There was a time when inline editing, the ability to edit a piece of web content without going through an admin screen or a clunky submission form, was a key differentiator between web content management systems. That time is no longer.
Now we find ourselves in the age where content management systems and browser add-ons are friendly parts of the same sentence. Follow along with us as we see where Estonian Web CMS vendor is taking this technology relationship.
While most web content management systems enable inline editing as part of the native platform or as a deployed web application (such as Vignette), Zimplit provides a browser add-on for Firefox that allows web content editors and creators to manage content on screen.
For those new to the Zimplit Web CMS, it's a free or cheap PHP web content management system that is appropriate and sane only for very simple websites. We have a quick overview of the product here.
Example Use Case
You ask a friend who you know "makes websites" if she can help you get your site up and running. Your friend is not a software developer by trade, but she knows just enough PHP to be dangerous. Based on your needs (what's a blog?) and her experience (script kiddie), she chooses Zimplit as the platform for your website.
Your friend helps you pick out a pretty design for your website and she gets it uploaded and installed within Zimplit. As a final favor, your friend installs the Firefox add-on from Zimplit which pops up the inline editing tool.
So, you are surfing your cool new website when you see an egregious error in the text -- maybe your middle name is Hussein and you are looking to run for President of the United States of America. You click a button on the Firefox toolbar, the editing menu pops up, you make the change and close the editing menu. Shazam, your site has been updated.
We Must Admit, It's Pretty Simple
I hate to use the word "simple" to describe any aspect of a CMS, considering content management systems tend to be inherently complex. But at least in the demo on Zimplit's site, using the add-on to edit a site seems just that, refreshingly simple.
It's so simple in fact, that I can think of a great many "tech savvy" users who would be thrilled with such a minimalist experience.
That's Great, But What About...
The demo doesn't show how the security mechanism works, but the assumption is that the Firefox add-on is configured with appropriate authentication credentials allowing the user to edit the site. Unfortunately, I can't imagine this being sufficient for anything other than the most basic of brochure sites, and even then one would have to worry about defacement or hijacking.
Workflow and Collaboration
With no apparent approval or publishing process, other than closing the editing menu, how would multiple content creators keep from stepping on each others updates? What if you didn't want an update to go out until a certain time?
I am as big a fan of constraints and simplicity as the next person, but this all just seems too simple.
With that said, the concept of moving the editorial controls out of the platform and into the browser is intriguing, and it gets us thinking. Could other web content management platforms benefit from the same approach?