iCue subscriber Mirko Mikan, from Serbia, expressed his desire to provide a client-friendly user experience for those managing the websites he builds. In particular, he reference Mission Control. This is the 2.5 admin template that iCue used in client projects as it developed the whole concept of a "client template." So we asked Mirko to share his experiences and thoughts about backend templates, customizing them for his clients, and what it is that he wants...
Q. You are a fan of the admin template Mission Control, which worked on Joomla 1.5 and 2.5 but has been discontinued for Joomla 3.x. How has that limitation affected your migration to Joomla 3.x?
I have built my first J! site back in 2007 on Joomla 1.0, and since then I have worked full time on every Joomla version in existence, and with hundreds if not thousands of her extensions. I have been using Rocket Theme's MissionControl for more than 5 years, and it has been my "right-hand" on more than 60 sites I've built. Attached you will find screen shoots of major admin pages of mine, which visually explain the path I travelled, from Khepri, via MissionControl to (these days) Isis. Before MissionControl (MC), I've tested and customized almost every admin template imaginable (especially the template's from Kyle Ledbetter's AdminPraise), but once I've stumbled upon MC, it was a love at first sight. The love which lasts until today, and even though it had it's ups and downs, MC has always been my template of choice.
Basically, I tend to customize everything I use in my daily work, from my OS desktop, Pale Moon browser and other programs (Outlook, Total Commander, UEStudio to mention just most important) to utilities, web sites and services. So, it is only natural for me to customize Joomla admin templates, in which I spend 50% of my daily routine of building, customizing and administering sites for my clients.
The main goal for every customization of mine has always been: "Speed-up your orkflow by minimizing the number of clicks necessary". If I have to dig through two-to-three menu levels, or to select two-to-three dropdowns along the way, that action is good candidate for Toolbar button, or icon in Control Panel. I can't imagine my admin without Toolbar with icons/links to most often used links (Modules, Plugins, Articles, K2, Active Template, VirtueMart if any, etc...). For toolbar I use some old module obShortcuts, now non-JED-existent, but I just keep customizing it and making it work in every new J! version. I also tend to increase font sizes and to bold item titles, to make them more visible and to help my vision (yes, I wear glasses already). For the same reason, I use and standardize color-coding of numerous interface elements (lists, drop-downs, etc...). I always heavily customize Control Panel with modules for Quick Icons, Google Analytics Dashboard, Shop Dashboard, Content Statistics, Backup and Firewall Status, and many more.
I am also big creature of habit, so when I get used to something – especially when it is something that I customized to "fit my shoes" – the slightest change of its position, color, or functionality might affect my workflow, forcing me to think about the tool itself, instead of thinking about the action that tool invokes or helps me with.
The change of admin template in Joomla 3 was a huge change, to say at least. I realize how much it has improved UX on mobile devices, and I have deepest respect for Kyle Ledbetter's knowledge and proven experience in making admin templates. But, every time I load default Isis Control Panel on my 1920x1080px monitor, and see that useless non-editable Quick Icons in left column (which reminds me of WordPress, the thing I can't stand) and that wasted space in main column with trivial modules, I go berserk. Every time I see that left column with Menus and/or Filters, I start crying. And what's the story with that main menu? Am I the only person on planet who finds it's font tiny, unreadable, and with weird red/white colors on my decent LCD monitor. I just can't accept that my beloved Joomla, which puts food on my family's table for six years, is now intended for mobile use only. I would love to meet that Joomla integrator who's able to build the site from the scratch to deployment, by using smart phone only. So, for God's sake, give us desktop-users our Joomla back!
Isis has changed things on so many levels that I was either unable or unwilling to accept them, so I delayed my shift to J3 as primary platform for almost two years. I have tried to force myself to start building new sites in J3, but every time I went back to my beloved MissonControl and J2.5, because it was much easier to work in friendly surroundings than to learn new tricks in admin. Finally, six months ago I have accepted the fact that resistance is futile, that things can't be forced back in time, and I have to accept the fact there is no replacement for Isis. So I have decided to customize Isis as much as I can, to resemble MissionControl as much as possible. Unfortunately I haven't had enough time or resolve to finish it yet, so it is still work in progress. Client 3 template in some areas much closer to MC than I was able to achieve. Now it's up to me to blendThat's why I find your
One might argue that I make the problem "out of nothing". That Isis is such a great template. That I'm certainly overreacting everything I've said. That might be the case... but isn't it Joomla all about our choices and freedom to make them. My main argument is that since Joomla 3, we don't have any choice, we have mobile-only. them together and finally get that MissonControl clone for J3 I am striving to have.
Q. What missing aspects of Mission Control do you wish were available for the admin template in Joomla 3.x?
- More Customizable Control Panel, those great little modules-helpers (Quick Links, Statistics Overview, etc...)
- Switching back to CP layout we are used to since Khepri (wider main column plus narrow right column, without left column)
- Page-wide Lists, no left column to shorten them
- Horizontal page-wide Filters, not Vertical in left column (Isis function I literally hate)
- Basically, I'm want an Isis version or style that is better suited for desktop use.
Q. You mentioned that you customized Isis (the admin template for Joomla 3.x)? What sorts of things did you customize and why?
Please refer to the "myisis" screenshot
= HAVE DONE =
- Login screen, which I customize since Khepri, to have small login box at the top, and the rest of the page in IFRAME of Home page, to reduce number of Speed Dial's in my browser, so instead of two for each site of mine (one for admin, other for front page), I have only one.
- Customized CSS on numerous places, increased font size on main menu, bold-ed item titles, etc...
- Duplicated User Status module to 'menu' position, disabled everything except View Site and Log out buttons, customized them to be clearly visible as in MC.
- Added obShortcuts, my favorite Toolbar I can't live without.
- Customized Control Panel with additional modules, for Analytics Dashboard, Backup and Firewall Status, Content Stats, etc... It's pretty close to what I'm used to in MC.
= HAVE NOT COMPLETED =
- To move left column's menus and/or filters from vertical to horizontal page-wide. You have done that so much better in Client 3, so I have to look into it and find the way to either integrate that in my isis_desktop, or to integrate my CSS/module changes into your Client 3, in order to finally get MC3 the way I want.
Q. Tell me a story or two about your clients who were frustrated about using the Joomla admin out-of-the-box.
I live in Serbia, and most of my clients, too. Customizing admin for them adds another layer of complexity - language. I use English as my second language since 1980's, and to me it is unimaginable to use computers and Internet in any other language than English. Most of the time I was able to convince my clients they better use admin in English, because Serbian translation was either not available, or was not good enough. Partially that was not far from truth, because Joomla community is almost non-existent in Serbia, and translations for anything besides core and most famous extensions (K2, VM, etc...), are non-existent. And my profit margin in building sites is already way too thin, to include complex and time-consuming full translation of back-end.
So, most of the time, I have extra work in maintaining client's content. ;-)
And for those few clients, who have no problem in using back-end in English (to be honest, we Serbs are not so bad in using English at all), they usually tell me they are "scared" in touching anything else besides what I have taught them. For them I used to minimize Toolbar and Control Panel, but was never able to completely isolate client's actions admin-wide. That's why I was very happy to find out that you materialized your ideas of Client's Website Management in the form of offering the Client 3 Bundle, which I will find the time to customize, include in my toolbox, and offer it to my clients as extra service.
Q. Feel free to suggest features you’d like to have – either for preparing a site to hand off to the client, or features that can improve your client’s authoring experience.
I just love what you did with Client 3, especially to bring back tabs instead of menus in left column, and to place filters horizontally, where they belong since the dawn of time. Tabs in Edit Views are also great, and everything you did brings me closer to finally have MC back, completely.