Plone UI Sprint 2011 Writeup

by Matt Hamilton on Jul 01, 2011
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This weekend Netsight hosted the Bristol Plone UI Sprint. It was a short notice event, with a small group of people in the Plone community invited to come along and break some ground on a new authoring/management UI for Plone. Martin Aspeli was the initial instigator and dropped me an email to ask if Netsight would be willing to host the sprint at our offices in Bristol... four weeks later we had developers from UK, USA, Norway, Germany and The Netherlands in our office working on the new UI system.

UI Sprint Planning

The sprint took place over a long weekend, starting Friday morning and running until Monday evening. One of the things that always amazes me is the energy created during a Plone developer sprint. On a number of occasions people were still coding at 1am and back in the office to start again the next day at 10am. My main role was to facilitate the sprint and provide the location, networking, and sustenance to keep everyone running at optimal speed -- which in the Plone world generally means plenty of food and beer!

L-R: Geir Bækholt, Rob Gietema, Laurence Rowe

The initial concept of the UI was started a number of months ago by Geir Bækholt as a number of wireframes in Balsamiq refined over time with feedback from various people in the community:

Plone New UI Contents Mockup

The main goal was to move the standard Plone editing UI out of the way of the design process a bit more. Plone revolutionised the content management world when it first launched in that it allowed you to edit content on a web page in the context of where you were on the site (as opposed to in a separate disconnected 'back end' system). However over time this has shown a few downsides in that when you 'theme' Plone to make it look how you want, you can often end up breaking the editing interface if you are not careful. This is due to CSS styles and javascript from the public theme clashing with the CSS in Plone to control the editing UI. In order to prevent this, you have to spend extra time to make sure that either the styles don't clash or that you actually re-style the editing UI itself.

One of the goals of Plone 4 and the 'Sunburst' theme that comes with it, was to be a visual design that whilst being more modern (the old Plone 3 default theme being many years old and looking dated), also doesn't get in the way aesthetically with the design you want to do on the Plone site. This just takes that concept a bit further.

Sprint report out

So after four days work, with 11 commiters making 421 commits, comprising of 19842 additions and 10069 deletions to the package, we have a working alpha release of the work you can download from PyPI. I produced this simple screencast to give you a flavour of what is now there:

Loading the player ...


The package is on PyPI and we welcome people to have a play with it, there is a buildout.cfg file there you can use and install it on top of a vanilla 4.1rc3 site to have a play with it.

This sprint is probably one of the most focussed and high energy Plone sprints I think I have attended, and it is a testament to the people who came to Bristol to make it a reality:

  • Nathan Van Gheem (Wildcard Corp, USA)
  • Rob Gietema (Four Digits, Netherlands)
  • Geir Bækholt (Jarn, Norway)
  • Martin Aspeli (Deliotte, UK)
  • Tom Lazar (Jarn, Germany)
  • David Glick (Groundwire, USA)
  • Eric Steele (Weblion Penn State University, USA)
  • Laurence Rowe (Shuttle Thread, UK)
  • Jamie Lentin (Shuttle Thread, UK)
  • Matthew Wilkes (Jarn, UK)
  • Matt Hamilton (Netsight, UK)
  • Iain Claridge (Netsight, UK)

Plus we had Denys Mishunov and Alex Limi participating remotely.

UI Sprint - A Job well done

All photos from the event are on Flickr

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Lennart Regebro
Lennart Regebro says:
Jul 01, 2011 10:17 PM

Wish I could have been there. Awesome work!

Armin Stross-Radschinski
Armin Stross-Radschinski says:
Jul 02, 2011 04:09 PM

Congrats to the work to get initial tools - The "Starting Points" – out of the way of the main theme. This will save tons of hours on fixing the Admin UI matching the theme.

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