Design, of course, is a hugely important part of a website. As a population, online visitors are extremely fickle, and the smallest mistake in usability will have them clicking elsewhere.
What about after the design phase, though? Yes, design is obviously important, but just as important is the admin area of your site. Choose the wrong system, and you’re stuck with a frustrating, time-consuming mess to deal with every time you want to make even the most minor of alterations to your site.
Barley is a new, hosted CMS which is trying to cut out that kind of pain from post-design website management. At $18 per month, Barley sounds pricey in comparison with other simple-to-use hosted website editors like Weebly and Moonfruit. The suggestion made by Plain, Barley‘s developer, however, is that its creation (still in private beta) is a whole new level of simple, featuring a purely inline, click-and-edit methodology, when it comes to content manipulation.
But is less hassle worth a greater investment? Time to edit a website or two…
How do you describe nothing? Okay, so setting up a Barley website requires some input, but the process of getting started is something of a non-event.
After the usual email, password and payment sign-up (no trial is on offer, just a limited demo), you just need to select a template and input your domain name of choice. Yes, that really is all that is required. If you want to get a bit more advanced with the design, though, you can.
Time for Design
To be honest, that heading is just a fraction misleading. Unlike Weebly or Moonfruit, Barley is not a website builder, as such, so it really has more in common with a hosted CMS. As a result, Barley doesn’t come equipped with an in-built design suite, relying purely on templates.
Given the paltry choice of templates offered natively by Barley, at present – four, at the time of writing – the lack of WYSIWYG design is a problem for those who don’t code. This restrictive choice isn’t terribly surprising when one takes into account Barley’s private beta status, but it is an area which needs improving.
For those who do have some web coding knowledge, though, any design is possible. As with virtually any CMS, templates are a combination of your site’s basic HTML and Barley’s tags, and as tag systems go, this is a simple one to get to grips with. Once you’ve prepared your template, you can import it into your Barley account via Dropbox.
The true joy of Barley only makes itself apparent when you come to edit your website’s content. All editing is inline, and the controls are labelled with sleek, beautiful icons.
The editing of text is effortless, being achieved with a straightforward click-and-type kind of action. Areas designated to be filled with an image are also easily editable via a pop-up menu of two parts. One half contains all image adjustments which can be made with some form of text box – alternative text and pixel dimensions being examples. The right half simply provides access to image uploading or swapping.
In areas of your site dedicated to multiple forms of media, the options to insert video and embedded content are added to the minimal pop-up editor.This menu – featuring video and html embedding – is about as complex as Barley ever gets.
Also contained in the Barley CMS is a blogging tool. Once again, it is evident that some considerable thought has gone into making things as obvious as possible. Your blog post title, author name, publishing date and post content are all directly editable inline, and you can call up the media management window, which contains the options mentioned above, with a double-click.
To be honest, words don’t do Barley’s editor justice. It is a tool of astounding simplicity, and only when you work with it do you get a true sense of its beautiful, yet hugely functional minimalism.
Whilst Barley is a form of hosted CMS, you can (currently, at least) only use it to run websites you create on Barley’s servers. The hosting provided includes a sizeable 350,000 pageviews per month, and unlimited everything else – pages, posts, templates, etc.
The fact that all Barley-run websites have to be hosted with Barley has both its merits and drawbacks. On the one hand, it allows Barley to provide a seamless ride during website creation. On the other hand, given that Barley, in its current state, is more useful to web designers than to the general public, the $18 per month doesn’t sound hugely competitive. In fairness, though, many hosted CMSes like Pagelime and CushyCMS charge a similar fee minus the hosting, so with this in mind, the pricing seems fairly reasonable.
Barley is a magnificent example of how simplicity, when thought through, can be just as effective as even the most complicated of systems. Everything, from the icon-based labelling to the administrative controls has been carefully considered by Barley‘s development team, and the result is a product which seems to cater for the needs of the average website owner.
Though it would be easy to get too carried away by the elegance of Barley, I must acknowledge that it does have a few weaknesses…just a few. First and foremost, the price is a concern. Obviously, it reflects the quality of the product, but even so, $18/month will seem steep to many. It should also be noted that, without the help of a web design professional, most website owners are currently limited to a tiny range of templates.
If you put these issues to one side, though, Barley can best be described as the easiest to use text-and-images CMS to be found anywhere, at any price.