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Managing web content via web interface.

Nowdays web-based back-offices are becomming ordinary... but one problems remains to me :

How to make them 'non developpers' compliant for text editing ?

I mean, even if you use javascript tips to make a good toolbar, you always have to deal with 'phpBB style' code... [b] & [/b] for bold text and so.It is just unaceptable to anybody used to Microsoft Word. Bold text is handled in Word for so many years... even on MS-DOS based softwares !!!
I'm not even talking about images insertion, tables and so on...

So how do you do ?

http://www.olivierbouillaud.com/vrac/bold.gif

Olivier B
Saturday, November 01, 2003

:This is *bold* and this is _underline_.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, November 01, 2003

use a rich text dhtml editor? such things do exist, but typically they only work in specific browsers.

mb
Saturday, November 01, 2003

We use tags like [b] for bold.  But generally we use something like style sheets:

[title]This is a title

[subtitle]This is a subtitle.

The text in the [small]middle[x] is small.

Numbered and bulleted lists are handled thusly:

1. This is a numbered list
2. So is this
3. And this

* Bulleted
* List

Our users are the clueless newbie type and noone seems to have a problem with this style.  We have a convenient "syntax help" button above all the textareas were this is relevent.  I suspect eventually we'll move to a DHTML edit control (we need to support both IE and mozilla) but we've done it this way for years without issue.

Almost Anonymous
Saturday, November 01, 2003

You'll be absolutely suprised at how easy it is to get the technology challenged to learn how to put markup code into their document. 

I like to handle it by making cut and paste help pages.  I can even get them to put images into pages, by having a little gallery where they pick their image and get the bit of code to insert.  To keep it easy I put instructions on the page for how to use the code snippet.

Clay Dowling
Saturday, November 01, 2003

Try htmlArea ( http://www.interactivetools.com/products/htmlarea/ ). The beta version supports both mozilla and explorer.

We've been using the commercial eWebEditPro ( http://www.ektron.com ) but it is quite expensive and only runs on windows. It is supposed to support mozilla, but from my experience it isn't working with the latest versions.

sagi
Saturday, November 01, 2003

> You'll be absolutely suprised at how easy it is to get the
> technology challenged to learn how to put markup code into
> their document.

From http://philip.greenspun.com/panda/static:

"Why don't these what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) HTML editors enable everyone to become a competent Web publisher? They solve the wrong problem. In the early-ish days of the Web, say 1994, it was observed that college undergraduates who were Unix users could build themselves a Web page in about 30 minutes, even if they were English majors who had never taken a programming class. Users of Macintosh and Windows PCs were unable to produce Web pages at all. Software developers set out to solve what they thought was the desktop user's problem: HTML "programming" is too hard to learn.

It turns out that HTML "programming" consists of sticking "<I>" and "</I>" around a word that you want to appear in italics. Secretaries worldwide were successfully using word processors like this all through the 1970s. Had the average person's abilities declined so much in the succeeding 20 years that he couldn't learn that "the I tag is for italics; the B tag is for bold"? "

Matthew Lock
Saturday, November 01, 2003

I am with Matthew and the others on this one.

Basic HTML is easy. Anyone who says otherwise should not be allowed in front of a computer. They are a danger not only to themselves but to others around them.

When posting via web interfaces becomes critical, folk will learn rudimentary HTML. At worst, they will have lookup cards for their keyboards/monitors ala Wordperfect / Lotus lookup cards circa 1985.

Tapiwa
Sunday, November 02, 2003

Olivier: Check your mail box. Sent you a message with a link to an applet I wrote recently to illustrate an alternative to TTW (though-the-web, ie. browser-based, editing).

Frederic Faure
Sunday, November 02, 2003

This arrogant attitude that "basic html is easy" is why so many community web sites fail.

I run a site (www.dialognow.org) where the majority of the participants are over 50. They are doctors, business people with 100s of employees, professors ... really accomplished, intelligent, qualified people.  When I deployed htmlArea you would not believe the positive response I got. It was practically the only feature they cared about when I redid the site.

It's not that people are too stupid to learn html. It's that they (rightly) feel they shouldn't have to. They aren't trying to become programmers, they're just trying to use a website.

j b
Sunday, November 02, 2003

Do deploy something like HTML area, but unless you want your site to look like the front page of an Arab newspaper at Ramadan, limit what they can do to bold, underline, italic, and just maybe a couple of colors.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, November 02, 2003

BTW, an HTML widget is only a partial solution :

- nobody's going to wrote a three-page article in a tiny textarea (besides the issue of the browser crashing with unsaved text...)

- even the best HTML widget is pretty cluncky compared to a dedicated app (just try adding  a TAB...)

- the HTML widget must be limited to what formatting people can use, since the content must be sent in raw format so as to provide a homogenous layout as displayed the CMS server that you should use on the web server.

Hence the need for a dedicated app :-)

Frederic Faure
Sunday, November 02, 2003

That's basically why I am using CityDesk; ease of writing without having to think about the tech details...

Phil
Monday, November 03, 2003

Except client-side tools like CityDesk that generate static contents is not a good solution to manage an intranet, in which case you should use a CMS.

I wonder what tool newspapers use to let their journalists add contents to the site. Surely, they don't require that they write pages in a browser filled with HTML or the like?

Frederic Faure
Monday, November 03, 2003

j b, I do apologise.

I used to teach computers, and its amazing how things that we take for granted like moving the mouse (nevermind the double click!) are extremely difficult for someone totally new to computers.

Having said that though, the same people that have not quite understood the doubleclick will find it just as difficult to use word as they would to use basic html.

Watch a total newbie try to select a passage, and then hit the *bold* icon on the toolbar. Not a pretty sight.

Tapiwa
Monday, November 03, 2003

Most newspapers use a simple roll-your-own tag language. The articles then can easily be imported to Quark XPress (or, now, InDesign) or a Web CMS.

If someone wants to contribute valuable content to a community, it's perfectly okay in my book to require them to spend five minutes learning a Wiki-like syntax. Folks who can't be bothered to invest some time learning a communication medium rarely are worth the effort. This is not rocket science. 

Nils
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

After your answers and my tests (htmlarea and an ehanced version of it) I'm still not sure.

htmlarea is a great tool... but maybe a too great one. I fear that people start to make a massive use of fonts (nooooo....... please no Comics) and non standard font size... which will break the web page it's intented for.

So maybe just simplify the code (no starting/closing tag) but as Dennis Atkins suggested :
*bold* and this is _underline_.
and other things like :
[title]This is a title
[subtitle]This is a subtitle.
1. This is a numbered list
2. So is this
3. And this
* Bulleted
* List
It's probably a better solution because I will be able to change what [title] means in HTML... today a Arial 12pt bold, maybe tomorrow a Times 14pt italic...

I'm finaly not sure that htmlarea is a good solution because of the fact you insert html code in a database field... It's probably breaking the n-tiers concept...

Olivier B
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"This is *bold* and this is _underline_. "

A suggestion for italics ?

Oliver B
Friday, November 07, 2003

I have /no/ idea.

Ancient
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

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