Rachel H Kay Blog

Using Pulse CMS On My Website

A few years ago I decided to add a blog to my website. I wanted a place where I could write about different topics and provide helpful information. But I wanted my blog to look as though it was a part of my website, not a page that was added later on. This meant that however this blog functioned, I needed to be able to template it so that it matched my websites styles and layout. I did a lot of research on Content Management Systems, and found a lot of interesting options, but in the end I settled on Pulse, which seemed to be the best option for my needs.

The main reason I chose Pulse was because it was very easy to integrate into my website, which was originally built using Bootstrap. What I also liked was that I didn’t have to turn my entire website into a Pulse site. I could keep my original website pages the way there were, and just template my blog into Pulse. You can read a blog post I wrote about my research on different Content Management Systems, To Blog Or Not To Blog, where I go into more detail about those CMS’s and why Pulse was the better option.

When I first began using Pulse it was a simple Content Management System, Pulse 3, with no bells and whistles. You write a blog post, post it on your website, and vuala. Although, at the time, there weren’t a lot of options with functionality. I could add a block in my sidebar for recent posts, but there wasn't any integration for categories. Plus integrating meta data onto each individual blog post was hard as well, since it was a very simple system. So social sharing on different platforms, especially Facebook, did not work the way I would have liked. But, to get started with a blog, it was still worth it.

Eventually Pulse was completely redesigned, and over time a new version was released that would enable the bells and whistles to make my blog do more. Now there is Pulse 5, which has a lot more capabilities, such as categories, and a better way to add meta data for social sharing, as well as a lot of other new functionality. Pulse has come a long way from its original creation and now is good competition for WordPress.

Why Choose Pulse?

You’re probably wondering why I said Pulse is good competition for WordPress, so I’ll explain. Pulse is a CMS, (Content Management System) similar to WordPress. It does have one advantage over WordPress though, it doesn't have a database, yes you heard that right, no database. Pulse is a flat CMS, which means better performance. Now I work with WordPress and build WordPress sites for clients, so I’m not trying to say anything against using WordPress, but that database does make keeping a websites performance top notch a bit tricky. Especially when that website has a blog with a lot of blog posts. Over time that database will get bigger and bigger, and that requires more work to keep the database optimized for best performance. But with Pulse you don’t have to worry about that. All of your blog posts are stored as .txt files, which take up less space on your server, so no matter how many blog posts you have, it won’t drain on the performance of your website.

So now that I have your attention, here is the next best thing about Pulse. You can take an HTML site and integrate it, or template it into Pulse. But, you don’t have to template your entire website if you don’t want to. You can have static HTML pages and a Pulse blog, or static HTML pages and a Pulse blog and gallery. Or you can template your entire website. The options are completely up to you! That is what drew me into Pulse since I just wanted a blog that ran on a CMS, but look exactly like the rest of my website.

Now, this is where Pulse is similar to WordPress. The pages that you integrate into Pulse can then be edited inside the Pulse dashboard, so you can edit content with a WYSIWYG editor just like you do in WordPress. While the editor isn’t exactly the same as the editor in WordPress it still has all you need to edit pages, write blog posts, add images, create galleries, etc. Plus for those who are more code savvy, you can still see the markdown and make edits that way if you like, and easily switch between the two. Now are you beginning to see why I said Pulse is good competition for WordPress?

Plus, there are now addons for Pulse that work like WordPress plugins, and there are also themes pre-built for Pulse that can be uploaded into a Pulse site to give it a fresh look. You can also create blocks in Pulse, that you can then use to work in different areas of your website that function like a plugin might in WordPress. So if I wanted to have an “About Me” block in my blog sidebar, I could just add the code to a block in the Pulse dashboard, then get the code to embed that block, and put it in my sidebar. But I don’t just have to use that block in my sidebar. I can add it to my footer, or anywhere else I want that “About Me” block to be in my website. If I want to change something in that block, I just go to that block in the Pulse dashboard, make the change, and then all the “About Me” blocks on my website have the new content. There are a lot of other things about Pulse, which is way too much to get into in this blog post, but you can check Pulse out for yourself.

One major difference between Pulse and WordPress is that using WordPress is free, and there are premium and free options for WordPress themes, but Pulse is not a free CMS. So it may not work for the average person. But for those who build websites for a living, it might be something to look into. Especially since you can build an HTML site, and easily turn it into a working Pulse site that can be edited and updated with a WYSIWYG for those clients who aren’t code savvy.

Upgrading From Pulse 3 To Pulse 5

Upgrading my blog and certain portions of my website from Pulse 3 to Pulse 5 has been a bit of a learning curve. Pulse 5 functions very differently from Pulse 3, but I’m learning the ins and outs. I first setup my website with Pulse 5 in a sub-folder on my server so that I could weed out any kinks before making the upgrade to my live site. Even after doing this I still found a few other kinks after making the upgrade to my live site.

Blog Comments In Pulse

Pulse 3 had comments integrated into its functionality, but Pulse 5 integrates with Disqus for its commenting system. So at first I didn’t have comments setup on my site. I found a few issues with my original htaccess file rewrites that didn’t play nice with Pulse 5, so some of the backend of Pulse didn’t function as it should, and I couldn’t fully integrate my Disqus account. Originally I had some rewrite rules that removed the file extensions from my URL so that I wouldn't see “.html” or “.php” in my URL. But those rewrite rules caused certain aspects of the Pulse dashboard, mostly the settings area, to not function as it should. So now I have to figure out a new way to get rid of those file extensions in my URL. I’m still working on that one.

Meta Data

Pulse 5 has the option to manually add the meta data to each individual blog post, so I can ensure that the title, description, featured image and keywords are exactly what I want for each post I write. That also helps with social sharing as well. Now when each blog post is shared via the social buttons in each post, the title, featured image and description are picked up. With Pulse 3 social media had a hard time picking up the title and even the image for individual posts. So I had to set a global title and image for my blog itself. I’m just running into a slight kink where the featured image of each post isn’t showing up in my metadata, probably something to do with my particular set up, so I’m still working on that one too.

Blog Category Issue

Pulse 5 has the ability to add tags to blog posts that work like categories in WordPress, which is great. I like that I can now categorize my posts since I write about different topics from gardening, to DIY, to web development, etc., so I added a block to my blog sidebar for my categories. That way if someone wants to view my blog posts for a particular category, now they can. Then I discovered a snag, bugger. For some weird reason those pages are loading funny. Something is amiss somewhere. So that's a new debugging issue to solve. Yeah, I’m working on it.

Templating Pages

Originally in Pulse 3 I just had my blog integrated into Pulse. I then turned my footer into a block inside Pulse, changed my HTML pages into PHP pages and embedded the code so I didn’t have to manually update each footer on each page. I could just update the footer inside the Pulse dashboard and that change would appear on every footer throughout my website. I did a similar setup with Pulse 5, but I did run into one little snag. Since my website pages are “.php” pages and “.html” pages I couldn’t keep my home page in my document root, because Pulse 5 also has an index.php page. So I had to partially template my home page as well. By partially I mean that while I put my home page inside a template file in Pulse, I don’t edit the page content inside a WYSIWYG editor inside the Pulse dashboard. I kept that separate, so I can still just go into the file itself, and make any edits I want. That was just the easiest for my needs, to keep my home page functioning as it was, and just have my blog integrated with Pulse.

Now there is a new issue to tackle. Recently, before I made the upgrade to Pulse 5, I updated the look of my portfolio page using a JavaScript plugin called Masonry. I like the masonry look for my portfolio, but there is one little snag. The way the code is setup now causes my portfolio items to stack to the left of the page before Masonry can place them into their position. This has to do with the window.load function I’m using in my code. I’ve done some research trying to find a way to fix this. But in order to fix the issue I need to use another JavaScript plugin. Here's the snag, I’m still learning JavaScript and jQuery. The code I used to get the Masonry plugin to work with the HTML code used for the layout and popups of each of my portfolio items, is a bit different from the code suggestions on the Masonry website. So, long story short, I still haven't figured out how to integrate this new plugin with Masonry, which leaves me with a dilemma. Leave my portfolio items to keep showing up on the left before they load into masonry layout, or integrate my portfolio into Pulse and use the Pulse masonry layout. I may test that out and see how it works, that way for now my portfolio page loads nicely. But as my JavaScript and jQuery skills grow, I’m still going to keep looking into integrating this load plugin with my Masonry code. It's a work in progress, and will be a good learning curve for me in the future.

Keep On Pulsing

Other than that I like the new upgrade. There are usually snags when you try something new, but that's how you learn. Find a problem, find a fix, learn something new. I’ll also write more blog posts as ideas come, now that I’ll be able to properly share them socially. This is the first blog post I’ve written this year. Not good I know, but how do you get the word out on your posts if they don’t share to social media as they should. Plus, now that I’ve made the upgrade to Pulse 5 I can begin to offer it to my clients as an alternative to WordPress. So there are some definite possibilities with Pulse 5 that I didn’t have with Pulse 3. Yes I still have some snags on my site to work out, but they’ll get resolved, and then everything will be working top notch and I’ll be happy. Sky's the limit here. Time to build some demo sites with Pulse 5 and see what I can come up with.

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About Me

Hi there. I'm Rachel Kay, a Web Developer, Illustrator, & Designer, whose hobby is to be creative and artistic, while freelancing as a Web Developer building creative, modern websites.

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