PageLines DMS was “secretly rumored” for a while, and some weeks ago, some official info was finally launched. The PageLines team have definitely held their cards close to their chest, in an almost Apple-like top-secret fashion. Probably due to two reasons:
1. To avoid getting ripped off before even entering the market.
Andrew Power’s confabulatory blog post (update: later removed… good choice!) clearly confirms they do hold such a fear/belief.
(I find that blog post distasteful, by the way)
2. To create hype and suspense. A controlled, manufactured, designed launch can tell a story or brand narrative that sparks debate, social media awareness and overall interest / fascination.
That’s the nature of things. I do understand why they’d choose to go the “secrecy-leak-hype-launch” route. It does have its merits, allure and power to seduce potential buyers to mindlessly rave and consume. But I would personally have wished they’d been just a little more concrete (and not abstract) in the very staged, almost artificial blog post hype sequence, leading up to the launch.
The pitfall of over-the-top hype can backfire, which I think it did in the case of the PageLines DMS launch.
PageLines.com got hacked
They got hacked. Since this is a review, not a Fox News report, I’ll leave it at that, but just add that I think it’s obvious they’ve made some enemies in the process of hyping PageLines. Pride is the 7’th deadly sin, after all.
A more open, approach could, in my opinion, have helped them gain more friends, fans and followers.
It all boils down to a forbidden fruit
PageLines as a company is very Apple-inspired. PageLines’ infomercials were at some point almost blatant copies of Apple’s popular infomercials. You know, the ones where Bob Mansfield and Jonathan Ive are praising new products. At least PageLines decided to switch out the white background with a black one:
Update: video now removed by PageLines. Good choice.
PageLines 2.x was marketed like this:
Update: this video also now removed by PageLines.
Looking back at PageLines 2.x … I think the hype is a little over the top in that last one.
It’s important to realize that Apple are outliers in the industry. Not everyone has the resources, hired talent, brand strength (and former genius leader Steve Jobs) like Apple.
My PageLines Apple rant/tease is not just targeted on their videos. It’s much more for their launch sequence, secrecy, hype, arrogant pride and fear of getting copied / ripped off to an almost ridiculous extent.
Anyway, I digress.
PageLines 1, 2, DMS
I’ve previously used PageLines version 2.x when working on various client projects. I’ve criticized it for its confusing nomenclature and being too rigid for non-coders to fully customize, to deviate away from the usually very recognizable “PageLines look” of many PageLines websites. Have a look at this typical screenshot:
I’ve been so excited to see if PageLines DMS will clear away the deal breakers that prevented me from using and recommending PageLines 2.x in favor of better choices like Headway – hopefully without introducing new usability problems.
I want PageLines (and any other WordPress theme framework vendors) to succeed. WordPress themes and plugins are not a matter of religion! A killer game-changing WordPress theme will save me (and you) lots of time and energy.
A fair and balanced PageLines DMS review awaits you!
In this PageLines DMS review I will try to pretend that I just fell down from the moon, and therefore know of no competitors to PageLines DMS. In other words, I will focus 100% on PageLines DMS and nothing else. Be open to its goodness and eventual weaknesses.
So, let’s get to the meat of the blog post – The WebMatros PageLines DMS Review™
PageLines DMS pricing model
With the release of DMS, PageLines have made two, quite bold moves:
1. Release PageLines DMS in a core, open source version.
2. Switch to a subscription-based payment model.
The open source version can prove to be disruptive to the premium WordPress theme framework market. Competitors may or may not also have to switch to a similar model, within the next year or so. Time will tell.
An open source version certainly lowers the barrier of entry for many people. Who can argue against free?
A subscription-based based WordPress theme? Not something I like. I’m not a Netflix or Spotify member either. The big problem is: As soon as you stop paying – you have nothing. No music, no movies.
In the case of PageLines DMS you do have something though. Your site will not stop working. You just lose access to the support and extra bells and whistles that the paid subscriptions give you access to. But it isn’t completely transparent to me (and many other people) what a paid PageLines subscription concretely gives you, and how locked-in your website will be.
Subscription-based business models does have a few advantages though:
1. The business’ cashflow will be steady. The company won’t end up with hordes of support requests from people who’ve paid in full a long time ago. PageLines will be a healthier, more vital business because of this.
2. just like the open source free version; it lowers the barrier of entry. Most people will rather pay $20 and get instant access, than pay $200 to buy and own forever and ever. $20 feels like 10x less risk than paying $200.
Say you want a revolution?
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
Lyrics from The Beatles: Revolution
As I wrote above in the intro, PageLines DMS has been heavily hyped and touted as no less than a revolution. A game changer in the WordPress theme market.
Let’s dive deeper into PageLines DMS to see if it is in fact revolutionary.
The PageLines DMS Experience™
After installing DMS, I couldn’t find any DMS related options in WordPress. I had to tweet @PageLines for help. They told me everything happens on the front-end of the site. Aha! There it was… Well, almost. Using the Safari browser, I was reminded that:
PageLines DMS is Chrome only!
Using Google Chrome? Well, you should… or… in the case of PageLines DMS: You have to. PageLines DMS editor only works when using the Chrome browser. For some people, that’s a big turn-off. Me? I can live with it, but think it’s an odd choice.
While this probably makes it easier and faster for the PageLines team to develop PageLines DMS and maintain a consistent user experience, it is somewhat inconvenient for the users. Anyway, I can live with it.
The UI of PageLines DMS is sexy and elegant though! A lean, collapsible bar holds the PageLines interface.
They’ve also solved 90% of the issues I had with the confusing, ambivalent nomenclature / labeling of various features and functions in PageLines 2.x.
So far so good!
Sections in DMS are almost like sections in PageLines 2.x
Layouts in PageLines DMS are are made of Areas, which are full-width, fluid wrappers. Inside these Areas, you place Sections. Sections are the building blocks of your site. There are many different Sections, though the open source version is limited in this respect, so some Sections are marked as Pro only.
DMS –Lap dance included™
The Areas (full-width wrappers) has optional built-in parallax effect for the background images. I like the depth it creates. Sexy!
Some of the sections has optional viewport animation built-in, so page elements animate into view, as the user scrolls down the page. That’s visceral design in a box for ya! Cool eh?
I also like how the iBox section let’s me easily create feature and benefit boxes, etc. For each box you can choose from a long list of minimalistic icons. Pretty cool.
The PageLines DMS layout / templating system
The layout / templating system of PageLines DMS is also surprisingly good. It’s very very good!
Instead of me trying to explain how it works, have a look 4:31 minutes into the official Getting Started video:
See how structered yet flexible that is? Neat!
You can now create as many templates as you want. In PageLines 2.x you were limited to five, and I don’t even think they could be renamed. Quite confusing.
But while it’s great to put everything in its place, you also need to make it look good, match your brand and message. How does DMS fare on that front?
Design controls (can anyone now design their own dream website?)
Imagine being invited to a fine dinner. As a starter course, you get served caviar. The best of the best. For the main course, you are served… rice pudding.
The PageLines DMS template system is the caviar. Its design controls are the rice pudding. A big disappointment!
When it comes to design controls… Basically, there aren’t any. You get to choose two fonts: One for your headlines and one for your body text. Google Fonts are supported, though only a small selection. To use the many that are not supported, you need custom CSS.
As you can see on this screenshot, it’s simply not enough. It is downright pathetic.
With the super nice Area background options, with parallax effect and all, it’s quite natural to want to use both dark text on white background, as well as white text on a colored, darker background. But in PageLines DMS, that’s a no-go, unless you can write CSS. As a web designer, I can of course write CSS, but most regular people can’t.
I strongly believe in a future where cutting-edge technology / themes like PageLines and Headway (and whatever competing tools might come) will enable anyone to design (and fully maintain) their own website. What I call DIY web design.
The built-in design (styling) controls in PageLines DMS are extremely limited. A real shame, since the layout engine is so frickin’ good! It’s like they stopped development too early, when only half of the product was done.
Business vs user value
I’m not dumb, so I do have a guess about why PageLines decided to conceive DMS this way. It means they can sell skins – what they confusingly refer to as “themes”. But that’s only a benefit for them as a business.
In reality, it means non-coders / regular people (who can’t write CSS) can layout their site… But can NOT style it. That’s fuckin’ dumb if ask me.
Halfway there isn’t really getting there – It’s getting only halfway there.
Sad and disappointing.
But, from another perspective, seen through my pink-tinted sunglasses, I can see some benefit in the scenario where I develop a site for a client, who can then easily change layouts and create new ones, without breaking the overall design / styling of the site.
But my goal is to take myself out of that equation. People shouldn’t need to hire a guy like me to make their website.
Another (minor) annoyance
Some changes require clicking on a little refresh icon. To my big shock, it refreshed the whole page! It was a hard, slow page refresh. Not a soft, smooth ajaxy kinda refresh, which would’ve felt better. Can’t have it all though.
Will you stay for desert?
So, well… is PageLines DMS really revolutionary after all?
PageLines DMS reminds me a bit about both the WordPress CMS competitor concrete5, as well as the now discontinued, free WordPress theme framework PressWork. Heck, there’s even a tiny stint of MojoMotor from EllisLab in there.
John B. Manos shared his take on Twitter…
@webmatros seems like a mash up of visual builder + builder + genesis with the freemium pricing sprinkled on top -cant wait to see your take
— John B. Manos (@jbmanos) July 26, 2013
I can absolutely see what John means. By “Visual Builder” I’m pretty sure he means Visual Composer – a very popular WordPress plugin that lets you create columns and more, directly in your WordPress content editor.
Builder from iThemes has a somewhat similar approach to the template building in PageLines DMS.
PageLines DMS lacking any real, deep design controls, needing you to make child themes with regular ol’ CSS coding, does indeed make it feel like a Genesis child theme, on a WordPress website, with the Visual Composer plugin installed.
Heck, even bad-boy Thesis 2.1 has more design (as in: “styling”) controls, than PageLines DMS!
The big, still unsolved problem (aka opportunity)
That leads me to one of my pet peeves when it comes to WordPress theme frameworks! Even Headway my personal favorite so far. In fact I’m so annoyed and flabbergasted about it, that I’ve decided to write an upcoming blog post about it. Keep an eye (or two) on this site.
Will I use PageLines DMS myself?
Well, yes I will! In an upcoming project I’ll probably give it a go!
What about you? Have you tried out PageLines DMS? What do you think about it?
PS: You can save 10% for the lifetime duration of your PageLines DMS membership by using the code dmslaunch if you hurry.
Great review. I have the same concerns on Pagelines DMS.
I have gone back to using Headway and Ultimatum theme. I find they are more flexible.
With DMS I found that it’s all about the hype and money and very little on innovation and making their product better.
Oh well. Let’s hope it improves.
Quite frankly, being pushed into dms and a $14 a month subscription model to use their “pro tools”. I found myself using dms simply because I had paid for it. Maybe I don’t get it.
Oliver Nielsen says
Fortunately, the PageLines team have now come to their senses again, it seems. DMS is going back to the old payment model: Subscription OR stand-alone purchase.
New packages and pricing
Jerome Pires says
lol, sections are limited, are you kidding me ?
For example, you can do virtually anything with the TextBox/MediaBox section, it allows HTML and shortcodes. If you require something more, create your own section it very easy to do, the documentation on how to create a section is quite indepth.
Oliver Nielsen says
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
For the non-coder, yes, the Sections approach of PageLines DMS can be, or feel, limiting.
I point that out in the context in which it was written.
In contrast, Headway’s Blocks typically have way way way more customization options, that any non-coder can also figure out, and use.
The default Content Block in Headway, sports full control over f.e. meta data content and formatting, featured images… and even the query itself: include/exclude posts from certain categories, offset/skip x number of posts, etc.
Compare that to the Content/Loop Section in DMS, and you’ll see that, relatively speaking, it is rather (as in: very) limited.
Can you code a custom loop? Yeah, you can. I’m not bashing PageLines DMS – just telling it like it is.
Oliver Nielsen says
Oh, PS, btw: Limitations are not always bad. With flexibility comes complexity. Truth be told I sometimes find Headway a bit too flexible. Too much for busy person like me to tinker with;-)
As an example:
For a quick’n’dirty, but sexy, landing page: I’d probably choose PageLines DMS over Headway, and may do so, for a client project in the coming week.
Waste of money….. I have used it for over a month. Sections are very very limited. You can not position a video clip with text along side….
Oliver Nielsen says
I agree that the Sections are very limited. They are the achilles heel of PageLines DMS. But at the same time they’re also what makes PageLines DMS strong. It’s a paradox:
On one hand, Sections let anyone quickly build a custom layout, consisting of commonly seen page elements. On the other hand, since Sections are so specific, many many different Sections will be needed, in order to satisfy the needs of most people. Sections are simple to use, but not very flexible. PageLines DMS Sections are like Duplo Lego.
Headway, has more general page elements called Blocks. Blocks are more generic in nature, than Sections. Block are Widget Area, Content, etc. The backside of this, is that the added flexibility adds a layer of complexity. The user has to do more work. Headway Blocks are like Lego Technic.
Anyway, it is indeed possible to position a video clip with text next to it, in PageLines DMS. Just create 2 columns and put a MediaBox in one, and a TextBox in the other;-)
Martin bay says
I tried Pagelines DMS system but found it buggy and confusing to work with – in the beginning it had quite a few bugs so I went back to Pagelines Framework … or so I thought! Pagelines have given up on the Framework and all customers paying for the Framework so well I will not trust Pagelines again.
Couldn’t take the lack of service. One thing they did do well was false advertising. It’s not an easily customizable, drag-n-drop system…unless your good with every site looking exactly the same. Now before they even finished getting everything in DMS ironed out, they have launched Karma…
Happily, I closed out my relationship with PageLines this morning and hopefully forever…unless a client is somehow set on using it. We will see if they manage not to charge me anymore.
Mario Gran says
Hello Oliver, very cool and detailed review.
It seems that both Pagelines DMS and Headway have their pros and cons. I want to start using one but I don’t know which one to choose. For a person who is totally new to the world of frameworks/DMS and has no coding skills, which one would you recommend to start with? Which one has a better learning curve?
I would recommend Headway for now as its easier to use.
You can do more (or at least more impressive stuff) with PageLines DMS but its harder to get to where you want to be.
Oliver Nielsen says
I’d recommend Headway, as PageLines DMS will require you to write custom CSS to deviate from the otherwise bland, standard PageLines look.
Headway has visual controls that allows you to customize the look without the need for custom CSS:)
Another option is the Dynamik skin for Genesis by Cobalt Apps!
Mario Gran says
Thanks Joe & Oliver!
Oliver Nielsen says
You’re welcome! Let me know how it goes!
I purchased the Pagelines Platform 2 years ago, then their Framework 1 year ago, both on the expensive developer licenses. I have client sites built using each one. They are now calling Platform a deprecated product, and I can no longer shop for sections in the Framework store. Framework seems to be all but deprecated now, as it takes incredible digging in the forums to figure out how to even access your previously-purchased sections. They are obviously pushing people, just a bit too hard, to jump from their previous products to DMS. My account details show that I have “Lifetime” developer subscriptions to those two products. I guess not really, eh?
Pagelines has lost my trust. If I can’t rely on their products to be supported for more than a stinkin’ year, how can I build my customer’s sites using them? My customers don’t want to pay me to change to the latest Pagelines product every year, nor do I have the time to do so.
So you think Headway might be a good alternative? I’m open to suggestions. Thanks!
Oliver Nielsen says
Yeah, it’s really sad they’ve so quickly deprecated the previous version of PageLines, in the midst of all their excitement and single-minded focus on “the revolutionary new” DMS PageLines has become.
It must also be tough to be one of the developers who’ve developed add-ons for the “old” PageLines version, only to now see their products be pushed off the shelf. I bet there are many people on the “old” PageLines platform who might need some of those products.
Whether Headway or another framework is a good alternative depends on your needs and skills. Headway is remarkable in that it doesn’t require you to know CSS. You can do whatever you want, without CSS. Now, if you DO know CSS (and HTML and PHP) is a solid alternative. Both company- and code-wise.
I have a blog post coming up on that. So stay tuned! Will be a couple weeks though.
Dave Madarro says
PageLines are doing a good job making the blueprint of how not to treat your customers, it’s great stuff for those of us thinking about building our own framework one day, so there is that 😉
You never know what’s going on with these companies, it could be a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” but still it does make you wonder that in 2013, companies like them still haven’t figured out that OUTSTANDING customer service is the KEY to success in this highly competitive software business, you can’t win without it!
They could learn something from sites like Digital Tutor’s, those guys are brilliant with customer support, quick useful answers, and no arrogance whatsoever, that’s how it’s done!
Love these reviews Oliver, you are very thorough in your writing. Also looking forward to your Headway course!
Oliver Nielsen says
Thanks for mentioning Digital Tutor – didn’t know about them. Looks like a good company.
Let’s put it this way. I always get a bad feeling about Pagelines. There is something about not only the theme but the folks over there I get an untrustworthy feelings.
Seems like their DMS is copied off of Headway. If you’ve used the Visual Editor of Headway you can see Pageline is using a similar interface at the bottom. I’ve tried their Pageline theme before, and they make it sound so simple, but very confusing interface with so much going, and it’s not even really drag-and-drop at all. The definition of drag-and-drop should be being able to do any design you want and see the changes right in front of you happening. Kind of misleading of them. This is already a trust-killing factor.
Another thing, their price-modeling is confusing and the worst, and I’ll even go as far to say scammy. Let’s be honest, whose going to pay for a theme with that pricing-model when there are better alternative.
They seem like they’re trying too hard be overly sleek and in selling a product that is overly priced and not as good as the other stuffs out there.
The only positive I have to say about them is their Apple-like feel site design which makes itself seem very professional and the same-old spokesmen style video trying to build trust and seem too professional, but once you dig deeper looking at the theme and the pricing compared to other options out there, it has the opposite effect. You know those types of people that tried too hard to act innocent and good, and then one little discrepancy of incongruence is an instant-switch to distrustful.
Lastly, since their site just before the launch was compromised, that says a lot about their security and knowledge of web development.
With all these tiny elements, In the end, I find them to be relying on smoke-and-mirrors with the product over. They just give off a very sleazy shady gut-feeling.
My advice to Pagelin is lower their pricing. For monthly recurring for not the best support, Pageline won’t last in this business against more established trustworthy of Genesis or the down-to-earth approachable of Headway and iBuilder.
Oliver Nielsen says
I agree with most of what you said Eric, apart from the remark on PageLines DMS copying Headway. I think that’s stretching it a bit too far, though they may have been inspired by Headway (and iThemes Builder and Visual Composer) and iterated upon it, based on their own vision.
But PageLines is hard for me to like, let alone endorse. I actually really want to. But they have this almost arrogant, defensive tone going on. Look at their Twitter feed: Almost any question asked, gets the reply “ask it in our forums please” or “send us an email” …
Why on earth they don’t use those opportunities to engage with people who are obviously interested in their product, by replying publically, on Twitter, is beyond me! What are they so afraid of?
And the rhethoric of the PageLines inner circle is sometimes quite harsh and defensive. A sentence commonly heard coming from PageLines defenders, is something along the lines of “the haters will hate, but PageLines really is the best (you haters are just too dumb to realize it)” … I must admit I don’t feel like opening myself up to that kind of community.
And what’s up with calling their new insiders club “The PageLines 300” ?? Are they at war? Doesn’t blend well with their apparant obsession with Apple’s branding methods.
Thank you for this helpful review. I will be staying with Headway because Pagelines seems only, as you said, “Halfway there”.
One thing I do like about it is its more directly “inline” way of editing. I would like Headway to adopt such a system.
What do you think of those differences?
Oliver Nielsen says
I agree that the inline editing is cool. And while I like how freeform Headway is, it could use some of the structure found in PageLines. But they’re different beasts.
I think PageLines DMS is a welcome contribution to the WordPress theme market. That layout builder is amazing. I also really like the prebuilt Sections. But it needs to be easier to make your own, though.
Now, the pricing is a different matter. Subscription? Not a big fan of that.
Matter of fact, earlier today I wanted to purchase PageLines, but:
1) Those subscriptions are a big turn off.
2) The checkout stage of their store hung up on me. Retried many times over the course of an hour or so. Made me rethink my purchase. Started thinking about how their DMS Pro activation system has for many been as fragile as their store. Confidence has been lost, momentarily at least.
And they have to fix their customer service – I see way too many complaints about their support being arrogant or non-existent.
But I think they may have a good thing going. Depends on how/when their recently announced roadmap will materialize.
You must have a lifetime license for Headway. I bought Headway 1.6 (before they changed to a subscription model), but then cancelled it because it wasn’t nearly as much of a no-coding framework as it is now. I wish I had kept it.
I’ll be keeping an eye on Pagelines as it matures.
I’m looking forward to your post about the annoyance you find in all WP frameworks. I hope it’s your next article.
I use pagelines DMS developer license, is sexy approach and designe, but is not good tools for now, have few bugs, and more issues, very poor support and more customers are angry, I hope coming soon a great upgrade.
For now Pagelines 2.4 or Headway 3.5 are the best tools for work .
Great review! I’ve just taken DMS for a spin and like you I found the lack of stylings options rather strange.
I still think its a good tool though and definitely opens the door to WordPress theme editing to a lot of people who couldn’t have done it previously.
Oliver Nielsen says
Yup, PageLines DMS is indeed a welcome addition to the WordPress theme community, though not perfect.
I look forward to road testing it in an upcoming project. The devil is in the details, and those details are typically found when the rubber meets the road:)
Have a good Sunday!
John B. Manos (@jbmanos) says
I did mean visual composer! (Smacking forehead)
I like the point you make about the entry barrier being lowered by the smaller price. I think using Chrome only is a bigger risk, though – I know a lot of ordinary people who express concern against google and thus, Chrome, that it will be interesting to see how many people download the freebie, only afterwards to realize this catch, and then delete. I bet it will be significant.
They did state on their website that the unsubscribed will have a “non intrusive” attribution appear on their site. That leads me to believe people will delete it after the fact.
On the digression, the attempt to mimic the Steve Jobs “my favorite feature” was painful — so bad I wished they would have stopped, but then it got worse when the stammering started later in the video — it made me think he was stumbling because he was trying to fit the Jobs script and couldn’t reconcile script with what he was saying.
Great review! As that “ordinary guy” who doesn’t really know CSS, I agree that we should be able to make our own websites! (Of course, that’s what lead me to Headway and kept me there after I saw that I could)
Oliver Nielsen says
You find regular people concerned about Google? Because of privacy? I mostly get the feeling that people in general care very very little about their privacy and Google (amongst others like Facebook) in general.
“Snowden? Huh? Oh him, well, yeah, I don’t really care if someone who doesn’t know me looks at my stuff… Since I haven’t done anything…”
But PageLines DMS being Chrome only at least poses a usability risk. People tend to stick withntheir browser of choice, and many rely on their bookmarks being present.
Cesar Falcao says
I dont have problem using just Chrome (like Firebug in Firefox), but my Pagelines DMS test site rendered text different in Safari than in Chrome, specially white text in black background, and that is bad.
Oliver Nielsen says
Hmm, not good!
Cesar Falcao says
Hi Oliver, another sober and unbiased review. Very cool.
After the DMS launch, it just made my desire to go Headway stronger: the lack of documentation or tutorials are really sad.
I searched the web for it and discovered something good, Pagelines will implement a multi language help system and walkthrough inside DMS, as well a Wiki documentation in the site. Now I see how sad it was for them was to rush the launch, and the time wasted because of the site hacks.
Using Pagelines is good, I love the idea of using the front end, but I hate not have been able to type directly in it. It looks like a half-revolution, but they’re going the in right direction.
I like the smartness of the sections, when you add it and it’s not blank, but pre populated with an example icon or text, so you can create a page very fast.
Templates just behave the way WP should by default, fantastic and clever.
I could achieve a lot of things I have no idea how to do with a ordinary WP theme. But it looks like not a complete product yet.
About pricing, I like to have a free option, but having the “only pro” everywhere just make sick. The new subscription option has a very low entry fee and good value for 1st year, but if you compare to another frameworks, 2nd year will start to become more expensive.
Oliver Nielsen says
Good point regarding the pre-populated sections. Makes it easier for people to see the possibilities and make sense of each section. Other frameworks could learn from that.
Have a great weekend!