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spolsky, you have comment on this?

on Oct 2nd, this guy <a href="">assaulted</a> you.

Friday, October 3, 2003

He doesn't get it.  Fair enough.  It happens.

The Citydesk UI is not about features, or being flash.  Its about when you Aunt asks for help because she wants to set up a web site for the little rat dogs she breeds.

Duty bound by family, you have to help her out.  Without city desk your doomed to supporting her pet project for years to come.

With City desk you spend an afternoon setting her up and don't return until the next version.

Ged Byrne
Friday, October 3, 2003

I also find CityDesk lacking in "power-user" features and keyboard shortcuts, but I would agree with Ged on this one: there's no question it's easy to use. My daughter mastered it when she was eight, after about ten or twenty minutes of walkthough.

Troy King
Friday, October 3, 2003

Major complaint:

I kept getting asked to install something from my office 2K CD.  Posted a message, did what the KB suggested, problem didn't go away.  No other help was offered so I switched to CuteSITE builder.

Friday, October 3, 2003

But Citydesk is no longer targeted at grandmothers and 8 year olds. Not at $300 a seat.


Friday, October 3, 2003

1. Read the text on the posting page. Do not using HTML tags. Pretty simple text, on a pretty simple UI, and you didn't get it. Hmm...

2. It's not assault. The person was expressing his opinion. Don't know where you live, but here in the US of A, it's okay for people to state their opinions -- even when they're wrong!

Brad Wilson (
Friday, October 3, 2003

heh, "Do not using". Man, it's soooooo Friday. :)

Brad Wilson (
Friday, October 3, 2003

"Using" - too much .NET for The .NET Guy! ;-)

John Topley (
Friday, October 3, 2003

A good point Philo. CityDesk is now priced to compete with DreamWeaver MX 2004 although functionally it competes with Contribute 2. Interesting.

UI Designer
Friday, October 3, 2003

1) Brad, the guys just proving Joel right.  Remember: People do not read instructions.

2) Philo, the free version is good enough for all Grandmothers and 8 year olds.

My own long years of experience on a help desk have taught me that companies are mostly populated by people with the technical ability of great grandmothers and 6 year olds.

Ged Byrne
Friday, October 3, 2003

Companies are mostly populated by people with the skill of grandmothers and 8 year olds - companies are run by business people, not computer people.

As I was rolling out CityDesk, I was beta testing Contribute, and my impression was that Contribute sucked. It couldn't do 1/10 of what CityDesk does.... But it was still very much being worked on at the time, so who knows, it might rock now.

Mark T A W .com
Friday, October 3, 2003

Ironically, both my grandmother and my 8 year old have more powerful systems than the PII-400 I have to use at work...

Friday, October 3, 2003

"City Desk: For Rat Dog Breeding Grandmothers and 8 Year Olds Everywhere"

Joel, we've worked out the new marketing slogan.

Bill Tomlinson
Friday, October 3, 2003

I'm going to say I agree with the blog comments.  Joel often comes off with a hollier than thou attitude.  To give him benefit of the doubt, I I tried CityDesk.  I wanted it to be easy.  I wanted it to be fun.  It was neither.  It pretty much sucked. 

Joel talks about how offering two many options makes a program less usable.  He uses the example of when you first fire up Windows Help it brings up some pretty much incomprehensible dialog box.  Sounds logical to me.  Let the PM make the decision.

At the same time, to get CityDesk to do anything useful you have to script it.  To me this like bringing up a dialog box, and saying to the user : "Screw it, I don't want to think of useful things to do.  You write the code." 

I don't think you could offer any MORE options than a what is provided by a scripting language.

City desk does a poor job of using default templates, offering basic blogging options, etc.  In fact it does NOTHING by default.

Maybe the new version is better.  But I don't have time to waste with it, version 1.0 was THAT poor.

cowardly anonymous
Friday, October 3, 2003

Cowardly hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

"I wanted it to be easy.  I wanted it to be fun.  It was neither.  It pretty much sucked. "

I am a programmer.  By defenition, I don't know how to make things look good.  I really, really wanted City Desk to help me put together a kick ass website.

What I came away from the experience was, 'Hey if I were already a great web programmer, this tool would rock'.

But guess what, so would NotePad.

To paraphrase Cowardly, version 1.0 was so bad, I won't be looking at another.

City Desk Sucks
Friday, October 3, 2003

"I am a programmer.  By defenition, I don't know how to make things look good."

Uh, that's not definition at all, that's just you. I am both a programmer AND I know how to make things look good, so speak for yourself.

Additionally, CityDesk is NOT a tool for making websites look good. It's a tool for making adding content to websites easier.

And if you honestly think that managing a 20-page website with Notepad and a web browser and/or an FTP client is easier than using CityDesk, then you need to go back to school and catch up on reality. :-)

Tim Sullivan
Friday, October 3, 2003

Ummm ... I was being facetious about the 'looking good thing'.

I realize, after the fact, that CityDesk is a CMS product.  However, its not exactly markted that way, hence my dissapointment.

From Fog Creek's City Desk Page:

"CityDesk completely automates the whole process of formatting pages, creating your home page and navigation, and publishing the site to a web server."

Kinda sound like web-page in a box to me.

Either way, it still sucks.

City Desk Sucks
Friday, October 3, 2003

Citydesk is sort of weird in that it underwhelms people who just want to jump in and critique UI.  You basically just get this box with a tree list on startup.

But I think that spareness is good in an anti-TIMTOWTDI way.  At any given point, the "profile" to the user seems small.  I suspect they deferred putting in power and shortcuts until they got persuasive feedback.

There's a lack of visual polish, but they seem to be aiming at fairly technical Windows users.  (Who don't care much about in-your-face aesthetics, unlike say Mac users.)  Combined with their good support, I'd definitely be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I haven't seen their video though.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Friday, October 3, 2003


Friday, October 3, 2003

Oops, forgot to define it.  TMTOWTDI = there's more than one way to do it.  It's a common perl saying about their design philosophy.  Contrast to Python, which is more like, "There should be one--and preferably only one--obvious way to do it."

Tayssir John Gabbour
Friday, October 3, 2003

Tim is right, City desk isn't about creating a kick ass web site.

Its about creating a kick ass web site, templating it with a simple scripting language and then handing it over to somebody else to look after so you can create more kick ass websites without being bother with phonecalls  talking somebody through editing the content in notepad, then discovering that they've buggered the html tags and then having to fix the whole thing yourself at 1:52 am because the guy who know all about product-X but nothing about xhtml has told his boss that you've wrecked the website.

For a new slogan, how about  "City Desk: Rat Dog Breeding Grandmothers, 8 Year Olds and complany employees look after the content so you don't have to"

Ged Byrne
Saturday, October 4, 2003

If that is the case, then the product isn't marketed correnctly. 

I think UI fails to classify users effectively.

1) Those who create layout

2) Those who create content.

There is only one app, and the boundaries are blurred.  I think this a problem with Microsoft products as well.  Microsoft is just now beginning to understand that the needs of the Data Center operator are different from GrandMa in Des Moines who wants to see pictures of her new grand kids. 

At microsoft I think this is driven from the top down.  In reading the history NT, I don't think Ballmer really understood the distinction.  I suspect that is why Unix continues to be a major player on the server. 

Back on topic, City Desk is not a program that a casual user could pick up and create a new blog with in 10 mintues. 

If City Desk is meant to be used in conjunction with a designer, then it should be marketed as such. 

joe blow
Saturday, October 4, 2003

Hmm. Judging from FC's company website I'd say there's only two handful of people working on CityDesk. At my employers' company we have some 120+ developers. Comparing what we can build in a couple of years to CityDesk: Joel's done pretty well.

Look, I think Joel's book was more of an idealistic view of what could be done with _abundant_resources_. And yes, I think he was giving his advice for people who work at large companies, and not small smartups who just cannot _afford_ to put that much effort into UI design. Perhaps one day when FC has grown to 100+ developers he will be able to follow his own guidelines, but right now from an outside view it just seems to expensive.

So who's putting up "holier than thou"?

Johnny Bravo
Saturday, October 4, 2003

"And yes, I think he was giving his advice for people who work at large companies, and not small smartups who just cannot _afford_ to put that much effort into UI design."

If you've got a small company you're still competing with the large ones. This means that you absolutely have to have a product that's better than the competition in some way, and user opinions count more than technical superiority that can't be seen by typical users. Getting your UI done right is a pretty good way to run rings around large companies that think throwing money at marketing will keep them profitable. You can't _afford_ to have a poor product when you're competing with someone who can make an acceptable product and market it more heavily than you can dream of doing.

Also, product design tends to be best done by a small team, if not a single person, so being a small company just means you need a very good person doing the design. You don't need 100 people designing software in order to make it easy to use.

(Don't ask me about citydesk - I know nothing about it, so have no idea if it's good, bad or indifferent.)

Sunday, October 5, 2003

I think the threads about how wrong CityDesk has been marketed a pretty funny, when you consider that CityDesk hasn't really been marketed at all.

Brad Wilson (
Sunday, October 5, 2003

Theres also the long term philosophy of 'growing' a software product.  I don't think Joel considers City desk to be a finished product yet.  He is building a user base and using their input to improve.

A sophisticated user interface represents a layer of dependancy, making the product less agile.  By keeping the GUI lean and mean the product can still be easily changed.

Joe Blow, I think your spot on.  Citydesk does seem to be going in this direction:

Ged Byrne
Monday, October 6, 2003

Brad Wilson wrote, "CityDesk hasn't really been marketed at all."

Sure it has.  It's been marketed through Joel's websites.  And marketed more by word-of-mouth.

J. D. Trollinger
Monday, October 6, 2003

I have to agree with cowardly anon: I wanted it to be easy.  I wanted it to be fun.  It was neither.  It pretty much sucked.

I was looking for a simple cms for my family site, and tried City Desk. It felt very win3.1, and was very frustrating -- basic functionality all round.

I was drawn to CityDesk because i agree with Joel on most stuff, and it said it would do everything i wanted, and most importantly, it was 1 app.

In the end i went with asp and an access db, with a php gallery ( ), and i've been really pleased, although it's a bastard union, and grandmothers and 8 year olds need not apply.

I think with the latest round of browser based wysiwyg editors ( eg ), there is less need for the features that CityDesk charges for.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

"I was looking for a simple cms for my family site, and tried City Desk. It felt very win3.1, and was very frustrating -- basic functionality all round."

But it runs great on French and German Windows!

I've always wondered about this phenomenon myself.  The referenced blog really nails my thoughts.  All this talk and you wrote *that*?

scott evans
Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Running great on French and German windows is real important if you happen to be French or German.

Its these boring details that make the real difference, not the flash graphics or the technical wizardry.

Take that fance DHTML editor, for example, can I paste my Word document into it?

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, October 7, 2003

"Take that fance DHTML editor, for example, can I paste my Word document into it?"

Yes and no, Ged...we added some regular expressions to strip out the Word formatting to suit our needs, and then you have to tidy up the formatting again, but the code is fairly clean and it validates...

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Thats pretty good, but whats really needed is to be able to paste from Word or Excel and have it just work.

This is what Barbara, who works on reception and pastes press releases onto the web site between calls, really needs.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, October 9, 2003

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