5 Oct 2015

Wagtail people: Ashia Zawaduk

Number 2 in our series of interviews with Wagtail users around the world features Ashia Zawaduk from Canadian agency Lift Interactive.

Tom Dyson

Tom Dyson

Director, Torchbox
Ashia at Lift

Q) Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Ashia Zawaduk from Edmonton, Canada. I’ve been working as a web developer for Lift Interactive these last 3 or so years, where I spend my time creating Python/Django apps. I spent many years before that involved in web development from the front-end & design side of things before falling in love with programming. 

Q) What other CMSs have you used?

Too many. There were a few PHP CMSs like Drupal, Expression Engine, Wordpress, Contao, Concrete5 and Pulse. HarmonyApp which is a hosted CMS built with Ruby on Rails. On the Python stack I've used Django CMS, Mezzanine, FeinCMS, Fluent CMS, Armstrong, and of course Wagtail. 

Q) How did you first hear about Wagtail?

Wagtail has been on my radar since February of 2014, a few days before the Hacker News intro, though I don't recall how I discovered it initially. Probably Twitter. We started using it at Lift shortly after that in a redesign of our own website, and started using it for client projects just over a year ago.

Q) What made you want to try Wagtail?

I was blown away by the interface. At Lift, we pride ourselves on developing well thought out and beautiful applications but that has always been limited to the customer facing parts. Django admin isn't exactly pretty. To see a company develop an open source CMS and put so much care into the interface was just amazing. It really aligned with our values and our approach to design thinking.

Q) What makes Wagtail a good CMS for you?

Most CMSs work well for standard pages and a blog, particularly when the pages consist of single content areas, but as soon as you have a more complex design and a more complex structure things start to break down quickly.

Typically I categorize CMSs into two camps, field-based or plugin-based. Field-based CMSs work well when you want to control which areas of a page you expose to editing, but they lack flexibility. Plugin-based CMSs allow a lot of flexibility but you lose control over the intended design of the page. Wagtail is the first CMS I have come across that seems to have the best of both worlds by using a simple extendable page model and the capability of StreamFields.

One of the limitations in most CMSs is the ability to add your own list pages with your own url patterns. This is an area where Wagtail really shines, The RoutablePage is just fantastic, it's super easy to use and follows typical patterns you would expect in Django so the learning curve is quite small.

More than anything, Wagtail is flexible and we build a lot of different kinds of websites that have very specific content needs and Wagtail seems to be able to handle all the scenarios we throw at it.

I also really love that Wagtail is Django based, we can get sites setup and running in Python very quickly and that separation between the templates and the back-end is critical to our Lean process as it allows us to work on the front-end and back-end of the site simultaneously.

Q) What other open source projects are you interested in?

One of my favourite open source projects is Oscar, an e-commerce framework for Django. David has done some amazing work in that project. Flexibility and customization was built right into the core and it has some really great patterns. Working on a project using Oscar really taught me a lot about writing high quality code and thinking big picture. I've had so many moments where the answer to a problem on another project is "I remember seeing something like this in Oscar." I will always have a soft spot for that project as it was the first project I did a pull request on. 

My other fave open source project is Linux, I don't know what I would do without it, all those nights tinkering in the OS really sharpened my problem solving skills and fuelled my curiosity. I definitely hope one day I can give back to the open source community as much as it has offered me. 

For examples of Ashia's Wagtail work at Lift, see their own site and the wonderful jasper.travel.