The most powerful and flexible Joomla! component on the market has landed on WordPress. It is no secret that we are big fans of JReviews and have developed numerous Joomla! sites with it. Now ClickFWD has ported its popular Joomla! CCK over to the most popular CMS on the planet, giving WordPress that "killer app" that was sorely needed.
We at Puelo Consulting have never been big fans of WordPress, mostly due to the dearth of quality 3rd-party software that extends the WP core, and WordPress out-of-the-box is weak on SEO, performance and flexibility; only by installing numerous plugins can a WP site begin to take the shape of a professional and flexible CMS. All that changes now with the release of JReviews for WordPress.
It is easy to get the impression that JReviews is nothing more than a complex WordPress review plugin. Nothing could be further from the truth; JReviews is arguably the most powerful and flexible Content Construction Kit (CCK) available for WordPress. It can be used to create review sites, directories, travel/city guides, blogs, catalogs, classifieds and just about any other custom implementation one can imagine. The simple and flexible theme system and powerful custom fields allow the webmaster/developer to create unique content templates and functionality, creating possibilities that are limited only by one's imagination.
The arrival of JReviews changes everything for WordPress. JReviews can almost be considered a CMS in itself and boasts many more features than the WP core itself. The beauty of JReviews is that it works on top of the core article system, using its own framework to override the WP core. By using the core content system, JReviews integrates well with other WordPress plugins.
The list of JReviews features goes way beyond the scope of this article, and we refer the reader to the JReviews features on the official site. Here we will cover the most important features:
The review system is slick and easy to set up and use. Multiple sets of rating criteria can be set up by category and custom fields can be used to add more detail to the reviews, for example a date field so that a reviewer can specify when he stayed at a hotel or restaurant. JReviews comes with built-in Schema.org microdata HTML markup for maximum impact in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Reviewers can add photos, videos and attachments to their reviews. A flexible ACL allows complete control of who can submit, moderate and edit reviews. Reviewers are ranked by number of reviews and usefulness votes. A complete and flexible email notification system as well as RSS feeds keep users and administrators up-to-date on rating activities.
The review form itself is sleek and intuitive.
WordPress articles become Listings in JReviews, with a complete ACL, moderation system, favorites list and much more. The sleek submittal form, similar to the review form, allows any user to easily add a new Listing, ideal for user-driven content. Media thumbnails are automatically cropped/scaled according to settings in administration. Like the reviews, a complete and flexible email notification system as well as RSS feeds keep users and administrators up-to-date on site activities. A powerful comparison feature allows side-by-side comparison of listings, custom fields and reviews. Listings automatically include Schema.org markup and the Schema.org object type can be specified on a category-by-category basis.
JReviews Listings include configurable social sharing widgets for the leading social networks such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LindedIn and Pinterest. Auto Tweets and automatic posting to Facebook can be set up for unmoderated submissions, and JReviews Listings also automatically generate FB Open Graph tags for each listing.
A built-in inquiry system allows users to send inquiries using a button in the listing, which can be sent to different email addresses according to setting in WP admin.
The entire JReviews content system is easily searchable for users through the Advanced Search widgets, which are easily created and configured from within WP admin. Listing titles, custom field values, addresses and categories can be searched using the built-in search algorithm, and the administrator has complete control over what content can be searched and what not.
A custom fields widget permits filtering results based on values of custom fields. For example, products can be filtered by brand, or restaurants can be filtered by city/state.
Going beyond listings and reviews, the Custom Fields are the heart and soul of JReviews. This is where the magic, power and flexibility of JReviews truly shines and allows webmasters to create functionality that would otherwise involve costly and time-consuming hacking of the WordPress core. Custom Field types include text, integer, decimal, radio buttons, select lists, date fields, email addresses, website URLs and code fields. The JReviews theme system allows output of Custom Fields anywhere on a page, and category pages can be configured to order listings by Custom Field (price, for example).
JReviews' unique Click2Search feature allows automatic filtering based on Custom Field values, for example filtering brands by product with one click, or narrowing results to a city in a travel directory.
Custom Fields are also useful for building affiliate links to Amazon for products, or to booking sites for city guides.
The PHP Based Formatting feature allows manipulation of Custom Fields with custom code, entered directly in the Fields Manager in the Dashboard. This powerful feature allows webmasters to expand the functionality of Custom Fields by providing a direct window to PHP code to be executed when the field is rendered on the page. This feature can be used to check certain conditions and display the field or hide it. For example, different messages can be shown to guests or logged-in users; different banners can be shown depending on the value of the field; even live pricing calculations can be performed based on values of multiple Custom Fields.
JReviews for WordPress comes bundled with a wide variety of widgets for improving site navigation and showing off listings and reviews anywhere on a WP site, as well as integration for the popular BuddyPress community plugin.
JReivews boasts a flexible SEO Manager for fields and categories allowing dynamic generation of meta titles, descriptions and keywords based on listing summaries, custom field values and category names. By applying the SEO Manager features to listings, fields and category pages a webmaster can fine-tune metadata for thousands of listings from a central location in WP admin.
Image and video galleries are easily set up with a plethora of options and layouts available. JReviews' unique media management system dynamically re-sizes and crops thumbnails according to the settings in WP admin. Users can easily manage their uploads by re-ordering, editing, deleting and adding new media at any time. Support for video linking from YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion is included as well as remote media uploads from external URLs. File attachments are also supported. Amazon S3 is supported for remote storage and JReviews can also host videos and audio and includes support for the leading encoding companies: Zencoder, Transloadit and Encoding.com.
JReviews comes equipped with an efficient internal caching system and performance-tuned database query indexing, which keeps site overhead to a minimum. CDN support for rich media stored on Amazon S3 is provided directly in the JReviews dashboard to serve images and videos from a Content Delivery Network such as Amazon CloudFront or CloudFire.
Arguably one of the best Google Maps API integration available on the web, the Geomaps Addon adds map functionality to geographic-based listings, such as hotels, restaurants, stores and places of interest. Related listings can be ordered by distance, useful for showing nearby restaurants and services in a hotel listing. Users can also search categories using proximity search by entering an address, and the resulting list will show all listings near the address entered. Users may also get detailed directions to listings by entering their address.
The Geomaps widget permits the display of custom maps, useful for showing businesses or points of interest in a city, or displaying featured listings.
The JReviews WidgetFactory provides external widgets that can be added to external sites, showcasing reviews, single listings or category listings. External widgets are a perfect tool for driving traffic to your site and spreading your brand around the web. The widgets are fully customizeable by the user and the embed code is dynamically generated according to the user's configuration preferences.
Let's take a look at the JReviews dashboard in WordPress.
Notice the huge number of options in the menu to the left. Fans of the Joomla! variant of JReviews will find the WP admin nearly identical. ClickFWD has been working on making JReviews more CMS-agnostic and it is likely we will see the Joomla! and WordPress versions advance together.
The following gallery shows a few snapshots of the most important parts of the JReviews dashboard:
JReviews' lead developer, Alejandro Schmeichler, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions regarding this monumental event.
JReviews has been in development for 8 years and during that time we’ve gotten many enquiries from potential clients about a WordPress version. If you google “wordpress jreviews” you will also find many results of WordPress users looking for the "JReviews equivalent for WordPress". This together with a de-acceleration in sales growth for our Joomla extension led us to consider WordPress as potential market. We first seriously started thinking about this a year ago. We did some quick development work to understand how WordPress plugins work and determine the feasibility of the idea. After a few days of work we managed to get the review form working in a WordPress post and we knew then that this was a real possibility. We let it simmer and then earlier this year we re-took the effort in full force.
From the very beginning JReviews has used its own MVC framework so we do things a bit different than most Joomla extensions. This has made it easier for us to migrate from Joomla 1.5 to each new major Joomla version (2.5 and 3) since we had already abstracted a large portion of the code and the changes we had to make were mostly limited to the framework layer that “talks" to Joomla. The move to WordPress presented some additional challenges because now the framework had to talk to a new CMS. It was necessary to create CMS-specific files in the framework to interface with the Model layer in each CMS and perform standard functions like reading CMS configuration settings, loading the User object, loading stylesheets and scripts, and so on. However, the biggest challenges were related to the integration with the native WordPress category/post system; creating our own menu system for WordPress using WordPress pages and re-writing the routing logic.
Yes, both versions offer the same features. We also converted all the Joomla modules we offer (Listings, Reviews, Adv. Search, etc.) into WordPress Widgets and we even added some JReviews-specific widget positions that can be loaded inside JReviews pages. Similar to the Joomla integration we have with CommunityBuilder, JomSocial and EasySocial, for WordPress we offer an out-of-the box integration with BuddyPress which includes linking user names to BuddyPress profiles and displaying their avatars in listings and reviews; as well as posting the JReviews events in the BuddyPress activity stream.
We wanted to make sure that all the valuable SEO work we had done for JReviews in Joomla could be transferred over to WordPress. So JReviews for WordPress has a strong emphasis on SEO with structured data markup for listings and reviews as well as breadcrumbs in list pages. Also, most page titles can be customized and we implemented meta keyword and description tags even though these are less relevant nowadays.
With regards to the add-ons, right now we are only offering GeoMaps and the WidgetFactory for WordPress, while Joomla also has the PaidListings and Facebook App Factory Add-ons.
One of the most important requirements for us to undertake this project was that the code base for JReviews would need to remain mostly the same for both CMSs in order to be able to easily roll out the same features for both and simplify the work required to maintain it going forward. The bulk of the work was focused on abstracting the application layer as much as possible by moving all CMS specific code to the framework. We ended up creating some CMS specific folders in the application layer for code that had to remain different. Especially the Model code that handles the database queries for menus, categories and posts.
For now we’ve contacted a WordPress Plugin developer that already has a Joomla to WordPress migrator to see if he would develop an add-on for JReviews. It’s very early to say, but we hope that this materializes and give those users wanting to migrate from Joomla to WordPress an easy way to do it. We haven’t considered a migration in the opposite direction at this time.
It’s possible. However, since we are just starting with WordPress it’s not something we are considering at this time.
Most people developing sites today want to have access to a wide range of applications that only an established CMS can provide. JReviews works well within these CMSs and integrates with popular applications in those CMSs so it doesn’t make much sense for us to try to re-invent the wheel and spread too thin. We would rather do one thing and do it well.
Without a doubt the release of JReviews for WordPress is a milestone in WP history. All of the shortcomings of the most popular CMS on the web are now cured with a single plugin which, by the way, is backed by the best support team on the web. We at Puelo Consulting cannot recommend JReviews highly enough, and thanks to the new WordPress version we can happily say that WordPress is now a viable CMS for serious development. Great job, Alejandro & Kristian!
Be sure to check out the JReviews for WordPress demo site.