Why WYSIWYG is Still a Problem

By Deane Barker on October 11, 2013

WYSIWTFFTWOMG!: I just loved this piece by Mark Boulton.  He touches on an issue about which I’m preparing a conference session now — in the brave new world of multi-channel publishing, you just don’t know where your content is going to end up, so it’s tough to know how it’s going to look.

The problem is this: The question content people ask when finishing adding content to a CMS is ‘how does this look?’. And this is not a question a CMS can answer any more – even with a preview. How we use the web today has meant that the answer to that questions is, ‘in what?’.

[…] ‘How does this look?’ should change to ‘How does this read?’

How something “looks” is almost not relevant anymore.  In many contexts, someone is going to view your content in a different device or platform than you are.  I’m writing this in a WYSIWYG editor in WordPress right now, and — yes — I have gone to a preview to how it might look when published.  But there’s a decent change you’re reading this in an RSS reader right now, rendering all my previewing meaningless.

And the content management engineer in me loved this philosophical notion:

There are three spaces for content people – not creators, because not all content people create loads of content. Some just manage it – push it from here to there. Those places are:

  1. A space for writing. For writing and structuring.
  2. A space for management. For adding meta data, workflow, configuration and managing roles and people.
  3. The website space. Basically your website. A place where you begin the access user journey. Or preview your content. Generally the starting points for lots of little administration tasks.

There are other spaces, too. The developer space, where the site is administered and created, managed and evolved. Sometimes this is through an administration interface, but not always. Sometimes it’s just through an API.

The problem I see is that the CMS tries to deal with all three spaces equally well. And as such, generally fails to deliver an optimal experience because it’s trying to do too much. What if your content management system was actually three distinct applications designed to work together? Just a thought.