Today I’m reviewing the MasterPress plugin from Traversal. MasterPress boosts your productivity by bringing point-and-click simplicity to the more advanced features of WordPress, while introducing amazing new ways to manage your content and develop custom themes for your web sites and apps.
This is a very young plugin which has only been around for a few months now. Nonetheless it is very promising, and I thoroughly enjoyed giving it a test drive.
Features & Usage
Masterplan is the term MasterPress uses to describe your complete content management setup. Your site’s masterplan can be backed up, restored, and even exported for use in another WordPress site, letting you replicate a CMS environment in minutes. Thus when you install and activate MasterPress you will see the ‘Masterplan’ item being added to your dashboard menu. Opening that up will reveal a number of other sub pages which include all the plugin’s functionality.
There is a striking similarity between what MasterPress does and Toolset. We’ve reviewed Toolset earlier on and loved it, so it was interesting to compare it with MasterPress.
The Custom Post Type creator is the easiest I’ve ever encountered, you’ve got all the power of custom post types at your fingertips, sans any code. It’s just a case of point and click, really easy. You can also upload an image to serve as the new post types’s thumbnail, and MasterPress will automatically show the grayscale version of it within the menu, as is default behaviour of WordPress’ own default post types. Nifty.
Of course there are also the relation fields which are another unique feature. You can insert fields such as ‘related post’, ‘related user’ and ‘related site’ amongst others. In all, MasterPress includes over 20 custom field types designed to integrate perfectly with the WordPress dashboard. Now you can tailor WordPress to content–manage just about any web site or app you can imagine, while retaining its legendary ease-of-use.
I am digging the Admin menu editor, which allows you to drag and drop new custom post type menu items you create and select their location within the WordPress dashboard menu.
Another UI building feature is the Column builder which allows us to create listing columns in minutes, with drag-and-drop reordering, and integrated support for custom fields and taxonomies. These columns are shown on the manage listing screen for posts of this type.
An area where MasterPress really shines is that of building relationships between post types. Taxonomies can be a fine way to relate objects together in WordPress, but sometimes you need something more direct. The Related objects and object-type fields in MasterPress let you select one or more posts, terms, users, sites (in your multi-site network), post types, taxonomies, and user roles.
A lot of attention has been given to the user interface, this was immediately evident when I started to use this plugin. Being a plugin that does do some advanced things with WordPress, but is targeted towards less experienced users, a user friendly interface is essential. And MasterPress does not disappoint in this area. While it was not possible to fit all the plugin’s functions within the WordPress standard UI elements, the developers of MasterPress did a great job of making things seem as familiar as possible, so you never feel like you’re using something that is not native to WordPress.
You get full blown role management functionality as part of MasterPress. Just go to ‘MasterPress > User Roles’ and you will have access to all the registered user roles. You can then edit their capabilities or even create new roles and capabilities. Again good UI practice is observed and the capabilities are neatly categorized into four tabs, as seen below.
Documentation & Support
The MasterPress website is well laid out and the documentation section follows in the same vein. There are two branches with regards to documentation, you can choose to use the Getting Started Guide or dive in at the deep end with the Developer Guide. The developer guide mostly covers data access and display topics, while the getting started guide show you how to create custom post types, fields and build relationships between them.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is a blog on the MasterPress website, which includes helpful videos that are recommended watching if you are just starting out with this plugin.
Documentation for MasterPress is of very high standard, and although the plugin is still in its first version, the documentation is complete, detailed and easy to understand.
If you have purchased the Developer licence, you are also entitled to priority support access, which in other words gives you a faster response time to your support requests.
MasterPress pricing is based on a three tier structure. Prices shown are in Australian dollars, which are roughly equal to US dollars. We have the $89 Single licence, valid for one site, the $179 Business licence, which includes support for 5 sites, and the $359 Developer licence, which supports unlimited sites, WordPress multi-site, and also comes with priority support access. All of these licences are 1 year licences and are therefore renewed every year at this price.
Customers can renew their licence within the 60 days before the expiration date at 50% of the regular price of the relevant licence, which is a very nice incentive for those who invest in this plugin.
It’s important to note that such plugins are crucial to your website’s functionality, hence it doesn’t really make sense to go without updates, even though you might not need the support. Thus it is worth keeping in mind that you will most probably be renewing the licence fee on a yearly basis to keep everything updated and playing fine with new versions of WordPress. No money pinching is recommended with any premium plugins with regards to updates, especially plugins such as MasterPress which are responsible for so much of your site’s content and functionality.
The first time I came across MasterPress, I immediately saw that it was worth taking note of. After reviewing so many plugins, I have developed an intuition that tells me within a few moments if a plugin is well-made or not. In the case of MasterPress, I was excited right off the bat. First of all, it’s an innovative plugin, tackling a niche that has only recently been opened within the WordPress realm, with plugins like Toolset making a good head start. It’s nice to see a WordPress developer take risks and go into a new area, while many others on the other hand are creating yet another slider plugin. Nothing bad about sliders, but sometimes I feel that as developers we are not really being that innovative, there’s really a lot of unexplored territory with regards to things plugins can do.
Here’s a video I recorded for you, where I go through the plugin’s features and also highlight some of the best UI innovations we find in this plugin
As I mentioned earlier, the main competitor to this plugin is Toolset, which has been receiving some rave reviews lately. A lifetime (updates and support) Toolset licence can be had for just $295, which makes it a better price proposition than MasterPress. On the other hand, I found the user interface of MasterPress way more intuitive (and beautiful) than Toolset. Toolset already has quite a bit of traction while MasterPress is the newcomer, but it will be good to see how they will challenge each other going forward.
As a user (and developer), I’m very happy to see more competition in this area, as the WordPress community strives to make not only blogs but complex websites accessible to users with basic knowledge in web development.
MasterPress is useful to both users and developers, however since it still requires some template manipulation (light coding) to display things on the front end, it perhaps is best suited for WordPress developers and designers who also build templates for clients. Clients will love the custom interfaces you will build for them, and as a developer/designer it will speed up things for you immensely.
My final word on MasterPress? I was truly amazed at how well the plugin worked, given that it’s still in it’s first major release (I tested version 1.0.1b3). I have no doubt whatsoever that given the proper backing, this plugin can rapidly become one of the most popular premium plugins for WordPress. The heat is on the competitors now, and with the entry of MasterPress we can say that this niche of code-free WordPress building is officially open.
What are your thoughts about this new breed of plugins that let you create more functionality without delving into code?
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