[Plone-conference] Openspace: growing plone | as a brand

Fulvio Casali fulviocasali at gmail.com
Mon Oct 27 08:55:35 UTC 2014

On Fri Oct 24 2014 at 4:42:35 PM Steve McMahon <steve at dcn.org> wrote:

> Ends users and content maintainers: accessibility and usability are
> paramount. I think Pone does a pretty good job at all but the most
> sophisticated needs. We could do better for that with a better tile story.
Speaking of usability:
I strongly disagree - "does a pretty good job" is being fantastically
generous.  Plone might have been a leader in usability in 2004, but in
2014?  In OOTB Plone 4.3 (without mockup) how many page reloads and how
many clicks does it take to do some really basic *content management*
actions?  "Pretty good" does not cut it.

We (developers, consultants, and what not) are not the only ones spending a
large part of our days using many different applications on the web.  Our
clients do, too.  They notice the advances in interactivity, dynamicism and
UI fluidity (not to mention mobile-responsiveness) that have taken place
over the years, even though they may not have the words to describe the
differences.  Plone just feels clunky and dated.  And non-Plone developers
notice that, too.  Frankly, I feel more and more embarrassed with the UI of
my Plone-based solutions that I put in front of my clients.  Of course I
can develop some custom jquery-ajax-y things in my project-specific add-ons
like everybody else, but I can't overhaul the entire base UI of Plone.
That's the particular patch of sand that I stick my head in.

I'm glad mockup is in the 5 pipeline, and I'm looking forward to thethet's
and frapell's training Monday and Tuesday here at Ploneconf.  I just don't
know enough about mockup to be able to express a judgement over whether
this is THE solution to Plone's UI backwardness.  Let's just say I'm going
into it with great expectations:
- we don't just need better widgets, though we definitely do (boy, do we
- we don't just need a way to skin a site without affecting the editing UI
- we do need an end-to-end UI overhaul
- we need to be able to re-use UI elements in add-ons
- we need to be able to customize and extend UI elements in add-ons

A little story:  a client of mine recently decided to move their site to
Weebly, and without telling me, they manually rebuilt their entire site on
that platform, top to bottom.  Now, before you scoff that a small site that
can be done in Weebly does not belong on Plone, here's the kicker:  before
they could go live with the Weebly site, they reached out to me because
they needed styling help with some forms.  They had not realized, or
forgot, that those forms constituted the integration of their Plone site
with their SalesForce account.  The eye-opening moment for me came when
they gave me a login to their Weebly site, and I got to play with it.  Try
it out, if you haven't.  No wonder!  I would go with Weebly, too!

The Weeblys and Squarespaces of the world are supposed to live in a
completely different market from what Plone would be used for.  My
contention is that if Plone's editing UI does not allow our users to do
Plone things in a Weebly way, or better, then we are dead.  And I'm not
even talking about Wordpress or Drupal.  Weebly.  Squarespace.

Another example:  I used to keep the accounting for my company in that
horrible, unadulterated piece of junk that everybody uses because it had a
near-monopoly:  QuickBooks.  (I don't know how widespread it is outside the
US.)  In roughly a decade, thanks to its monopoly, Intuit never really had
any incentive to improve it, just making minor incremental fixes.  For
whatever reason, in the last couple of years they developed the online
version, which usability-wise occupies an entirely different galaxy.  It's
a web app that in my personal opinion completely eclipses and beats the
pants off the desktop version, and most other web apps I can think of.
Whether one should or should not use QuickBooks is beside the point.  Their
web UI completely rocks.  I can't even believe I'm in a web browser when
I'm using it.

A lot of the debate has been focused on the backend - Zope, Pyramid, etc.
Our backend still allows us to do things that other systems can't do.  The
reason why we are looking at the backend is because most Plone devs have
the expertise to improve that side of the equation.  That's not where the
growth is.  We are not looking enough on the front end, because most of us
do not feel really strong there.  So that's where the growth has to
happen.  And where it's needed the most.

It's too easy to pooh-pooh this argument in the rarefied air we breathe
from the lofty heights of our UNIX shells while looking down at "shiny
UIs".  The UI matters.  It matters to developers who see Plone for the
first time, because they want to impress their clients.  It mattered in
2001.  It mattered when Plone was the usability leader.  It still does.  We
don't want to be the QuickBooks for Windows XP.

All the other PLIPs, dexterity work, etc, need to go forward, but those are
not what will make a difference for Plone's future.  We need a Plone UI
"Apollo project".  That is what I want to contribute to, in whatever small
way I can.

(I know that nothing happens in an open-source project unless someone jumps
in and does it.  But one can dream - or dread.)
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