PageLines DMS is not the only DMS in town!

There’s a new blog post over on the PageLines blog, titled “What is a DMS?” stirring up the imminent launch of PageLines DMS that will début this coming Wednesday.

Update 31-7-2013: PageLines DMS review is now online! (but be sure to also read this blog post as well, it contains additional information!)

The blog post lists 5 key attributes that characterizes a DMS – short for Design Management System. A term that the PageLines team is using to describe and differentiate their upcoming version of PageLines.

They argue that PageLines is neither a WordPress theme, nor a framework, or a builder (whatever that is).

I normally call Headway a WordPress theme framework, but judging by the list of the 5 key characteristics of a DMS – So… Headway may in fact be a DMS:-)

Let’s go through the 5 key characteristics of a DMS, and I’ll tell you why Headway is also a DMS:

The 5 key attributes of a DMS

Okay, let’s take a look at them, one by one:

1. It has a modular drag and drop system
There is an important distinction between DMS’ and WYSIWYG builders. A DMS has a modular system, while WYSIWYGs have a free-form style drag and drop.

The difference is that modular systems don’t break the page element flow and they don’t rely on inline CSS to create a structure.

Modular systems allow you to create high-performance, symantically structured markup; which is why this is an important distinction in a DMS.

This one’s tricky to answer based on the available facts, as of writing: What makes up a modular system à la PageLines?

Regarding Headway, it’s the most truly drag & drop WordPress theme framework available. You drag your page elements to a page layout grid. Grids are modular and so are the Wrappers recently introduced in Headway 3.5. Headway Blocks (the layout elements you add to the page) are also modular. And it doesn’t rely on inline CSS to create the structure (god forbid).

Headway’s performance is very good. In tests, it is among the best, and certainly better than PageLines. I hope PageLines DMS will be lighter and leaner, code-wise.

2. It needs an extension system for design and functionality
A DMS also requires an easy, code-free way to add extra design into your modular system. For this PageLines relies on the PageLines Store and the tight-knit 300 community (for creating new extensions)
This allows you to add and remove design to your system and gives you a way to evolve your site.

For adding more functionality, DMS supports the standard WordPress plugin system. Yup, that means it supports WP’s 26,000 plugins too.

PageLines no doubt has a big eco-system of developers who create extensions for PageLines. I think that’s a good, valid selling point. But Headway does have an extension system and a store where you can buy extensions to extend functionality. But there aren’t hundreds of add-ons available, by some seen as a weakness. For sure, more choice would be nice, but frankly I rarely have a need for extensions, while working with Headway. It’s born flexible!

PageLines in its current and past versions, has always been very reliant on extensions, to do what one wants. PageLines is much less flexible for the non-coder, than Headway. But PageLines arguably gets you up’n’running with “something” faster.

And of course Headway supports regular WordPress plugins! I can’t think of any WordPress theme framework that doesn’t??? Vague selling point, not worth emphasizing.

3. A robust underlying CMS
No DMS is complete without a rich, underlying CMS infrastructure. For PageLines DMS, WordPress suits this purpose.

The CMS handles all the content and ‘meta’ information, while the DMS handles all design options, page structure and theming.

That one’s easy. Headway (and all competitors) run on WordPress.

I have a feeling they added this one to the list to reach the magic number 5. A list of four wouldn’t pack the same punch;-)

4. It has the ability to create ANY design
There are several drag and drop tools out there that allow you to customize a part of your site using their functionality. A good example of this is the WordPress widgets system.

These systems don’t cut it as they don’t allow you full customizability and you inevitably end up coding or dealing with technical issues you didn’t want or expect in a drag and drop system.

Headway has you 100% covered with its unique, innovative Visual Editor, which lets anyone customize close to all aspects of their website, without writing code.

5. A Dynamic Template System
Inside of WordPress there has long been several problems with theming. Specifically, many things need to be hard coded and that creates vast usability issues.

A true DMS needs a way to dynamically add and remove templates, that can then be transported from install to install. This is useful in theming and in portability.

Headway has a nice, adaptable import/export system which will even be radically improved upon in the upcoming 3.6 version.

So… is Headway a DMS?

It’s hard to say for sure, as long as PageLines DMS hasn’t been released, and no real, concrete details have been released yet.

But  the list of characteristics above doesn’t really threaten Headway‘s position as a the most flexible, “no-coding-required” theme / framework / DMS available on the market today.

But PageLines may come up with an even better solution!

The DIY Future of Web Design

I wholeheartedly agree that these characteristics are the way forward! PageLines does seem to target exactly what I’ve been thinking and saying for the past year or so.

Headway‘s my favorite WordPress theme framework (or now… DMS) because it’s the one that fulfills the above five criteria (and more!) – all are important and what I deem essential in what I’ve begun to describe as DIY web design.

“DIY” because in the nearby future, technological advancements (mostly in the form of technological convergence) will make it not just easy, but more convenient (!) for anyone to build their business website themselves, not needing the services of a professional web designer! Convenient? Why? Because businesses need to be agile, in order to navigate quickly and be successful in a world that is accelerating exponentially with new services like review sites and social media services cropping up and gaining momentum every day. So much new is happening, and customers of businesses have come to expect modern websites.

A modern website anno 2013 needs to be responsive, full-width, have flat design, and so on and so on. I’m sure you can list a number of things today that you want integrated on your website, that you either didn’t know about or just didn’t care about, just 6 months back. Right?

So there is a need for tools that will allow anyone to design and maintain their website themselves. Calling or emailing your webmaster every time you need a change in front page layout, is not feasible in a future where such changes are becoming the everyday norm, rather than the exception.

Will PageLines take us there faster than Headway? Time’ll tell!

Although PageLines seems to hype this launch a bit too much for my taste, with storytelling, cliff-hangers, details like pricing and actual, comprehensive screenshots (let alone screen casts) completely left-out (which creates suspense and interest in the person being teased) I will admit I am extremely excited to see what they come up with.

PageLines DMS can be a real page-turner, or a real bummer. It can all turn out to be nothing more than artificial hype and grandiose wording. After all, the way PageLines describes DMS sounds an awful lot like Chris Pearson described Thesis 2 on Twitter, in the two years leading up to the shockingly bad launch of a shockingly bad product: Thesis 2. It was described and hyped by Chris Pearson in much the same way as PageLines DMS has been hyped and sold as the new panacea, the solution to all the worlds problems.

Personally, my bet is that PageLines DMS will be good. The question is just *how good* and at what cost (price, page load speed, speed of development, lock-in, etc).

Time will tell. Only a couple of days until launch. Keep an eye on this page.

I will of course road-test PageLines as soon as it sees the light of day. Keep an eye on this site!
Update 31-7-2013: PageLines DMS review is now online!

What do you think? Is Headway a DMS? Will you try PageLines? Let me know in the comments below…


  1. says

    I evaluated Headway right after the 3 version was released, it was a little buggy and the 30 day guaranteed was no more offered I was afraid to buy something broken.
    Now version 3.5 seems very stable, I only see the new Pagelines DMS as a real contender to real plug in play wysiwyg WP theme designer.
    Pageline’s vision looks terrific, let’s see if they can nail it too in their software.

    PS- You have good writing skills (quick to post and good argument too).

    • says

      Thanks for boosting my self-confidence:-) Always nice to hear. It took 4 hours concentrated work to make that blog post, so I do put in some time and effort;-)

      Yeah, will be nice to finally get to see if PageLines DMS lives up to the hype. Wednesday we’ll know…

  2. Dave Madarro says

    I love these ‘framework’ (or whatever they want to call them) breakdowns Oliver, you’re doing the hard work for the rest of us :-)

    It’s awesome there’s so much competition in this field, it will only make all companies work harder to provide excellent themes!

    It’s going to take a lot of changes to make me switch from Headway to anything else though! :-)

    • says

      That’s a quick development process 😀 Great!

      Nice write-up on PageLines DMS. My own is on its way. But will take some time. I’ve got so much to say;-)


      • says

        All thanks to headway :)

        I conceptualize more in my head now and I am able to transfer that over into a live nice working prototype instead of psd’s and then chop chop….So it more drag drag…

        Which I feel is great and makes the work flow efficient.
        Not mine I am no writer of a elk as good as yours :)

        you said this piece was done in 4 hours.
        Any good blog you read about writing techniques.

        Will love to see that webinar but sure it will be in the early hours of the morning where I am from.


        • says

          I’m perfectly with you on that development approach! I also rarely use Photoshop mockups when doing sites. My upcoming Headway online course will cover that more, in detail.

          Thanks for asking me about writing! In fact, I’ve just spent 45 minutes writing a reply that got so long I’ve decided to turn it into a blog post!

          So stay tuned:)

          But apart from my own, upcoming take on the writing process, I can highly recommend Steven Pressfield’s book the War of Art and Neil Fiore’s books The Now Habit and The Now Habit at Work.


  3. Moonbus says

    I have tried to learn Pagelines DMS2 now for some time and I dont know…. My bakground is that I have bulit a couple of sites using Dreamweaver but without being a code; I’m graphic designer and have actively avoided learn things as CSS and I really thought it was a pain to administrate many pages; build navigations and adding technical features. With this background I thought a CSS-system as WordPress with a design management tool as Pagelines DMS could be a good solution. Expected some learning curve and after that quite ok amount of design freedom but must say after some period of testing that I dint get rid of the feeling that the DMS-system is in the way of what I want to do. It looks very slick with the drag and drop modules but havent at all get a grip on how to get control on how control basic things as sizes of text and images. Sure; I expected some limitations in design freedom but so far it feels as trying to paint a portrait with a bulldozer…. I tested Headway at the time I considered by a design management tool and if I remind my impressions right that feeling was closer to the hands-on-feeling as Dreamweaver gives. Right now it feels as Pagelines DMS looks sort of sexy but is to hard module based on the cost of detail control if you not yeat as going through the wall of knowledge and learned how CSS-tricks can open up the possibility on true design control… Right now that CSS path into Pagelines seems far way to get working for me… Frustrated.

    • says

      Hejsan Hoppsan Mr. Moonbus :)

      I laughed when I read sentence of the day:
      “it feels as trying to paint a portrait with a bulldozer” regarding PageLines DMS 😀

      It’s not clear to me whether you’re still using Headway? Or are you using something else?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *