TYPO3 – How we got to grips with a new CMS platform
It happens every once in a while, an opportunity presents itself which is right in your company’s sweet-spot. Everything is right about it – potential new client with a great brand, deliverables you deliver day in, day out, for existing customers and a way of working which fits in just right. Everything except for one thing that is, the development platform has already been agreed and it’s one which you have little or no experience with. Well when this happened recently when an opportunity came up with a new global Automotive client based in Germany, we had this decision to make. So, what do you do? Turn it down because it’s ‘not your thing’, or take a deep breath, get stuck in and make it ‘your new thing’.
If you know us at Ultimedia, no prizes for guessing what we did! For our new readers, at Ultimedia we have a history of rising to challenges. In this case, the platform was TYPO3, a free open-source enterprise Content Management System, so we got stuck in and started on the long path to becoming TYPO3 experts!
Ok, so we started off with checking out the TYPO3 website, downloaded the latest version and started reading…and reading...and reading. There is so much content on the web for TYPO3 but from our experience it assumes you’ve been using TYPO3 for years and are familiar with the concepts, terminology (TYPO3 has a lot of it!) and how the product has evolved over recent versions – which isn’t much use when you’re trying to work out what they are!
Although there are lots of code samples on the web and the TYPO3 docs website (docs.typo3.org), you’ll just see snippets of code and no explanation as to where these snippets should live in the codebase. Sure, once you’re familiar enough with TYPO3 it’s easy, but it would have saved a lot of pain, coffee and late nights to have some complete examples.
Now, TYPO3 is an enterprise CMS. We work with enterprise CMSs already with Episerver and Umbraco – they both have their quirks, but we’ve been developing with them both for several years now, so we know them inside-out. They’re not that different in the sense that they both follow the ASP.NET MVC model fairly predictably so as long as you know MVC you can get up and running in no time. And that’s where you can come unstuck in thinking that developing with your new CMS is going to be anything like developing with any other CMS.
What is stdWrap?
A typical example of how TYPO3 is different to other CMS platforms is TypoScript. TypoScript is a bespoke configuration language, not to be confused with TypeScript, which uses numbers for variable names – an odd concept but one which works for TYPO3. There’s a function called ‘stdWrap’ used all over TYPO3 and I still don’t know why it’s called stdWrap, it seems to be one of those ‘you would know if you were there at the beginning’ kind of things! Maybe someone could let me know because Google doesn’t!
Well, we’ve gone through the pain of learning TYPO3, come out the other side and we love it! TYPO3 development certainly has a different approach, but that opens up a lot of possibilities with bespoke database tweaking and custom extensions. And with it being free and open-source, it is a genuine alternative to paid-license CMSs. If you want to talk to us about TYPO3, or other CMS platforms we can develop your website on, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.