Wondering about WYSIWYG…again

At the moment I am teetering on the edge of another CMS project rabbit hole from which there might be no escape but before I trip and fall into it I have once again been looking at some of the fundamental issues around using CMS products – especially the WYSIWYG question again. [Previously I wrote about it here]

My latest thoughts were sparked by this post from Medium, the new startup from Twitter founder Ev Williams. Unlike the gang at GOV.UK I remain unconvinced about the use of Markdown for occasional editors to update & format pages (despite posts like this one that did make me question my reservations – though after the questioning my feelings remained the same!) and so I was very interested to see this extremely cut down, in-line editing approach being implemented by Medium.

I think it is a model that could work for alot of public sector type sites. The majority of us already lock down as much as possible on the ‘rich text editor’ and I have a feeling that if you removed that ‘layer of abstraction’ that exists between creation and publishing that Ev mentions in his post then more of those lessons about writing for the web might stick [maybe] and those occasional editors would be more comfortable – especially making smaller changes and updates.

Its only a thought – and not one I am going to have the opportunity to test out on this project but maybe one for the future [like if Medium ever comes out of private beta and lets me try it out!]

3 responses to “Wondering about WYSIWYG…again”

  1. I think it’s important to consider where the content is to be used – if it’s only ever going to be used on a website, then contextual editors make a lot of sense. And the approach medium talk about looks like a very nice one.

    But sometimes, content ends up in other places – RSS feeds, apps, mobile sites (or responsive versions of the same site). When this is the case – to me as a developer, it’s key that authors get the concept of headings/body text etc – so that content can to some extend be regurgitated out into other formats. Same point also stands for those prone to frequent redesigns.

    Not saying you can’t use wysiwyg/contextual tools and still understand the context of headings/bodies etc either. Just that people often don’t!

  2. Yep I understand what you are saying – but I am (a) writing from a purely selfish point of view and our content goes on the web & RSS and thats about it and (b) I’m not convinced the kind of ‘occasional editor’ I am talking about would get the proper document structure stuff right even in HTML or Markdown (have you seen most Word documents!)
    We have a few 1000 pages and up to a dozen or so editors – only 2 of which are in the web team – makes for a challenge 🙂
    Funnily enough the CMS project I am working on is going the other way with lots of very structured templates for specific content types…

  3. Valid point about users not ‘getting it’ – to do a good job, people do need some knowledge, and I can see your use case for people who can’t/won’t have that knowledge. Often end up going a similar route to you – give people the fields they need for different content types, so as much as possible it’s just text entry.

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