It’s not often that I’m blown away by a new application or piece of software, but after signing up to Leeflets as a beta tester, I’m pumped. Actually, it reminds me a bit of 2004 and my first steps with an early WordPress.

So what is Leeflets? Well that’s kind of the whole point of my video, so please go check that out first and then come back for the links and extra info below. Make sure you grab a drink while you watch, this is a 16-minuter! Sometimes these things just take time.

Ok so in a nutshell, Leeflets is an open source web publishing platform with an emphasis on simple design and ease of use. It is geared towards developing small, single-page websites. This includes things like personal portfolios, events pages, landing/launch pages, websites for small businesses; in short, any site that doesn’t need to handle large amounts of data.

Here’s an excerpt from the introductory text on the Leeflets website

: ‘In a flooded marketplace of overly complex website templates, content management systems and frameworks, Leeflets is being created in order to deliver a much needed alternative…. We have created a human-usable solution for minimalist websites called “Leeflets” that can be used “out-of-box” for specific purposes without any of the headache.’

The platform is scheduled for official release some time in April 2013. It is being created by some prominent WordPress developers including Jason Schuller of Press75, Brad Touesnard the man behind WP App Store, and Jeff Milone and David Morgan who run Organic Themes. Since it’s an Open Source project, it is also receiving input from a broad range of contributors. You can see the full list of contributors on the Leeflets Github page.

Incidentally, Jason Schuller has just published a blog post called “Making Things Simple” about the project in which he goes into further detail about its inspiration and aims.

Let me try and sum up my initial thoughts on the platform. I think Jason and Brad are right about the increasing complexity of current content management systems. Last year, co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, talked about plans to radically simplify the WordPress user interface and bring the platform up to speed with advances in mobile devices. The problem Matt and his crew face is to turn a giant (a very good one I might add) into a ballet dancer. Jason and Brad clearly don’t have this entry barrier and are developing their platform with mobile Web experiences very much in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking about a “WordPress killer” here, we’re talking about a completely different sort of platform; a new generation of publishing that places emphasis on immediacy of content and surface-level tactile interaction, in contrast to the deep links, mice and keyboards of the noughties web. So it’s a case of horses for courses, as the expression goes.

I love the fact that Leeflets can be installed in under 30 seconds. I also love the “click and change” approach to content management. I think that’s a significant step forward in terms of interface design and it will mean a much more reasonable learning curve for general users in comparison to some of the larger open source platforms currently available.

Quite a few people have pointed out that the current iteration of Leeflets lacks the ability to add posts or pages. Jason and Brad have responded to this explaining that the very idea of doing away with pages in the WordPress sense is an essential part of rethinking a simple design: “The concept for Leeflets came from the idea that a solution for minimalist single-page websites would be a really nice/niche alternative to having to use WordPress for something like that” (Source). Jason also pointed out that it will be possible to create page-like entries, but these are likely to function as javascript overlays rather than stand alone pages. In other words “You can create pages, you just need to get a little creative with your implementation” (Source).

The one area I haven’t had time to look into yet is the code base. I’ll be posting an update on that shortly. More specifically, I want to find out how simple it is to code new templates for Leeflets, because unlike WordPress, Leeflets will not (I may be wrong about this) function with a “default theme” or template – a single solution that suits all. Instead, users will need to acquire specific templates to fit their particular projects. I imagine we’ll be seeing the replication of the WordPress theme market scenario there, where you will have a mixture of free and paid template options and then beyond that you will have to hire a developer for a bespoke design. I can only hope that the developers have in mind a solution for general user template development, because this will really raise the bar in terms of access.

I want to end by saying a huge thank you to Jason, Brad and everyone involved in developing this project. It’s really refreshing to see a new open source publishing platform and the vision and challenges that go with bringing it to life. Thanks a lot guys.