Three hot topics right now on the web are content management systems, the cloud and shopping cart software. New products are being released every week offering an increasing level of choice and a number of companies are doing well to establish themselves in these distinct areas.
As exciting as all of this is, when it comes to actually building a site these choices can start to become more of a problem than a solution. By the time a site is up and running you are likely to a using a combination of installed CMS software, a shopping cart system, a third party payment processor and in some cases additional functionality left out of the CMS such as HTML mailing systems.
Thankfully a new system, INZU, can do away with all of that and provide a comprehensive solution that meets the needs of most small/medium businesses and organisations. Going one step further, INZU is cloud based meaning there is no learning of a CMS templating language required. Data is instead accessed through a user friendly API that makes the code on your site understandable to any developer, not just those familiar with a particular CMS.
INZU was first established as a payment provider for digital downloads nearly four years ago when there was little competition in this area but since then the system has steadily grown to incorporate new features on a regular basis. In late 2008 the first attempts at creating a cloud system were introduced with product information for downloads and by at that time mail orders being available through a very basic API.
With the success of this it was clear that for INZU customers managing their shop on their own site via the admin area on inzu.net was not only a great success but could easily include other sections of their site. Through discussion with a number of selected users in 2009 work began on a fully-fledged CMS system that sought to achieve that goal.
Beta testing of the system was completed in 2010 and this year has seen the introduction of the CMS to a wider audience as well as the addition of some powerful new features.
The idea of CMS in the cloud is relatively new but offers some genuine advantages over installed systems such as:
- No installation, saving time and money
- No updating required
- No extra programmatic/templating tier, everything is accessed via XML/JSON data feeds giving total freedom in site architecture and design
- Multiple access point for data, so you may have multiple websites and mobile apps all up-dateable from the same CMS
- Totally unobtrusive, meaning it works very well alongside bespoke CMS systems/elements or even other installed system
- Tiny site footprint, usually between 1-5MB means only very cheap hosting is required for the user's site
To understand the architecture a bit more clearly the CMS admin suite is accessed on inzu.net by logging into a user account. Here updates are made
and new products added. For sections such as galleries and events images are hosted on INZU servers. The user then creates a site template on their
own domain which accesses the data via the INZU API using whatever server side language they like e.g PHP or ASP.
Thankfully an entire site template (built in PHP) that covers all the sections of the CMS and how to connect to the API is available for free and a dedicated
developers site fully documents how to access the API. You can even test out the example site without registering as it is set up to access example data
Although the CMS and API is laid out for a typical site with sections you'd expect to see such as home, contact news etc what you can achieve with the system goes way beyond that. A handful of clever extra features make for a very flexible system with all the power of other installed CMS packages, these are;
- SQL style calls
- Tagging of entries
- Versatile articles section
The API allows for a range of SQL style parameters to pass to each call so you may for instance select a certain news entry, the second page of news entries,
change the ordering type or select by a certain tag.
This comes neatly onto the second point. Tagging each entry allows you to create sections within sections, so by tagging entries as you upload you can define which section it belongs to for example you may wish to have one gallery for people and one for events. Tagging may also be used to group other section types together so you could display the first three entries of news and galleries for the tag "what we're up to" and have both those feeds display on the same page.
Mixing and matching feeds or elements of feeds on the same page is very straightforward and no different to how you would normally access different database tables.
As well as the more structured section types like news and galleries, the articles section is built to allow the publishing of general HTML pages and so is great for articles or blogs. With the ability to create sections within the articles section (without using tags) there is really no limit to the variety of pages on your site.
What this amounts to is a very clean easy-to-use CMS from both the user's and the developers side. Developers get to mash up the the API in lots of interesting
ways using the language of their choice and with no worries about fitting into a templating architecture they don't like whilst the user gets a streamlined admin suite where not only do they update their site content but also manage their shop, direct payments and mailing system, all from one account.
And with the increasing importance of mobile in the world of online, it is becoming increasingly clear that your web data needs to be in more than one place at a time, with INZU that is a reality.
To learn more about Inzu, visit their website: http://inzu.net/