Previously I expressed some thoughts about current web publishing software, and I got a lot of great answers to the questions I posed. Now I’d like to take it a bit deeper and find out what functionality is really needed and what’s just fluff.
Plug ‘n Pray
I got some good answers in the comments section about what I was looking for, unfortunately, many of the answers told of afterthought features developed as plugins. Bernd says:
Just add a Weblog Manager into the Plugin Architecture of the CM, just like you add a News Database, a Forum or an RSS Aggregator.
Unfortunately that’s where a lot of the current offerings are coming from. Out of the box a large framework is developed that lets everybody and their brother write modules and plugins to extend functionality, but do we really need that? I just want the features I need, designed intelligently, from the get-go. Jeffrey Veen says it too after exploring open source CM solutions for a few hours:
What I experienced was obtuse and complex software that was packed with gratuitous features at the expense of usability and user experience. It was software written by geeks, for geeks.
He’s right. I don’t see elegant solutions either. James Archer has a great point as well:
I think that the two biggest problems facing CM systems are that they work on adding features rather than improving existing features, and that they’re often designed by software engineers rather than designers. Instead of a tight, smoothly-operating and flexible content management system, we too often wind up with some abomination like PostNuke.
Not Really “Content Management”
I mean web publishing, not content management. CM solutions offer taxonomy development, powerful workflow management, dynamic blah blah blah, and a lot more. I’m talking about web publishing software that lets me manage a weblog as part of a full website, a wiki as part of an intranet, templates that can be extrapolated across multiple pages, etc. To me that’s not really full-blown content management, but rather web publishing — you know, software for web designers with clients that aren’t in Fortune magazine. Or as Jason Fried would call it, the Fortune 5,000,000.
To their credit, I took a look at both ExpressionEngine and Drupal (different price points, but who cares) but they both made me cringe in humiliation as a web professional. I used a demo for EE and without clicking, couldn’t tell you what 2 out of the 7 top tabs (Communicate and Modules) actually let me do, but maybe that’s the usability junkie inside of me coming out to say hello, I’m not sure. Then I looked at some Drupal screenshots and was equally offended. It’s as though nobody who cares about the user experience designed these pieces of software. I mean, should I be accepting these as the best web publishing tools out there and just use them? Should I just accept this as the best we can do?
Fuck It, I’ll Make My Own
With all the spare time I have now (absolutely none, whatsoever) I’m going to do web publishing software my way. Everything I want, nothing I don’t want, and better designed than the rest put together. Made for people who actually need to get work done, and not just plop forums and photo galleries into their sites because it’s a button they can click. It will be built with PHP, let you use any template tags you want (define ones that make sense to you, what a novel idea!), and I’ll be designing the user interface first because the interface is the software.
I’ve got some questions, and hopefully you’ve got the answers. What’s really important to you? Do you need 5 different ways to deal with comments or would “on or off” be good? Are plugins necessary if the right functionality is built in from the start? How complex is your publishing workflow, and do you need software to manage it?
Make a list of the 5 killer features you need your web publishing software to have. Then remove 2 of them and let me know what remains. That’s how software should really be built: without superfluous bullshit that 1% of users need.