Mara flatfile CMS


Going back to the 00's, we were building sites with the then most popular CMS of that time. We hit two issues. Firstly, that version changes altered the core code so much that it was impossible to make templates designed for an earlier version work with the later one.  Thus, every so often you would be faced with a 'tabula rasa' restart of all your design efforts. If that were not bad enough, in the end every single site we built with this CMS got hacked at least once. In once case, hacked a second time even after security measures were taken.  Its security was simply, diabolically poor.

So, after some forays into lesser-known CMS products that didn't go well, we switched to another brand leader product which at least has a better, if not perfect, security record.

However, even before this, I'd already looked at making a custom frontend for our own website. This was in the nature of a fairly simple PHP script which loaded page content to order. I took this route because I wasn't at all happy with posting downloads of our utilities on a site which might very well get hacked, had I used the earlier CMS.

In discussions with a colleague, it was decided that  it might be worth taking our own little inhouse project a bit further, and releasing it as an open source download. We called this early version Hyperframe, and it attracted some limited interest.

I'd never been to keen on the name though, suggestive as it is of hypertension, or perhaps of the clunky framesets used on very early websites. Thus, after version 4 the project  was renamed to Mara.  At the same time some fundamental changes were made to the site structure, based on experience gained.

Since then, Mara has been developed as time has permitted, mostly when there's not too much other work on hand. We use it in parallel with other mainstream products. After all, no-one is claiming that it suits all situations. There are applications though, where it really shines. There is no doubt about that. 

Originally, Hyperframe/Mara was pitched at the Web professional or more serious enthusiast, the sort of individual who wouldn't need too much handholding.

Recently there has been a lot of interest in 'Web Builders' which make it very easy for an inexperienced person to put a basic website together.  The limitation of these 'Builders' is of course that you can do only so much with them, after which to progress further you'd need to start afresh  with a 'proper' website. I felt that we could go one better than that, and offer a package that is easy enough to use for the beginner, but IS a proper website. Minus the 'concrete ceiling' of the typical sitebuilder package.

A major selling point of these 'builders' is the ability to add content by drag and drop.  I took a look at the drag and drop features of some sitebuilders, and said to myself, 'We can do that' - Then after a bit of thought and a few test pages on our inhouse plarform .. 'No. Correction. We can do better than that. A lot better.'  

So, a change in direction for Mara, and the aim now is to make the platform easy enough to set up for the first-time website creator.  You can check out our implementation of drag and drop in the latest release, and decide for yourself if it's better than the competition's.

Of course, none of this precludes Mara being used for the original purpose of building small business informational websites. The very easy to use editing facilities are a big plus point with business clients, since they make it straightforward to do self maintenance.

The name:

Mara is a Scots Gaelic word meaning 'of the sea' and is often found as part of house or place names in this part of the world.  It can be a female given name, or short form of Tamara. It is also the name of a (male) Tibetan Buddhist demon of destruction, and that of a similarly-minded animé character.

My inspiration was an eponymous cafe in Ullapool, with rather a pleasant outlook over Loch Broom.

In its role here, it is intended to be pronounced with the emphasis in the first A, as in 'Mah-ra' or 'Māra.'

We've since realised that there is a  similarly named product, Mara DNS. The role of that product is radically different from ours,  so hopefully the coder of Mara DNS won't have any objections to the similarity of name. Both projects are free software. 


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