2.10.2009

10 Client-Side Editability Options

Offering Clients Hands-On Updating Options without Hiring a Programmer

Not all web developers are PHP or JavaScript wiz kids. In fact, a lot of us draw the line after complex CSS... maybe even after cut'n'paste JavaScript. So when it comes to offering clients the opportunity to edit the content of their web page, it can often be a struggle for web businesses to figure out the best way to go about doing so.

To help those businesses, and myself, I decided to do some research on the subject. Based on my own experience in addition to other reviews and information, I gathered the top 10 most useful applications and software that allow for clients to edit portions of their website without paying a web developer to do it for them. These will come in handy under many circumstances, but especially when you are working with a client on a budget that does not necessarily need a custom back-end system that a programmer can build.

If you find this information useful, be sure to check out some of my related posts:

The Top 10:

  1. Cushy CMS is a straightforward method for offering client editability without sacrificing time, money or design. With Cushy CMS your editable regions are pointed out via CSS classes, allowing for clean-cut code and purity in CSS. Vandalay Design offers an excellent Cushy CMS Explanation and tutorial to help you get started.
  2. Adobe Contribute is a handy way to offer clients a simple content management system for under $200. With an interface similar to MS Word, Contribute allows for rich-media files, in-browser editing capabilities, and Adobe Dreamweaver compatibility.
  3. Tiny MCE is a WYSIWYG web based Javascript HTML editor control to help assist your clients with content management. Released as Open Source under LGPL by Moxiecode Systems AB, it has the ability to convert HTML TEXTAREA fields or other HTML elements to editor instances. TinyMCE is also has the ability to integrate into other Content Management Systems. Drawback: You have to use file/image managers to relay the information.
  4. For those clients who only need to provide clients with the ability to edit their website's gallery, Zen Photo is for you. With a wide variety of gallery features, customizable CSS-based templates, comment capabilities, support for Flash Video, MPEG4, Quicktime, and 3GP (.3gp), ZenPhoto is the way to go for anyone seeking an all-around gallery solution.
  5. Using an interface similar to that of the popular project management application, grouphub, WidgetFinger is free with limited use. However, unlimited use of the application can be bought for the low price of just $10/month. The Widgetfinger editor will enable your clients to edit a live web site in real time, while also helping to maintain standards compliant XHTML and CSS code by separating the content from design.
  6. With features including WYSIWYG editing, video compatibility, photo galleries and blogs, Light CMS is free to start (pricing begins with increased users and pages) and offers a clean, hassle-free CMS experience with web 2.0 functionality. Featured on the website are useful video tutorials (which helps with client training). The drawbacks with this system is the hosting requirements (hosting with them) and the graduated pricing.
  7. Available in ASP, ASP.net, or PHP, Content Seed allows your client to visit a page that you've "seeded", hit control-y on their keyboard and log in, at which point they can change the text, upload images, add links, and anything else they want to do within the area of the page you've given them editing privileges over. It's customizable toolbar (to control the editing capabilities of the client) is what distinguishes this content system. Pricing runs from $150-$300 for unlimited deployments.
  8. The award-winning Joomla is a content management system (CMS) that enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Its ease-of-use and extensibility have made the open source, freely available Joomla a popular choice among developers. Websites presently using Joomla include the United Nations, Ihop, and LA Weekly.
  9. Drupal may be a little more challenging at first compared to some of the other applications/software I have posted here, however for anyone willing to invest some time, Drupal is a great open source CMS software to learn. The primary drawback: Time is money.
  10. Finally, there's always the blog option. Although this option will only allow for editability on the actual blog page, itself, sometimes that is all a client really needs. Some reliable blogging websites you can use to create client blogs: Blogger, BlogSpot, and Word Press

If you have any suggestions for additions to this post, be sure to Contact me or post a comment with any helpful information.


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1.22.2009

Defining Web Standards

The Business behind the Web

I don't understand the way people devalue technology careers and businesses due to their lack of understanding. I have met all too many clients that will try too negotiate prices with me, as if I can wave a magic wand and make the exact same project take half of the time... or maybe they just want me to cut my hourly rate in half... I'm always tempted to ask if they negotiate prices at the gas pump.

One of the most difficult aspects a web development company inevitably faces involves establishing standards. Standards being how much time to bill for various aspects of production, which aspects are somewhat flexible, and when to draw a line with a client.

Web development companies vary drastically amongst themselves. There are the template guys: the ones who will give you a pre-fabricated site for you to fill in the blanks. There are the inexperienced guys: The ones who will promise you the world, but will never actually be able to get there. There are the bang-em-out guys: These guys are just trying to get paid; they usually have very limited design ability but somewhere along the line figured out how to use Dreamweaver. There are the corporate guys: Those guys who will provide you with a pretty decent website, after countless drawn out meetings, numerous worksheets and a highly over-structured contractual agreement. There are the outsources: These actually can be any of the above, but they are distinguished by their web inexperience and careless sort of business mentality. And then there are the freelancers. The Design Group, for example, is a network of freelancers.

All these different types of web development businesses make it very difficult to create unified standards. The template guy will sell you a pretty cheap website, but he will not tell you that eight other companies like yours share the exact same site, and he certainly does not offer any customer service. The inexperienced guy will probably give you an alright deal on a website, but you will definitely not get what you expect, and you may not get what you want. The bang-em-out guy will tend to limit client input on the website for the sake of speed and will likely charge too much for what he is producing. For a price, the corporate guys will usually get you a pretty good website, so long as you can endure all the rules and the semi-overbearing development process. The outsources can potentially produce an alright website, however the standards will not be up-to-date in a year or two, and they may not understand that if you are a dentist you don't want a giant picture of a needle as your home page banner.

Freelancers usually will give you a pretty good website for a decent price. By decent, I mean more than the template guys guys, but less than the corporate guys. They may be slightly slower than, say, the bang-em-out guys, but with a sensible price, an impressive design, and a laid back development process, it's usually worth the wait.

A professor of mine in college started numerous businesses in his life, which was why I asked him be my mentor when I began my own. He once told me a rule of thumb for businesses that I will never ever forget: Price. Quality. Service... Pick Two.

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