When you hear words “Movable Type” you are either wondering what this new thing is or asking yourself what happened to it. Well, to be fair, it is a CMS that’s been present online since 2001. It has gone through some ups and downs, paid and open-source (not available anymore) versions, but it is still here. Unfortunately, it isn’t a household name like some other CMSs or blogging platforms, but it’s recognized solution among some users.
If you are not sure that you want to work with MovableType, prepare for a (relatively) crash course in it. Unlike other paid services where you get a free trial period for few weeks, here you get only one. The next, not so welcome, step will make you think that creating a profile, downloading, and installing MovableType seems like a never ending process. If you want to download it, you will need to have an AWS (Amazon Web Services) profile. Although this is a trusted company, we believe that there could have been an easier way to have your trial version. If you don’t have an AWS profile, prepare for a detour, which is never a welcome trajectory for the first steps, like installation and download. For an AWS sign up you will have to provide contact information, payment information, then identity verification via giving a telephone number, getting a call, typing a provided PIN number, selecting a support plan and confirming.
Then go back to purchase the MovableType license. Don’t get confused with AWS free tier/billing because you receive the AWS free tier automatically for 12 months after you sign up for an AWS account. AWS and MovableType purchases are two separate things. For MovableType, the one thing you need to remember is that if you don’t cancel your subscription before the end of the trial period, you will be charged automatically. Then, go to your email account and check out the email, or directly access your software subscriptions on the AWS marketplace. Click on the tiny “Access Software” link, and you will be taken to the page where you can click on “Start MovableType”.
Think you’re finished with AWS? Not yet. You will need to provide the ID of this EC2 instance, which is basically an ID for MovableType that will be hosted on Amazon’s cloud service. For that, you will need to select AMI (Amazon Machine Image) which is a template that contains software configuration (operating system, application server and applications) required to launch your instance, or in this case, MovableType. After equipping yourself with EC2, you will find your instance ID on the AWS account page. Then click to access the software, provide ID, create an administrator account for your system, create your site and you will finally be taken to the MovableType dashboard.
If you decide to buy the license, you will need to create a Six Apart ID, so you can handle the license. Then you will get an email with a password and that is another story for itself. The installation will take a bit more time and effort than expected, but it is not too significantly long compared to the similar CMSes.
Note: In retrospect, we’re not sure if you’ll need to get EC2 by itself, or if it is automatically given to you with AWS registration. The whole process is a bit complicated, so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to set it up.
User friendliness and dashboard
After the whole colossal confusion of signing up and getting to the main admin area, a.k.a. MovableType dashboard, things get better and much easier. You will only need your username and password to get to the dashboard. You will automatically get “My First Website” preset, but you can also create a new one. You’ll want to do that because your first website will get a complex domain that nobody will remember. After that, you can create multiple sites with multiple blogs for each website. It is easy, all you need is to have a name, a domain name, a root file name and you are ready.
On the left side of the dashboard, you will have a drop-down menu that will have everything you will need for your site or your blog. From basic entries where you write your post, along with comments, settings, tools, and so on. When it comes to new posts and text editing, you are completely covered. Everything is presented as it is and it is only matter of adapting to some phrases and paths, but it is nothing that you will not get a grip on after poking around. Just for the first publishing, don’t get confused with Body and Extended, the latter is used for displaying more information in an entry on an individual entry archive while the main page of your blog has the body of the post.
Themes and tools
While browsing through the design part of the dashboard, don’t get confused with the Templates and Themes. Themes are what you will think of when you have a (blog) design in your mind and you can get them separately for the website or blog. Applying them is an easy one-click process, but unfortunately in the trial version, only around 10 were available. You can check them under Styles tab. The templates are used for maintaining, adding, and removing different parts of your site.
Storage, reliability, and uptime
There is not much to say about reliability and uptime, besides that it is great. There are no major incidents or complaints by the customers. Storage room will depend on you and your needs and AWS prices.
Help and support
MovableType is an old-timer, but its community isn’t that big, especially compared to other CMSes and blogging platforms. It has a standard support knowledge base, community forums and other forms of support if you need help. The smaller community does not mean a lack of responses or that you will get a half answers, it only means that you will probably wait a little while to you get your answer.
Hosting and pricing options
MovableType is sold by a license. That means you will pay as you use it, which you do by the hour, or you can get an annual subscription with a credit card or PayPal. A pro license will cost you $999 with the additional software charge of $0.07 per hour or $499 per year. Each upgrade to a newer version will cost you $499 more. Hefty? Yes. Professional service? Definitively. However, it is free of charge if you launch MovableType on a micro instance but read thoroughly how to get there.
You also should not forget about AWS and their prices, but also about their free tier for the first year. That free option entails 750 hours of EC2 running on server, 750 hours of Elastic Load Balancing, plus 15 GB of data processing, 30 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage, 15 GB of bandwidth and 1 GB of Regional Data Transfer. This is enough to get your head spinning, so beware of any “surprise” fees.
In the dashboard, you will have all the basics for managing your content, from comments, tags or entries for which you can even create boilerplate. There is also a Plugin and Theme Directory which is bursting with those. Although there are no default mobile-ready themes in the MovableType dashboard, you can find a bunch of them online or adapt an existing. Once you figure out how to install what you want, the next installation you need to do will be easier to get done. It is probably because all of them have installation guide written by the community member that built that plugin/theme.
HTML and CSS knowledge
Although you won’t need any extensive knowledge of HTML or CSS, it is good to have them. All the basics are manageable without it, but if you get involved with additional plugins or themes, you will need a helping hand. It is nicely scalable and expandable, so if you want to invest your time, you will be rewarded accordingly with nice results.
Promotion and monetization
MovableType plays nicely with e-commerce, although you’ll need to download a plugin. SSL compatibility is a standard feature and that is important when you’re dealing with confidential information such as credit card numbers and sensitive personal information.
If you are looking for SEO, things get little clunky. There are Categories and Tags, but they are scattered a bit, and when it comes to keywords for metadata, they are nowhere to be found. If you want them, add them in the Extensions area. There are some neat plugins, but this is one extra step that should be a default one. Same goes for the integration with any social network.
- easily navigated dashboard
- powerful all-in-one solution
- a big number of install and download ready apps
- flexible, extendable, and customizable
- the excruciatingly long process of starting it up
- a small number of themes
- no built-in mobile-ready themes or apps
- clunky or missing starting SEO
- extra fees with AWS
While MovableType isn’t that widely known. While it may be a bit of the overkill for the beginners because it is a fully-functional website and CMS, not just a blogging platform, it is a great tool for those who want more. Beginners will be discouraged with this robustness, but also with the sign-in process, which is one of the critical out there. With the lack of some basic SEO and mobile-ready themes, it is perhaps a bit behind, but its community and developers have a number of nice plugins that will do the job. Although it may be a bit too robust and expensive for one user with one website/blog for personal or small business needs, it is excellent for companies that are in need and can pay for privileges.