Why Front-End Editing Is A Drag And Should Be Dropped

It’s a curious contradiction that a new drag-n-drop page builder can have the WordPress community hyperventilating whilst it simultaneously goes dizzy over the decidedly back-end post editing interfaces of Draft, Ghost and the marvels of Markdown.

Perhaps it’s the fear of missing out on being an early endorser of the ‘Next Big Thing’, or perhaps there is a genuine excitement about the perceived advantages of front-end page builders and content editors… or perhaps the WordPress community is just generally predisposed to shiny new objects.

Whatever the motivations, front-end editing is gathering momentum, but will it result in WordPress’ very own diabolical incarnation of Frontpage and should we be grabbing the stakes and killing it off before it wreaks bloodsucking carnage on the WordPress ecosystem?

Photo of girls clapping and cheering
Everyone gets excited about front-end editing, don’t they?

In the last few days, VelocityPage, a drag-n-drop page builder plugin from WordPress lead developer Mark Jaquith has been generating a fair amount of commentary.

Every announcement of a product that brings some back-end functionality to the front-end seems to get the same reaction. As we also know, the WordPress Core Team are working on a solution, so the front-end editing of content could soon be part of the WordPress core.

But why? What problem is it trying to solve?

Or is it, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic park that “[the developers] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”?

What Is Wrong With Front-End Editing?

There are three main issues with front-end editing:

What Happened To The Separation of Content and Design?

For as long as I can remember, the mantra of website development has been the separation of content from design. This has driven the development of the HTML spec, was responsible for the rise of XML and was, ironically, the very reason that content management systems like WordPress were created.

Creating content in a separate interface was a very deliberate act; being able to swap themes in and out without any impact on the content was critical to WordPress’s success. It was the reason that applications like FrontPage and its ilk ultimately died.

A dedicated interface for content creation allows the author to focus solely on the content and is the reason that Medium and Ghost cause plenty of envious looks. But you can’t have both. You can’t have a distraction-free writing interface on the front-end because the front-end is a distraction.

FEE resurrects the FrontPage ethos and starts winding back all the advantages of separation that WordPress and its CMS buddies brought us.

We Are Not All Designers

Jakobian WordPress theme
Somebody thought this was good design

I can’t design. I can barely color-coordinate my clothes of a morning. So I don’t try. If I need a design for a site, I go looking for a premium theme from a source I trust that is close to what I want. Then, my choice is either to tweak the theme or just live with it, the latter nearly always being the best option.

FEE says that anyone can be a designer.

It provides all the tools to allow anyone to lay out a page but that’s not designing. That’s like giving me an infinite array of pants and shirts with no guidance as to what goes with what.

Design is a talent and a skill that is concentrated in a lucky few. That’s why premium theme sellers exist as they can build great looking themes for the design-challenged amongst us.

A Threat To Continuity

There is actually something very reassuring about the design for a site being completed up front. That each content type and page layout has been thought about and already designed. That a common look and feel has been determined and visitors will know what to expect and how to interact as they navigate the site.

If FEE allows every page or post to be a different layout then the obvious danger is sites where this continuity is lost, visual cues change from page to page and the ultimately the browsing experience is impacted.

This is post-design design and is surely undesirable especially if the original designer is not involved in the page building / layout process?

Is FEE the Next Big Thing?

Photo of a Sinclair C5
The 1985 NBT in personal transport – where’s your Sinclair C5 parked?

There is no doubt that FEE has a future, simply because a lot of time and resources are going into producing standalone FEE plugins or embedding FEE functionality in new themes and even in the core.

But it won’t be the Next Big Thing for WordPress for a couple of reasons.

Trying To Solve A problem That Doesn’t Exist

Why is front-end editing of content better than in the back end? Is it simply that it saves developers and designers from having to teach their clients how to use the Admin interface? If that’s the case then there’s plenty of other potential solutions.

Why do we need front-end editing of page layouts and content when WordPress already has post formats and page templates? Is it just to bypass paying a designer?

Of course, the argument might be that the WordPress Admin interface is daunting for new users and not particularly user-friendly and that FEE provides a great solution. In that case, perhaps the time would be better spent addressing those issues, especially by the core team?

FEE Has Plenty Of Competition.

Screenshot of Gust editing screen
Gust shows that editing interfaces needn’t be tied to either front or back end

Focus on the content creation experience extends well beyond FEE and there are a number of solutions to genuine content creation issues that may well steal FEE’s limelight.

The excellent Gust plugin is a revelation and a genuine reason to get excited. It successfully proves that editing interfaces don’t have to be shoehorned into the Admin interface or bolted onto the public interface but can live alongside both and are, in fact, liberated in doing so. Let’s hope that Gust is the first of many content creation interfaces that interact with, rather than become an integral part of, a WordPress install.

Competition is most fierce in the design arena. There are a swag of themes that have page builders built into them that work effortlessly in the Admin interface and several existing admin interface-based page builder plugins that have already built strong fan bases. It’s going to take something very special to get these users to shift across.

What’s especially interesting about the page builder market is that it is already starting to fragment with plugin developers concentrating on providing builders for specific types of pages. There have always been the landing page builders, focussed on producing pages optimized for conversion but the recent release of the promising Aesop Story Engine, a plugin dedicated to laying out longer-form articles raises the question of whether generic FEEs will be able to compete in a market of a specialist products.

FEE Is Just A Tool

Photo of a titanium hammer
A titanium hammer won’t make me a master DIYer

Whether it is a drag-n-drop theme or a front-end content editor, FEE is just a tool and therefore can only be as good as the final end-user and never as good as a custom-designed solution.

Maybe I’m a little old fashioned but I believe that the best sites are built by specialists: content designed and created by writers, delivered to the end user using an interface designed by designers, and generally managed by site managers.

FEE disrupts this model even though the model doesn’t seem to be particularly broken. It says anyone can be a designer; it says don’t worry about the publishing process; it says worry about about how your content looks not what it says.

And that is no a great step forward for WordPress.

What do you think about front-end editing? Is it the Next Big Thing or just a fad? Will it bring great design to the masses or will it create a morass of ugly sites and pages? Most importantly, will you, or do you, use it?

Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.org, Wikipedia, WordPress.org

26 Responses

  • New Recruit

    Chris,
    Interesting post! I have set up front-end editing for clients a couple times via plugins. If a plugin is made by Mark, it’s always worth thinking about, and it’s probably better than ones I tried before.

    But yes, like you, I wonder if this will fly, or if it’s worthwhile in the end. In our DIY world, everyone wants to be a designer, even if they haven’t put 10 minutes into learning anything about it. A little power is a dangerous thing. An editor, front-end or not, cannot make you a writer or an artist. So non-tech people are excited that they can create whatever they want! And we get an avalanche of drivel for content.

  • Syntax Hero

    I observe that one problem front end editing (not necessarily front end designing) may help solve is the “mental and visual” disconnect that many users report between making a dashboard change and being able to see in real time the visual effect that their changes are making.

    Many report this disconnect creates an unrewarding publishing experience for them.

    Those who “get” this HATE preview as it still does not solve the absences of a visual feedback loop that shows the user in real time what visual impact their changes are having.

    This seems to be a very important point and perhaps one basis for eager adoption of Facebook by users who simultaneously resist using WordPress even with EASY MODE plugin active. Facebook shows the user what their content will look like without requiring a “disconnected” dashboard where changes made leave a user wondering what those changes look like on the front end.

    I observe that if front end editing is taking hold, it is may be because it eliminates the “dashboard” – “front end” disconnect that users report finding so unrewarding to work with and it also satisfies user’s need for immediate gratification by providing the user with instant visual feedback about changes they are making. (without requiring a preview step or two save and view steps)

    That’s my 2 cents.

  • New Recruit

    I think you’re missing the point of front end editors and in particular Velocity Page. The keyword there is Page. Not Post.

    Separation of content and design is of course important. But when using WordPress as a CMS… and not just a blog… for creating client sites or company sites that may be managed from a content standpoint by non-technical staff this type of functionality is most definitely useful.

    Markdown? It’s great. For Posts and content like posts. But what happens when someone managing the content wants to put together a quick fancier layout for the Staff page? Or the About Us page? Or the Contact Us page?

    Does the user have to create a new theme template file just to have some control over the formatting of the content itself? Certainly not.

    Velocity Page and the type of front end editing it provides services a completely different need than backend editing tools such as Markdown, etc.

    WordPress has seen massive growth not because of blogging. But because of it’s use as a CMS. Anyone writing for WPMU should know that considering it’s those clients that is WPMU’s bread and butter from a sales standpoint.

    It’s kind of funny because most of the people I see complaining about WordPress becoming so complex, etc. are bloggers. They need to stop and realize they’ve become the minority. WordPress is about far more than blogging and has been for quite some time.

    • It doesn’t matter whether it’s pages or posts, it’s about design-on-the-fly, which, incidentally, is quite different from managing content.

      Your scenario of putting “together a quick fancier layout for the Staff page” is a great example of the pitfalls with page builders.

      Apart from the obvious question of why wasn’t the layout of the Staff page addressed in the initial design and build, this has all the potential for mucking up the site’s visual continuity.

      The scenario also throws up content management issues that I didn’t even mention in the article. Should the staff profiles be simply added to the page or are they better as custom content types that can be re-used elsewhere? If the content is repeated elsewhere on the site then how do they ensure consistency in the content?

      How are non-technical staff able to make those decisions?

      Page builders encourage this lazy approach to building sites and a mentality of it doesn’t matter, we can fix it later.

      I also thought it was clear in the article I was talking about WordPress in a reasonably large CMS context. My apologies if that wasn’t obvious.

      The argument is not about WordPress becoming complex, in fact, it’s the opposite. As I said in the article, the model isn’t broken so why try and fix it?

      Isn’t it the page builder vendors who are telling us that WordPress is too difficult and that we need a simpler way to lay out pages and edit content?

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    WP is getting used by more and more people all the time. Many of those are micro-businesses, starting out from home, with little or no budget. They cannot afford the time or money to deal with developers, designers, content creators, editors etc etc and all the decision making involved so giving them the power and flexibillity to create and build something themselves is a major benefit to them.

    Yes, the results may sometimes be ‘dodgy’ in terms of content and design but at least they would have been able to get things off the ground with the ‘right’ platform. (Anyway – some of the most popular free themes already in existence leave a lot to be desired).

    It would also attract many who otherwise head to sites like Weebly and Wix give them the chance to discover ‘on-the-fly’ just how much more flexibility and power WordPress can give them as their business grows and their website needs develop.

    Once they start building their site this type of user often grows to realise that content and design are harder than they envisaged and that Google isn’t just a directory that they suddenly appear in as a result of having a site. If they have built their site with WordPress, then it’s a lot easier to improve things than it is is with many of the builder sites.

    Anyway the horse has already bolted – anyone with a little time and common sense and no fear of their computer can already design a crap theme with some the theme frameworks or drag and drop WP frameworks out there.

    WordPress is about democratising publishing – front-end editing/design can only help that.

    Live with the mess – we’re all curators now.

    • “WordPress is about democratising publishing”. Amen to that sentiment – it’s what excites me most about open-source CMS.

      But if 20% of all websites are apparently driven by WP then hasn’t it already done a herculean job, and all without any help from front-end editing?

      Those small businesses with little time and budget – what’s wrong with a premium theme? And the current Admin interface? Guaranteed that any time they save with front-end creation of content they’ll more than give up when they start playing with the page builder.

      Yes, I guess it is horses-for-courses to some extent, but if these small businesses are going to grow then I’d sure like to see them start off their digital presences as they should continue – with the right help and the right processes.

      • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

        tbh I do agree with you. In an ideal world they would be starting out with the “right help and processes” but given the ubiquity of the ‘Build your website in ten minutes’ sites out there the world is far from that ideal.

        Many people won’t seek good help and will always take the path of least resistance and FEE/designing seems to offer that path to those who haven’t yet learnt the lessons they will once their first site gets up and running.

        When it’s time to learn those lessons and get some support, WordPress is the platform to be on.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Hi.

    I have tried a few FEE’s, but found that they will not work in conjunction with plugins that prevent front end copying!

    My conclusion was that prevention of the copying of one’s content, by any internet user, is the price to pay for using a front end editor!

    Please tell me that I am wrong??

    johnv

  • New Recruit

    What problem is it trying to solve?

    The problem it solves is that it prevents the user from having to maintain an imperfect, infrequently updated mental model of how their back-end actions will translate into front-end results. It’s to reduce the soul-eroding process of adjusting something, waiting, switching contexts, waiting some more, and then seeing what it did. And then going back and trying again and again until the desired result is achieved. Front-end experiences also enable serendipitous creation and layout choices. When you get instant visual feedback, you might spot a glimpse of something that you never would have envisioned without that real-time feedback.

    For as long as I can remember, the mantra of website development has been the separation of content from design

    I’m not saying that people should be empowered to have per-pixel placement of items, with whatever colors they want, using Papyrus and 3D rotating flaming guitars. I don’t see people building Frontpage for WordPress. What people are creating is better editing tools for content. Create a page using the FEE plugin, or Barley, or VelocityPage. Then switch themes. The world doesn’t end. There isn’t a shameful outpouring of hard-coded style attributes. The content comes along for the ride. It might look a little different, because the new theme has different styles. It might have different fonts and colors. It’s your content (and some minimal layout) that comes over. How you know you’ve failed, and when I would join you in decrying the state of our tools, is if you changed themes and ONE of your headlines stayed pink while the others turned a rich dark grey. If I add an option to VelocityPage in the future to choose an arbitrary color for a headline, I hope someone finds this sentence and uses it to mock me. Please. With my pre-blessing.

    A dedicated interface for content creation allows the author to focus solely on the content and is the reason that Medium and Ghost cause plenty of envious looks.

    I’m confused. Medium is a front-end editing experience. That’s a huge part of its appeal to writers.

    FEE says that anyone can be a designer.

    I think you’re overstating the theme-straying design power of these tools. Their design powers are really quite modest. Their value is in content creation, layout, and pacing.

    It provides all the tools to allow anyone to lay out a page but that’s not designing. That’s like giving me an infinite array of pants and shirts with no guidance as to what goes with what.

    I agree that it’s not design. It’s editing and basic layout. We could call that design casually, but it’s really just saying something like “hey I have two images, I want them to appear side by side”.

    And you, of course, have been given an infinite array of pants and shirts. Walk into a shopping center and look around! :-) And assuming you’re not a clothier or a fashion designer, you’ve somehow made do combining those options and filling someone else’s design with your, erm, content.

    Maybe I’m a little old fashioned but I believe that the best sites are built by specialists

    Sure, I’ll buy that. In a perfect world, everyone would be an expert or be able to hire one. But let’s consider that most people aren’t specialists and can’t afford to hire a specialist. Given that they have ideas, or small business goals, and given that allowing people to express their ideas and to achieve economic independence are laudable aims… shouldn’t we focus on making solutions that are intuitive, easy to use, don’t require technical knowledge, and that produce results that the user can predict? Front-end experiences help advance that goal. Yes, they could also be used to usher in the rebirth of the Frontpage apocalypse. But they don’t have to. And if I have anything to say about it, they won’t.

    P.S. I wish I could preview this comment before posting it! ;-)

    • New Recruit

      So, I was kind of joking with my P.S.. But look what happened. I had blockquotes quoting you, interspersed through in my comment. But they don’t show up in the comment because your theme wasn’t designed to display blockquotes differently than the paragraphs around them. Had this been a front-end editing experience, I would have realized that, and my comment wouldn’t appear like I was debating myself.

      Can I get a little padding-left action? I have an old copy of Frontpage if that would help.

      • Mark, firstly thanks for the long and considered response.

        These types of articles are always written in the hope of starting a conversation about a topic I think is important and so equally important is the counter-view.

        This article wasn’t a dig at VelocityPage, incidentally. FEE is something I’ve been thinking about for a while – the reason will become clear at some point in the future – it’s just that VP gave me the nudge to write the article.

        Just on Medium. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree here. That new post page is about as close to a “blank page” as it gets. True, there’s no admin interface to go through but there’s also nothing remaining from the front-end either. Be a bit like the Edit link on a WP post kicking straight into the Gust interface which then returns back to the front-end post on save: back-end or front-end?

        On comments, we agree. Most, including these here, are a pretty average implementation of FEE. For articles like these, the annotation approach is obviously better. Be nice to able to choose to do both, wouldn’t it?

        I suppose we differ most in our opinions on the back-end. I don’t get that it’s difficult to maintain that “mental model”, nor, quite frankly, why in these days of having monitors quite capable of showing two browser windows side-by-side you can’t have front-end in one and back-end in the other, if being able to preview all the time is necessary (which I would also question).

        More than that, I really like the fact that they are separate and that the user is acutely aware of that and focussing just on a single task. I don’t think an author needs to be permanently aware of how their post “looks”.

        Yes, small business (perhaps the majority of WP installs) need accessible and flexible solutions but the premium theme market seems to be doing a pretty good job in servicing their needs.

        Perhaps, again, my personal characteristics (I’m a big fan of the Pareto Principle) are coming to the fore in that for me, close enough, is good enough. I’m no perfectionist.

        Sure, it would be nice if I could get those two images to go side-by-side but if I can’t then it’s a shrug of the shoulders and I’ll move on.

        That said, given the breadth of WordPress’ reach it would be crass to suggest that any viewpoint is applicable to everyone and every situation.

        As I’ve mentioned several times, these are all tools (and no doubt some of them are very good indeed) and much depends on people at the other end. What irks me, and this is not a comment on VelocityPage, is the way that these tools are marketed and the claims that they often make.

    • New Recruit

      Great comment.

      There is no formula for great content but it seems many developers think there is. It seems the debate from the art world about composition and all that jazz has spilled over into the digital art world.

      Even if front end editing serves only the purpose of being ‘handy’, then it is a useful function.

  • New Recruit

    I want an intuitive Front End Editing experience that enables me to quickly and easily edit content. I hate the process of discovering a typo on a published article and I have to load the entire WordPress backend to fix it. Why can’t I just double click the text area, fix it and the change is saved on the post. That’s all I really want!

    • Jeffro, your editorial ninja didn’t pick up on your typo :)?

      For a single typo, FEE is quicker, yes. But where does it cross the line? How big a change do you need to make before you should be in the interface that has been designed for creating, editing and managing content?

      Would you write your articles for Tavern in a FEE?

      To me, Tavern’s design is deliberately clean so that you don’t have to worry about how your posts look and so can concentrate on what you are writing.

      Ease of use, I think, can make us less attentive. Yes, it would be great to be able to go in and easily change a typo. But it would be better not to make the typo in the first place, wouldn’t it?

  • Flash Drive

    The problem i was trying to solve when i brought the idea up was. that the distinction between the front and back ends confuses many non-technical people who are just trying to learn wordpress. I do a lot of training of new people and it’s almost always a hang up that i need to explain repeatedly and even share my own personal hacks for working with (such as opening a separate tab for the front end).

    Now that’s all fine and dandy when someone has a person to guide them along but when a person attempts to learn on their own it a potential stumbling block in understanding that said person may never overcome.

    If we can all agree that one of if not the biggest challenge wordpress faces as a platform is that north of 90% of people trying it out abandon it before they every finish creating something, then any thing we can do to make that learning curve less steep will help and removing the dichotomy between the front and back ends will go a long way towards achieving that.

    • I would agree that the back-end can be daunting to the non-technical and can definitely be improved.

      I would also agree that for many clicking on edit and being shown a complete admin interface, albeit from the post edit screen is not an optimal user experience.

      I’d still advocate for separate interfaces, for the reasons I’ve outlined, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the admin interface as we see it now.

      There are numerous alternatives from tablet apps to desktop apps to good old email (possibly the most non-technical friendly approach?).

      So, even if the admin interface is daunting, front-end editing is not necessarily the solution.

      Your last comment is a bit of a tangent but is massively important, I think, to the future direction of WordPress. I doubt the abandon rate would be 90+% but I understand what you are saying.

      Trouble is, that even in these comments, there are differing views on what WordPress’ target audience is. RocketGenius admonishes me for (incorrectly) not recognising that WP is a CMS and “far more than blogging” suggesting a far greater end-user sophistication than your typical user.

      Undoubtedly, WP is both and that’s where the issues arise. Infinite public interfaces but only one web-based admin interface.

      To my mind, then, it’s Gust and hopefully other newcomers of that ilk that can do most for lessening the steepness of that learning curve.

  • New Recruit

    I love the provocative title.

    I would tend to agree when you say that “the best sites are built by specialists: content designed and created by writers, delivered to the end user using an interface designed by designers, and generally managed by site managers”.

    When it comes to designing a full-fledged website, FEE is a double edged sword.

    It brings freedom to a crowd that until now would never have thought of creating a website themselves, and that is excellent.
    There is a market for FEE. I think that, for instance, it truly has a future on SaaS platforms delivering websites for a small monthly… fee. Think HappyTables with FEE features. It will work great with a limited set of options. I can definitely see this evolutionary feature coming on wordpress.com.

    On the other hand I could find it to be somewhat regressive: what happens to templates, advanced features like CPTs, the use of conditional logic and so on ?

    When I am writing and adding a featured image, for instance, it is nice to know that I don’t have to bother about how text and image will look on the page: the process has already been defined. I love custom fields for the same reason. Once all this is in place I can forget about it and focus on content.

    With FEE I get the odd feeling of having to rebuild the walls of the whole house each time I am creating a new page, one brick at a time (even though I might be able to clone pages). And it is restrictive: I can play with the page layout, but I can’t really build the site layout (at least not with the tools I have tried so far). You can’t define the whole css structure of a site with FEE only, for instance: you depend on pre existing templates and css files.

    Incidentally, this could be why VelocityPage comes bundled with templates. (Mark, do correct me if I am wrong: I must confess I haven’t tested it yet.)

    However – and this is meant to be a BIG however -, I get that feeling when I think as a seasoned WordPress user. It is clear that FEE users will have a different profile. We’re not talking about bloggers or fancy websites tweaked to the max. It is another market entirely.

    FEE based solutions are not meant to replace such advanced features. You will still need the hands on approach with these, unless you are building a very simple and small site. This is clearly the market FEE solutions are aiming at.

    It looks like there will be a market for good looking templates that people will be able to toy with, and more easily so than with current premium themes (most premium themes buyers are web professionals, that’s a fact.)

    Graphic design and technology are becoming a commodity – FEE coupled with WordPress is a big step in that direction. From a technological point of view a good looking website won’t cost anything anymore (I’m thinking about 95% of the market here: small businesses on a tight budget). WordPress is the true pioneer in that respect.

    There is one thing no technical solution will ever solve: good quality content. Professional content will certainly become the real differenciating factor of a website, more than ever.
    I am already applying that business model, giving away the website (WordPress + a theme, the whole thing being managed on managewp.com ‘coz I love to sleep at night), allowing customers to spend their precious savings on content only. And I would welcome FEE as a solution to let them modify small stuff like prices, a few words here and there, a new picture, and so on – they would never have to reach for the admin backend, ever (admin is for admins!). That would be quite a relief: you can’t imagine how many people find the wysiwyg editing interface intimidating. (Let’s not even talk about CPTs , text widget content or shortcodes).
    Of course, I as an admin would want to be able to set limits as far as allowed FEE by the customer is concerned. (VelocityPage team, please take note ;-) there is a whole market up there waiting for you).

    It may not spell a rosy future for the majority of independent web developers (if FEE is a success it will indeed have a profound impact on WordPress’s ecosystem, as you were suggesting in your intro: it is called evolution), but it sure does for content professionals.

    What is your take on that, Chris?

    Thanks for starting this very interesting topic.

    • Gilbert, thanks for your comments.

      I agree with you that FEE is commoditizing design in particular. Perhaps this was inevitable though as theme developers and others look for that edge in what is a hugely competitive market.

      I suppose the big unknown is how many of those small-time WP users are prepared to sit down and build their own sites? Or will the page builders be used by those independent web developers as a much quicker path to a solution rather than coding a new template?

      One thing I didn’t mention in the article is that VP’s entry can actually only be good for the page builder market in that given the pedigree of those behind it, it can only help in raising the bar for the product.

      As a writer, you’ll not find me arguing against content as key :) Content can make up for an average design but an amazing design cannot save a site of poor content.

      Unfortunately, content seems to be not well understood. FEE for content almost seems to perpetuate the view that content is a necessary evil and that therefore we need to make it as quick and as simple as possible to create and edit.

      I don’t disagree that the admin interface is daunting but FEE is not the answer and I would prefer to see the core team working on an alternative interfaces with varying degrees of functionality that could be assigned to specific users (or groups of users).

      As I mentioned, perhaps projects such as Gust will do that anyway.

      Mark and I disagree on whether Medium’s post creation is front-end or back-end – but the reason it works is because it’s one click straight into an editor which is distraction free. That, I could live with.

      Although as you also correctly point out, any use of CPTs (and we use them a lot on this blog) would make that quite a feat of engineering.

  • New Recruit

    I recently released my own FEE Tool backed by WordPress, which you can take a look at here : http://youtu.be/luqGuKreT8Q

    The standout features are the responsive design tools and the ability to code css / LESS, html, and even javascript right in the browser without having to reload the page.

    I use it on http://makemodo.com (powered by wpmudev tools!) and have found it to really enhance my own productivity. The theme is backed by Bootstrap, so it takes an already agile development approach and builds off of it. I also really like Mark’s approach in that you can change the theme and not break your site.

    However, I’ve found that the FEE approach tends to work better for designers and developers as it can allow them to set up a client’s website so they can easily edit it themselves. There is something really alluring about being able to browse your own website, click a button, make some copy edits, click save, and you’re done.

  • New Recruit

    Front end editing flows into the *content area* as far as I understand, so the risk of heinous macro-theme edits are mostly non-existent. Of course a theme could have a full-width, 100%-height content area and a FEE plugin would allow them to create a Geocities monstrosity. That could totally occur. But let’s forgo marginal side arguments and concentrate on the real problem:

    Not everyone can afford a developer.

    Is segregating a block of content into two columns a designer issue? No, it’s two responsive columns. Is a staff member page a designer issue? No, it’s a responsive grid. Is an embedded video a design issue? No, it’s a responsive full-width div.

    These are all developer issues, not ideas unique to designer. It’s the users who are saying, “I need a staff member page. I need two columns here. I need to throw in a video there.”

    Let’s stop misplacing arguments and labeling this as the sole domain of design, because the execution is really a development issue.

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