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What is Zikula Hosting?
Zikula is an open source website builder that’s quick and easy to use. With a variety of themes, plugins, and user-friendly tools, it’s a simple and highly flexible way to get your business webpage, online store, or blog up and running.
Zikula is an application development framework and content management system for building dynamic web sites and apps in PHP.
What is a web application development framework?
Building a software application from scratch involves a lot of repetitive "boiler plate" coding. There are so many things that need to be done every single time you build a web application:
- Basic utility code, like class loaders, templating, and database interaction.
- Architectural decisions, like how to organize code and how components interact with each other.
- Universally needed features like user management, login, and form validation.
- Common, domain specific features like shopping carts, blog post creation, and commenting.
- Development-related support tasks, like testing, integration, and deployment.
An application development framework provides tools for accomplishing some or all of those tasks, either automatically or with greater ease than usual.
What is a Content Management System?
A content management system is a web application that provides administrators with a relatively easy way to add, edit, and update content, and automates the display and navigation of that content for front-end users. There is usually a templating or theming system in place that makes it easy for developers to customize the way content is displayed and navigated.
What's the difference?
Especially in the area of web development, there are a number of software packages that combine the features of a Content Management System and an application development framework.
The distinction mostly has to do with what tasks are easy and which are difficult, along with how data is structured.
CMSes usually make it very easy to start publishing content right away, but the mechanisms for extending functionality are often hidden away, or not accessible at all. Frameworks, on the other hand, provide a lot of tools for implementing features, but tend to lack the features themselves.
A content management system usually has a specific data structure inherent to it, including details like Posts, Pages, Authors, tagging, categories, and so forth. Application development frameworks usually have an open-ended data-structure, along with built-in tools (like an
ActiveRecord class) for modeling unique custom data structures.
Zikula: Framework and CMS
Zikula is a powerful PHP-based application development framework that has content management capabilities built-in. The idea is to expose all the functionality of a typical Application Development Framework, with the up-and-running ease of a traditional CMS.
This is accomplished by building Zikula on top of other development frameworks and implementing a modular approach to feature development.
Notable features of Zikula
Built on top of Symfony and Doctrine
Zikula is a framework riding on top of another framework called Symfony, which includes a set of powerful PHP tools called Doctrine. From a development standpoint, this gives programmers working in Zikula access to a mature, well-documented set of libraries and utilities.
Integrated with Bootstrap and Font Awesome
Bootstrap has become the most popular front-end framework, and for good reason.
Zikula has built-in support for Bootstrap and its icon system Font Awesome, which makes it very easy to build a contemporary user experience.
Integrated with jQuery
Zikula's server-side capabilities are built on top of powerful PHP frameworks Symfony and Doctrine. Similarly, its front-end experience is built on jQuery, which provides a wide range of HTML manipulation and DOM-handling capabilities. Zikula's own built-in features use the library, and so can developers working on a Zikula application.
Zikula is extended through the development of modules. Modules can be created in the Zikula sister project called Module Studio.
Module Studio is a GUI-based Development Environment that provides a Model-Driven-Design approach to rapid development. Rather than hand-coding data structures and component interactions, Module Studio allows a developer to represent these things visually, using a form of UML. Module code is then automatically generated from these models.
Who Should Use Zikula?
Zikula is an interesting project with a lot of potential. It offers powerful tools for web development. The Module Studio project, combined with the front-end capabilities of Bootstrap, could seriously accelerate the pace of iterative development of new and interesting applications.
But it is still fairly new, and it doesn't "just work" right out of the box. Documentation is a little thin.
This means it likely isn't right for non-technical people who are just looking for a good Content Management System. Nor is it probably a good choice for mission-critical business support.
Right now, the best use of Zikula is probably rapid prototyping of novel web applications. It is also a good project for people looking to contribute to an interesting Open Source application. It is new enough that there is still room for beginners looking to make a meaningful impact.
The only hard requirement for Zikula is PHP 5.3+ (with 5.5 strongly recommended). Most applications built with Zikula will also probably need a database, but this choice is completely open.