Well over this past week I have really been running Adobe InContext Editing through its paces. I wanted to update my post of yesterday which I wrote over seven days ago with my thoughts on InContext Editing from real world use.
First, it is not ready for major client implementation yet. There are too many bugs and issues yet to be worked out for web developers to widely recommend this new product at this point. But, the possibilities are certainly there, and I will be watching very closely. For now these are my thoughts.
1. If you have a website using PHP includes or for that matter any site that uses a header and footer include you will have difficulties in implementing InContext Editing at this point. If you have a plain vanilla website in html you will be fine. I have done testing on both standard html pages and PHP include pages. To make my page editable with PHP includes I had to hard code in the InContext Editing script and special div tag identifiers as when I tried to define the editable div tags online using the interface I triggered a repeating error that refused to set up permissions to allow the page to be edited. This is problematic for Adobe for widespread use, but I am sure they will be working to resolve this as this is an issue for any large website that wants to use their service.
2. If you want to add rows or cells to a table (that hold data not layout tables) on your editable page you do not have that option yet. At this stage the application really only works best for simple wording changes and formatting in text. You can install an image but there is no image preview so unless you know what your image name is ahead of time it is difficult for you to clearly know what image you are adding to your page as you edit. You can not browse and see a thumbnail while you are in the application.
3. Set up of the server is problematic. I understand paths and routinely set up FTP access in several applications and I had trouble setting up the access between InContext Editing and the web server. From my experience, don’t follow the tips in the control panel, follow the online instructions. I achieved a successful set up by not entering www. or ftp in front of my domain name as the instruction stated. Also just set up access for the root, not to a subdirectory as anything other than the root set up will trigger an error. The application wants root access and will not proceed unless you give it that. This may be an issue for testing if you are setting up a client test and don’t want them to have full access to their site. At this time you cannot control what they have access to and do not. Because of this make sure you have a backup before you give any client access to the site through InContext Editing.
4. Adding images does require the client to understand that they need to click Advanced or Additional options on the top right to add a vspace, hspace, no border and an align attribute to make the image look good in the text. It took me a while where to find this. Adobe should make it this like WordPress where you click on the image and then right click to add these attributes not add a link above the content editing field. Many clients write their own blogs so to have it simple like WordPress would be very practical.
5. Web developers should be prepared to pay a subscription fee for this service eventually although it is free for now. Adobe is stating that fees will be $10 to $20 per month for about 5 client websites. If you as the developer then in turn charge $10 to $20 per month per client for access this actually becomes a profit center. I have to say the fee is a non-issue for me. The money that clients will save on paying a webmaster (me included) by doing their own content editing will by far out weigh the very small monthly expense in their eyes. With my minimum charge being $8, to do small updates yourself just twice, you have paid for your access for the month. For small do-it-yourself clients this is a huge money and time saver. Some web designers/developers may consider this an issue of losing income and yes, that is certainly the case for some, but from the client’s stand point it is a money saving feature. Therefore implementation of the service at initial design concept may be a possible closing point.
6. One thing that I think the application would benefit from is a tree view of the site to allow the client to understand the site architecture and to be able to navigate to files easily. The current way you navigate to the page you want to edit is to use the website’s navigation and then click control + E to show the page edit button. For some sites we work on where navigation is to mid pages using anchors this can create a world of confusion for the client who wants to update their own site but not allowing a visual menu of the pages in the site.
My overall impression is that this is an excellent potential new product that will be a game changing for webmasters, web developers, and clients. I am not afraid of it but rather ready to embrace it. Clients want to save money, they want control over their website. This application allows for a custom designed website to have features of a online template website. There will always be reasons for a client to have a webmaster make a special change on their site, but with Adobe InContext Editing easy text updates will be at the client’s fingertips in their browser.
From a web designer viewpoint, designing for InContext Editing use does require a bit of a refocus but not a major change. Editable sections need to be set up enclosed in div tags with unique IDs. It could be a very strong selling point to allow client access to update their content at will as part of selling custom website using this new application as a “bridge”.
I will be watching the product very closely to see when we can include clients in expanded testing and start offering implementation as part of our own web design services.
One quick footnote, I have to say that the forum and support staff for this new product is excellent. They are on the ball, active in the forum, really concerned about the user experience and total code geeks – that’s a good thing, as roll out of this product really depends on the web designer/web developer acceptance of this new product. Way to go Adobe a great new product but one still in the works.