The menu - Snapsis CSS Nav Menu
The menu itself is easy to install - and is configured to work with DNN 3, 4 & 5 and there is a support forum specifically for this menu which is well supported by John and even others who have purchased the menu contribute here and that's great to see because often, you find many developers don't have forums to support their products to this extent. I think it's simply a passion for his products, along with some years in coding that have given him the ability to quickly solve issues.
Once installed, there are some sample skins you can install, but the help manual really does include a lot of assistance, and even myself, a non coder was able to pickup what was needed to get things going. Now, it could be said that I have more access to support than others because I know John pretty well, but that's not the case - every single person I have spoken to who has been working with any products purchased from John has said the same. I don't do as much with the CSS coding any more but leave that to Paul who works for me, along with 3 others. He is the menu expert and to be honest, we've not used anything but Snapsis CSS Menu since it was launched a couple of years ago. And wow, he's become pretty good at it, so much so we're going to be packaging all the free skins found on dnnksins.com to be made available with snapsis menus in them.
It's the closest way we feel we can quickly provide xhtml, lightweight menus that do what they're meant to, look great in virtually every single browser we've tried and once you understand the principles of how it works, swapping and changing menus is quick and inspiring knowing that one of the key sticking points in many designs (the menu) is no longer going to be a problem. For a long time, the menu management in DNN could sometimes take up to twice as long as doing the whole design. It's a whole lot easier now, and with DNN being more compliant and developers learning to be more 'design friendly' in their development processes, making a very funky DNN site is possible in a realistic time.
The menu is available with different licensing options and the fact you can buy a developer license for under 150.00 US (cheaper if you use this coupon code) - means you're well setup for becoming a professional dnn skinner, especially if you're familiar with working with the code that is available online and used on millions of non dnn websites.
You see, the secret to the success of this menu is that it's not trying to reinvent the wheel and 'be' the menu solution. I think that's where solpart had so many issues. These css based menus that are available online, often through open source communities with thousands of contributors all tweaking and adding their touches and fixes, means that the code has been incredibly well tested against so many different platforms, operating systems, management systems to get them to where they are today. Solpart menu, while revolutionary in it's concept - struggled to keep up with the fast paced changes within the browser environment and subsequently, never quite got to being the be all end all menu solution. I know that dnn NAV menu has had a better approach to it, but still, it lacks the polish that is found in non dnn based menus. That is... css based menus.
John was smart in his approach - giving flexibility to the designer, and managing the logic through a templating system allowing you to change many variables of the code. It gives an incredible 'menu provider' engine for a person used to working with straight html and css websites, to be able to connect up thousand of the free css menus around and with very little effort, get an incredibly good menu.
I looked at the Telerik controls, which also are offered as css based menus for people to use, and they are good, but still a bit bulky in my opinion, difficult to code because they use proprietary code to provide other functionality over and above these other css based menus, but I find if you take what it can do, the time it takes to get there, and, the actual end result on a whole project, unless you have a client that has an incredibly difficult menu requirement that requires panels, accordion style, or folder style menu, then off the shelf, it's not really easy to do with the snapsis menu. BUT, having said that, I've seen John work with some projects on some incredibly cool looking menus that serve function that requires someone with knowledge of DNN to get the result, and, Snapsis seems to win again.
There are modules that allow you, with no skills at all, to put the menu on the page and configure through the settings. I mentioned this earlier and while for some it's a quick fix, I think it makes a skin look very very unprofessional overall. Sorry to you guys who do this, but I don't want my clients involved in changing a single thing that will give me headaches, affect the design or cause them grief because they feel that DNN appears to be very complicated.
We can do websites that are really lightweight and fast using Snapsis. I like the way I can have the Admin and Host menu separated from the main menu. Originally I didn't think it was such a big issue, but one thing I've learnt when working and promoting DNN is to make the web administrator experience as good as possible. It stops people from being overwhelmed with what DNN can do, and I've proven to myself and my clients, even when logged in as administrator, the site should keep it's integrity. There is a solution to menus that blow out when logged in as host and admins. Snapsis allows you to separate the admin and host tab and place separately in an elegant and fast drop down anywhere within the design that suits. The only people who have ever complained initially are those we've done third party skins for and they are not familiar with it.
And here's another thing - I'm currently working on a project - ongoing one - and it involves eCommerce and the ability to replicate these portals across Europe for the resellers and marketing companies to promote a range of clothing. For some time now we've been working on trimming the site back to be fast to replicate, keep the integrity of the information and pages. There are about 120 pages per portal, and we were using the links module to display links to different sub menus.
Now, has anyone worked with the links module before and used the settings section of the module? It has cool features that allow you to display vertical or horizontally on a page, wrap text or not, even show an icon. Great for using on single sites, but not so practical when working with multi portal sites that you're using exported templates to build from. So I was in a dilemma wondering how we'd be able to have dynamic links that are exportable, will keep the link integrity. Sure we could have used html, but that left styling up to the user as well as easy accidental deletion, which tends to occur when using the text module more than any other module.
Well, the Snapsis CSS menu came to the rescue - It took a little bit to think out, we were able to put in another instance of the menu and this time state what we wanted to include. Ok so apply the menu with the tabs you want to have displayed, but there was another issue, the menu items were on two separate levels - top level and second level, and for those who understand how css menus work - they are based on the unordered list - for those not familiar with unordered lists, it's using the code that makes up the indented lists you might see in point form in a document, and in html they are known as ordered and unordered lists. Over time, clever coding has allowed us to style them using CSS and if you've ever worked with them, you'll understand how flexible and diverse this option is.