Typolight is an increasingly popular open source content management system that was brought to life by developer, Leo Feyer. We had a chance to speak with Leo and chat about his project and it's future.
CC: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
LF: My name is Leo Feyer, I am a 32 year old software developer from Munich, Germany. I am the owner of a small company called iNet Robots, which offers web hosting, software development and meanwhile also TYPOlight services.
I learned object-oriented Java programming during my studies and was impressed by its possibilities. PHP 4, which was the current PHP version at that time, did not have much support for object-oriented programming, so coming from Java it was clear to me that TYPOlight needed to be written in PHP 5. It still does not offer the same functionality as Java does, but it will catch up with the upcoming milestone releases of PHP 5.3 and PHP 6.
CC: According to your website, in 2004 you became dissatisfied with the open source offerings of the time and created TYPOlight. What specifically did you find dissatisfying?
LF: First of all, there were far fewer CMS than there are today and none of them were able to generate accessible and standards compliant websites. The big systems of course had plugins, but I felt like web standards and accessibility should be a basic core feature and not just an add-on.
Second of all, the professional systems had (and still have) a very steep learning curve - not only for developers but also for designers. It took me weeks to fully understand them and I instantly knew that none of my clients or designers were able/willing to spend that much time learning a complex CMS just to create a website.
So I decided to create a “no frills” system that has all the powerful features but implements them the simplest possible way to maximize the usability and understandability.
CC: What was your primary goal when creating TYPOlight?
LF: I wanted to create a powerful yet intuitive and easy to learn CMS which generates accessible and standards compliant websites. It should not have too many abstraction layers or custom scripting languages which make it hard to learn for professional users and impossible to understand for non-professionals.
CC: In our recent review of the product, we mentioned that a large portion of the user base is non-english speaking, where is the largest portion of your user base located?
LF : Definitely in the German-speaking countries (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). TYPOlight has been mentioned in various german magazines and by the end of 2010, there will be four german TYPOlight books and two german TYPOlight training videos. That is why a lot more people are aware of TYPOlight there than outside of Germany.
CC: Do you have any regrets with the system? Is there anything you wish you had done better or could change?
LF: It turned out that the distinction between users and members (back and front end users) has many advantages but is not an ideal solution in scenarios where the same users shall have access to both the back end and the front end. Also, quite a few users have trouble understanding why pages and articles are two separate modules instead of one tree. Both are likely to be changed in the next major release (TYPOlight 3).
CC: In 2007, TYPOlight came 2nd place in the Most Promising Open Source CMS Awards from Packt Publishing. How far have you come since then?
LF: We made it to the final five in the “Best Open Source PHP CMS” category together with Drupal, WordPress, Joomla! and MODx. And although we did not win the 2009 awards, it is an honor for a young project like TYPOlight to be mentioned along with those well-established systems.
CC: What is your favorite TYPOlight driven website?
LF: That is hard to say, because I only know a few of the many websites which run on TYPOlight. Some (in the German-speaking countries) well-known companies and famous athletes have recently relaunched their websites with TYPOlight, which makes me very proud. Besides that, typolight.org is certainly one of my favorite websites, because it is a good example of what the system is capable of.
CC: What is the largest site that uses TYPOlight?
LF: I know about a project that combines 35 websites with about 250,000 pages into a single TYPOlight installation on a dedicated server cloud. In the end, it is mostly a question of hardware and since TYPOlight requires less resources than many of its contenders, it can actually help to decrease your costs.
CC: In one years time, what would you like to accomplish with TYPOlight?
LF: We want to try to increase the awareness of TYPOlight - especially outside Germany - and to expand the international community. Considering the application itself, our focus in 2010 will be on creating websites for mobile devices with TYPOlight (Mobile Web) and integrating services like Twitter and Facebook into TYPOlight (Social Web).
CC: Can you provide a sneak peak into upcoming features or changes?
LF: We want people to be able to create websites for mobile devices with TYPOlight in addition to their regular browser-targeted website. This could be done using a special style sheet, different content elements or even a separate site structure. We are also looking for a way to create news items and events using a mobile phone, which could be accomplished by adding a separate interface for mobile devices or creating an XML-RPC interface that can be used by e.g. a native iPhone app.
Finally, we want to add a news/events distributor to the back end which automatically publishes news articles and events on Twitter, Facebook and Co.
CC: If people were interested in contributing to the system, what is the best way to do so?
LF: The best way to contribute to the application itself is to create a TYPOlight extension. TYPOlight provides a powerful API with a lot of dynamic configuration, callbacks and hooks which allows you to customize almost any aspect of the program-flow. In case you need a new hook, you can request it in the ticket system at dev.typolight.org.
The best way to contribute to the TYPOlight project is to join the community and let us know what you can do. We are constantly looking for translators to help us to translate the TYPOlight core and over 300 extensions into different languages. We are also looking for authors and journalists to publish articles about TYPOlight in blogs and magazines. And if you happen to be a developer, there is even more that you can do, e.g. to write a tool to import the content from other CMS into TYPOlight or to implement one of the many ideas submitted in the ticket system at dev.typolight.org.
CC: Thank you for your time Leo and best of luck with your project. For our readers, you can learn more about this great system by visiting the Typolight project website at http://www.typolight.org
LF: Thanks a lot for your support and keep up the good work :)
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Mike Johnston Author
I am the guy behind CMS Critic and the Co Founder of Website Builders Critic. When not traveling the world attending and covering conferences, I am based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where I live with my beautiful wife and kids. Visit me on my wife and my blog, Unicorns in the Mist.