Initial Impressions of Unify from Unit Interactive

I purchased a license of Unify (tagline: “The Simple Content Editor Anyone Can Use”) earlier this week to test on my staging server. The websites that Agenceum is developing are static HTML based on my simple templates, as I wanted to avoid the complications that even a polished CMS introduces for people who are just getting started with the Internet. However, the great bugaboo of any website deployment is enabling the client to edit their own content. That’s where Unify comes in.

I’d first become aware of Unify a couple of weeks ago thanks to commenter Bill Kracke, who listed a whole slew of simple CMS-like products. Essentially, it’s a web-based program (requires PHP5) that will edit the content in your static website. To tell Unify what block-level areas are editable, you simply apply the unify css class to it. Then, you browse to the unify subdirectory on the website, which contains the web app, which loads the web page in a WYSIWYG-style interface. The block-level elements that have had the unify css class applied to it show what you can edit. You can enter rich text and upload photos, and then publish your changes. You can even click the links and browse your website as you would normally. It is practically perfect for simple websites. The changes are saved back to the files (hence, they need to be writable by the web server).  Very slick. They have also added “unify repeatables”, which will duplicate and repeat any block-level div and its contents. Great for maintaining lists of things, I’d imagine. I haven’t tried this yet.

Some additional notes:

  • You need to buy a license of Unify for each domain name. That includes subdomains. As licenses only cost $16, that isn’t too bad, but it does mean that you need a development license for yourself, and a separate license for each of your clients. The web app is customized to your domain, and appears to communicate with Unit Interactive’s server to validate users (I haven’t verified this, though).
  • Because of the above, you can’t develop “local” without Internet access.
  • Installation is super easy: just upload the unify folder to the website, and add the unify css class to the block-level elements you’d like to be editable.  Make sure that your files are writable by the web server. You will also need to have PHP5 on the server.
  • You can’t “nest” editable areas.
  • You need a separate install of unify on each website.
  • It supports multiple users: the administrator can add other users to a site to allow editing.
  • It’s not 100% WYSIWYG, but it’s darned close. Really sweet.
  • It requires a modern browser and a fast PC to run it well.
  • See the Unify FAQ for more information.

So far, I’m impressed, and have started rolling it out to Agenceum’s clients. It does seem a little slow to start, particularly on the first startup when (I think) it is scanning files for changes. I haven’t profiled it either to see what kind of impact it has on the my server. But these are minor nits; this product vastly simplifies the need for training and content support after-the-fact, which frees me to do other things while giving the client control of the content whenever he/she wants to grab it. Booyah!