The major issue we seek to address with About, and other potential related applications in the future, are the numerous needs that come to light as working and organizing people search for digital tools that are right for their small-to-mid-size organizations and staff. Primarily, we think we can provide friendlier digital creative control and content management for places without a C-Suite.
Built for WordPress
We expect WordPress to be a consistent part of these tools. We see small groups selecting WordPress, making primarily one-time investments in design and development, but then encountering some limits in the types of updates they can quickly perform. The issue here is with the WordPress administrative interface. Though WordPress offers many advantages over other content management systems, they don’t knock it out of the park for users here. In fact, WordPress is managed best when a staff has the flexibility to designate one or two people to fully acquaint themselves with WordPress and perform all updates on behalf of everyone else. That shouldn’t have to be the case, and often it is just not possible to employ such a person.
Fear of “Breaking the Site”
Consider a food truck – with one person on the register with customers, and two others putting together meals – wouldn’t it be nice to update the menu for the day on the actual website? Employees often worry an update they are performing could mess up formatting on a page, especially when it involves ‘interior’ pages of the site. The solution often is to tweet or send a Facebook post about whatever update they would have liked to make on the site. But now the focus is off the beautiful site you invested resources to build, and you are forced to rely on social media sites you may really prefer not to rely on. We are creating About with all working and organizing people in mind.
The Google Suite of Products
About ties in, and relies on Google docs in a major way at this time. We expect to continue working with Google’s free and low-cost tools in order to improve the process of making updates to WordPress. We see working and organizing people using these tools in unexpected ways, and we can imagine linking this trend of innovation-out-of-necessity in new and additional ways with WordPress.
Our move towards improving digital creative control and updates will lead to different, fun, personal touches on sites. Additionally, our tools make your website central, and social media properties secondary. Decentralizing social media is an important direction to consider, and this stance of ours will become more clear in future efforts. Simply put, we make it easier for your own site to be the true hub for all your content.
And What Else is Out There?
Certainly there are site builders out there that seek to make building and updating websites easier – Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace for example. These builders give greater emphasis to the WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) approach to site creation – an approach that is supposed to be less intimidating than staring into a code editor. However, WYSIWYG efforts have waxed and waned for many, many years now. We think this suggests these efforts are missing something.
In some ways, we bare relation to the Flat file, or static, CMS efforts. Tools like Statamic and Couch CMS eliminated clunky databases and administrative interfaces and made it possible to edit parts of your site through a collection of text files. This approach to webmaking has roots to the earliest days of the web development – especially the simple language of Server Sides Includes. Jekyll emerged at the top of this pack. But these approaches favor developers, or perhaps amateur web builders with high confidence rates in their creating and editing ability. These were not solutions aimed at most workers and organizers. We have high confidence that About with WordPress is a terrific solution for most people seeking aspects of flat file CMS, who also feel more comfortable with a WYSIWYG premise.
One of the most significant challenges we face with About is communicating directly to workers and organizers that About is a plugin/service they should ask their developer or designer to add to their site. It is hard for users to learn about great WordPress plugins. Even the best plugins, the ones which promise much flexibility for clients, do not enjoy high rates of name recognition. Often, the plugins a developer or designer uses to build a site are entirely up to that builder’s discretion – and whether they’ve chosen to purchase the developer license for that tool. This does not put the worker/organizer client in the driver’s seat. So tackling the issue in a way that results in clients being encouraged to ask for About, and budgeting for About, will be a real challenge, but one we are eager to approach.