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Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum

Yesterday, I attended a really nice lunch seminar at Amplexor in Belgium. They are a well-regarded web content management company, with many high-profile and high-traffic websites in their portfolio.
I attended for several reasons : have a better idea what are the choices made behind the scenes for such high-profile websites, and to have an idea how these type of companies use the tools a CMS provides.

There were many interesting points raised during the discussions there, but I'll focus for now on the short discussion we had on editors, as it touches ImpressCMS development quite fundamentally.

In a nutshell : for each and every client, Amplexor tries to stop them from using WYSIWYG editors. After a short, stunned silence, someone from the audience made the remark that a WYSIWYG editor is one of the key elements that allow non-technical users to work with content on a page. The presenter agreed, but he asked a very intelligent question I believe we should ask ourselves as well :

Quote:

What editor functionalities do you want to give your users?



Bold, underline, italics, a selection of a particular style, bulleted and numbered lists and that's about it. Tables, alignment, page breaks? Maybe. Images? With some restrictions, and depending on the situation where you use it.

I know, in their current form, WYSIWYG editors are much more capable than that, but do you want to allow your users to use all those shiny features that will almost certainly break your layout?

No you don't.

Fixed sites are on their way out. The new power words are responsive, fluid grid layouts and media queries. Those allow your site to adapt itself to the multitude of different screen sizes and orientations that are around.

In the end, it's the templates and the theme that define the layout of your content on the page. You don't want your users to put huge images or very large tables on the page that break your site layout.

Currently, we use WYSIWYG editors as a lazy solution: by using those editors, the responsibility for the layout is shifted for a big part toward the user. That's not correct, and it makes the system harder to use, as users have the potential of breaking things. That should be avoided.
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Madfish
Posted: 2012/3/9 12:36  Updated: 2012/3/9 12:36
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
I like this post and fully agree with it Maybe we have an opportunity here to do something different (and better) than other systems.
skenow
Posted: 2012/3/11 3:35  Updated: 2012/3/11 3:35
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
A very interesting point of view - one that could spark a lot of debate, but could also yield some significant results.

David and I had a chat about this yesterday morning and I shared a link to a podcast that contained the heart of the talk he attended. That podcast was first aired in 2008! So, here we are, 4 years later, still in the grips of deciding what's best for the clients we serve.

This is clearly a tension we need to manage - there is no clear winner in this case. If there was, it would have been resolved long ago.

It is a dangerous thing to call a client lazy, especially when they have come to you for your expertise. You have the skills, knowledge and ability to make their job easier. And you can apply web standards at the same time. Yet, you resist. Now who's lazy?

If a site truly belongs to the client, they hold the responsibility for it. All of it. It starts out in the pristine state in which you turn it over to them, but turns into whatever they make of it. Does it reflect poorly on you? I would say not. Unless you failed to continue to educate and assist them, then it is your fault. Help them succeed, that's your job.

Lower the barriers to doing things right, without having to learn HTML or CSS. Have boundaries that prevent them from completely screwing up.

The 2 sides of this debate are 2 different groups - designer/developers and the clients they serve. How do we meet in the middle?
Madfish
Posted: 2012/3/11 7:17  Updated: 2012/3/11 7:17
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
I think the main problems are:

1. The editors are far too complicated for the task at hand. This has severely compromised their usability, especially to normal users, which are arguably the main target group for such tools.

2. The editors allow users to override the theme CSS. This is a recipe for disaster. Let people assign arbitrary font sizes and they won't use headings. Let them change font colour and you will get huge slabs of red and purple text, etc, etc.

If we accept the premise that an editor should allow people with limited HTML skills to produce quality mark up, then we should simplify the editors to suit that task/skill level. A few basic controls and a style selector is all that is required IMHO. It will increase usability, result in better mark up and reduce training requirements all at the same time.

I saw the words "restrained WYSIWYG" mentioned on Stack Overflow, that or a WYSIWYM editor is what we need IMHO.
david
Posted: 2012/3/11 13:18  Updated: 2012/3/11 13:18
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
Myself I'd either like the option to control the editor presentation by group, so only groups with certain permissions can access certain options.... in theory allowing only basic functions to some users by default.

That saying, the WYSIWYM editor is rather good.
Will
Posted: 2012/3/11 17:25  Updated: 2012/3/11 17:25
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
Please have a look at visual composer for wordpress.

http://demo.wpbakery.com/?theme=visual-composer
fiammybe
Posted: 2012/3/11 19:32  Updated: 2012/3/11 19:32
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
There's no denying that the visual editor is impressive. I've been thinking out something similar for a new iteration of the content module, but I hadn't arrived at that level of detail yet.

Thanks for this example, as this shows my point much better than when I need to explain it in text. I wasn't meaning "let's make it hard on the user by taking functionalities away from him". Instead I was trying to make the point that we should look very carefully what users should be able to accomplish, and what should be accomplished by other means.

This video shows very nicely that there are better ways of allowing users to define page layouts and add different types of content in a very natural way. I noted that only the basic HTML editor was used, all the other elements on the pages were added and edited with specific interfaces of their own.

So, having something like this would make ImpressCMS site building immensely more powerful and easier. One thing though : as far as I could see, this would be very appropriate for people building a site with static pages. It could be a bit more complex when you want to plugin the modules of the site to allow dynamic data.

Any ideas?
Will
Posted: 2012/3/11 21:21  Updated: 2012/3/11 21:22
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
I imagine we could come up with all kinds of cool widgets if we did something like VC - embed a block - embed a content page kinda stuff.

Would allow you to do all kinds of new stuff. I have a copy of VC, and I gotta ay - it is pretty awesome. Obviously we would have to take an ICMS style approach to it - give it support for tags and all that.
debianus
Posted: 2012/3/12 17:19  Updated: 2012/3/12 17:19
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 Re: Lowering the Barriers - the editor conundrum
WOW! Definitely it would be great.