in a sweet spot; it provides you some ready to go themes whilst also allowing you to customise them, make them your own. In a remarkably simple HTML-like language any frontender can understand, called Twig.

Oh, and want to check whether your design actually works with different amounts of written content? Or in case you don’t want to show a client an empty page? Just one line and the dummy content is there. It saves you time you can spend on your actual job: designing.

Furthermore, there are 20 field types you can group in whatever order you like, and you can also configure Bolt to allow editors to add extra fields. This gives any editor the freedom to create custom pages within the website for special occasions, like campaigns or news items.

Whoa, hold on, back to the editor! More HTML for the editors?! Not looking forward to that nightmare again.

I promise you that, as an editor, you are not going to have to use any line of HTML ever. This is designer only. Those field types will cover any type of content you want to add. Should you need something extra custom Bolt can always be extended to facilitate that. We already have extensions for fields, for example a colour picker. The sky is the limit.

Nice try. But so will the price tag be. I need a specialist who knows everything about Bolt, right?

Nope. Bolt is built on Symfony which is one of the most popular PHP frameworks. Meaning any developer might be able to work with it and create that custom stuff for your customer. No extra courses, no extensive study of documentation required. Like I said in the beginning: anyone should be able to work with it. Most systems focus on either developer, designer, or editor. Bolt aims at all three of them. This is the most user-friendly system I know. For any user. No PHP for the designer, no HTML for the editor, and all three end users can work with a language or interface they already know. Now do you get why I am so enthusiastic about it?

Oh, but I take my job as devil’s advocate seriously. How about this: people don’t like changes. Why would my clients want a website created in Bolt4 instead of a more well-known CMS? What makes it better? Let me give you an actual case that pops up regularly.
Let’s say business is expanding. I will go abroad. Bummer. New website. Because mine has only one language. Best case scenario is at least a complete rebuild, right?

Start looking for translators because your site is going to be multilingual before you have even picked up the phone. You can make your pages translatable to as many languages as you like. All you need is one line in the configuration of Bolt. No, not one line per language. Really just one line only to tell Bolt what languages your site should support.

My point is here: you can add new types of pages, new fields, new languages, update your theme, it’s just smooth and easy. Without having to reconfigure anything except for your new additions. With ‘you’ I mean all people who are involved when a new website is created. Editor, developer, designer.

Even from a sales perspective, ‘you’ as in the management that does not have to work with the CMS but will have to pay the bill?

I dare say so. Of course, we cannot say how much technological development will speed up even more since you dialled in for the first time. But what I just mentioned above? It means a website in Bolt is as futureproof as a site can be nowadays. It can grow with you as your company grows.

And if you ever get stuck? Don’t worry. There’s a very supportive, friendly community out there. Ready willing and able to help you back on track.

Of course these are just a few highlighted features. More questions? Let us know!

* Bolt is developed inhouse by the founder of Two Kings, Bob den Otter. As it is an open source CMS, he is helped by his colleagues and many more developers from other countries and companies. Bolt is completely free to use. No expensive licences, no payment plans for upgrades. As we believe it should be. Feel free to join our community!

Published on September 23, 2020