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Rationale behind CityDesk


I hope Joel will read this posting. All others are welcome to say what they mean, too. I also think that someone already asked a similar queation some time ago but s/he got (as far as I can remember - old topics aren't there anymore) no answer.

Anyway, the question is about marketing/product development. What was the rationale behind the decision to develop CityDesk? Was it to develop a better product in terms of usability, stability etc. There are many, many similar products, so why another software package when the world has (to name a few): Frontpage, Frontier, NetObjects Fusion (the company went south, now it's acquired)? I must say that I still haven't tried neither CityDesk nor Fusion nor Frontier. I only played a bit with Frontpage. So, what is the unique selling proposition for CityDesk?

Thursday, December 27, 2001

I suspect that when you try CityDesk it will become clear. CityDesk is very, very different from any of the products you mention. There is a strong emphasis on ease of use, and ease of website maintenance in CityDesk.

Jeff Paulsen
Thursday, December 27, 2001

did you read info on citydesk at the fogcreek website?  it's obviously *really* easy to use.  it's obviously not aimed at web developers, but there are only so many web developers anyhow.  there are a lot of people out there that can't figure out how to set-up FTP in dreamweaver for god's sake!

razib kahn
Friday, December 28, 2001

As mentioned in this thread, the product is way more simple than something like front page.

The easiest web creation tool I have every used was Microsoft Publisher. The web wizard with that one is about as easy as it gets (for example, when you insert a web page, it asks if you want to add the page to the navigation bar on the side……which also was created by the wizard….a real nice feature). A “Auto” navigation bar like ms-publisher is missing in City Desk..and would be a welcome feature.

As for CityDesk…it is actually a good deal easier than Ms-publisher (but not near as strong in the layout ability).

As for the main other feature of CityDesk…well ask the following:

You need to announce the topic and speakers of your upcoming monthly meeting. How do you train your users to update their web site with this meeting info?

With city desk…it is probably easier than using ms-word. You simply go add new article. Type in the heading…perhaps a teaser....and some content. You give the date when you want the content to appear…you are now done. None of the products like ms-publisher or front page do anything like this.

How do you manage announcements of meetings etc? CityDesk will even UN-publish the meeting after a given amount of time….(and thus is ready for someone to add information about the *next* meeting)

In other words…you can add new events…meeting info etc to your web site with such incredible ease…and you don’t need a web dude to do this. Just what do you tell you clients when they want to add a simple meeting to their intranet? With City desk...anyone can become the web master.

Even better is that you can start working on the minutes and agenda for the next meeting but NOT publish it to the web. In other words it is also a place to *work* on stuff *before* is it ready for the web. This is a nice feature since when you *are* finally just hit publish. Those other tools do not let you work on several parts of the web site...but not yet publish it...CityDesk does.

This feature mimics how people work. I am currently writing about two, or three articles for my site (with CityDesk). While those articles are not ready......when they are...I just change the publish date....

It is a easy web content management system + a web creator. Those other tools create web content...but do not manage it. Slick and Simple...

I cobbled this the whole website together in one afternoon.

Albert D. Kallal
Friday, December 28, 2001

BM Wrote:
> There are many, many similar products, so why another software package when the world has (to name a few): Frontpage, Frontier, NetObjects Fusion (the company went south, now it's acquired)?

Answer : Another big advantage of CityDesk is that you can publish a Content Managed Site without requiring any special software on the server. No PHP, No CGI, no Mysql database that only geeks can deal with.

With products like frontier, you should have the hability to install frontier on your server, so you need to own your server: impossible for many "simple webmasters" or small organizations.

With CD, the data are on your computer, and CityDesk exports simple static pages, although they are generated automatically from a "user transparent" database. the only knowledge required for publishing is the ftp parameters of your hosting services: ftp name; login ; password.  That's all

And this way for doing things has another advantage: contrary to "php based" content managements from the server side, the server will only send static pages to the visitor: no special workload for the server, no complex "caching rules" to setup. The server performance are preserved. a contrario, I've tried recently php-based CMS: if you share the server with many other customers, you can observe very quickly a severe downgrade in server performances.

So, here are the main advantages of CD compared to server side content management systems.

About Frontpage:  frontpage is not a CMS. And as a regular user of frontpage, I can say that CD is much easier to use for the person who writes articles. Of course, the webmaster has formerly to create a site structure, which is a bit more complex, but with CD it remains possible for simple HTML coders. Don't need to be a programmer for that.

Never used fusion before. Can't say anything about how CD compares.

Vincent bénard
Friday, December 28, 2001

As far as I can see, CityDesk does what it promises and "ease of use" and "ease of website maintenance" are its ultimate USP's (unique selling propositions). But then, we have version 1.0 now and every further version will have more features and will get more complex.

The problem you have is UI clutter (which is consequence of more features) and you're ultimately undermining your USP's! Why more features, you'll ask? Because you want to sell your product to the same customer more than once (which can be done only with new features) and because you want new markets to use your product (and eventually need these new features). Remember, we're talking about straight business marketing/product development.

PS-Still waiting for Joel to participate in this thread and unveils the rationale behind CityDesk...

Friday, December 28, 2001

Personally I see CD as a greate complement to advanced tools like Frountpage.

Just imagine you have to create a website for a small specialised bookstore.

It needs to look suitably professional.

Content needs updating with new book reviews and stock lists.

They need to host the site very cheaply.

So as web developer you give them a good looking site.  Converting the pages into CityDesk templates is a no brainer, just like turning a normal letter into Word Form Letter for a mail merge.

You then provide your customer with CityDesk and the templates.  If they already know how to use a wordprocesser then they can maintain the site content themselves after a few hours training.

The site consists of static webpages, so a good cheap host can be used, possibly even a free one.

Ged Byrne
Friday, December 28, 2001

I think Joel explained his rationale very well in "Working on CityDesk."  All I can say is that CityDesk really hit the spot for me.

I just started helping a little non-profit redo their site.  They'd been offered the use of a server-based content management system customized for their type of service.  And believe me, that CMS system was slick.

But my experience in helping non-technical folks on the web is that even the simplest web-based CMS is intimidating to ordinary folks.  I knew they would actually email the updates to me and ask me to publish them.  So, I would be left doing all the updates on a very good but still very unsatifying product over which I had no control.  That doesn't even count the time I would spend consulting with the CMS host folks to get the site just right.

CityDesk to the rescue.  I have complete control.  It has desktop performance.  I can use flexible scripts, templates and folders in a way that allows me to publish new content
in a hurry.

And maybe best of all:  If I'm lucky, I'll be able to teach the next volunteer how to do it.

Friday, December 28, 2001

The URL naming scheme really sucks though :(

I prefer products.html (e.g.) to fog00000021.html

Leo Stern
Saturday, December 29, 2001

I think the point is that it doesn't matter what the html document is called, the linkage is at the database level. 

The user of City Desk is uncaring about how things are achieved (even if they know full well), the importance to them is the ease of publishing and maintenance.

Which is why a UI for getting at the properties of links and images is at the head of my list and about the only thing stopping me recommending version 1 for more than small 'personal' sites.

Simon Lucy
Saturday, December 29, 2001

LS Wrote:
"The URL naming scheme really sucks though :( -
I prefer products.html (e.g.) to fog00000021.html"

If you create a site from scratch, the naming scheme isn't very important, because only experienced users rely on URLs to know where they are in a site.

But it could effectively be nice if, in a next version of CD, we could "wrap around" the fog00000000021.html filename and choose the html name of every file as we want.

This feature would obviously be a killer one to retrofit existing static sites without having to create a redirection metatag for every older page.  And it would help to give an "obvious name" to every file to analyze the site statistics too.

Vincent Benard
Saturday, December 29, 2001

I disagree with someone here. I think user-friendly filenames are especially important to the CityDesk audience because they "make sense", are not as intimidating and easier to communicate. It shouldn't be too difficult to add a field or, even easier, use the headline minus spaces (and enforcing uniqueness, I suppose). I think Joel said this was on the 2.0 list if I'm not mistaken.

Patrick Breitenbach
Saturday, December 29, 2001

I think it's a good idea to allow folks to name files whatever they want.  I mean that what folks are used to, including me.

But after doing a few CityDesk sites, I've decided that I'm not as attached to specific file names as I thought for two reasons.

First, while working in CityDesk, I can give every article a very descriptive name without having to worry about a legal HTML filename.  This is one of my article names, "Recapping how to avoid and debug scripting errors."

That raises the question of "How do find the descriptive name of 'fog000000000000232' so I can correct a phone number?"  But, with CityDesk, I can use the "Edit with" button in IE.  It starts CityDesk and opens that page in the editor.  That's a nice feature but it only works on CityDesk articles (not CityDesk HTML files).

Sunday, December 30, 2001

Somebody mentioned something about cluttering the UI with new features. I might add that CityDesk have a shield against cluttering, the "Designer Mode" feature.

Leonardo Herrera
Tuesday, January 1, 2002

I think I found an elegant solution to the "friendly URL" problem.  It is described towards the bottom of this page about my miniature homegrown CMS system:

The essense is that I use URLs like this:

and magic happens behind the scenes to tell the CMS to show the user item #116.  The obvious features like generating a printable version of each page, creating a list of all pages, etc. are supported.

It's no CityDesk, but it serves my needs effectively, and gives readers nicer URLs.  :-)

Kyle Cordes
Wednesday, January 2, 2002

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