[Plone-conference] Openspace: growing plone

Dylan Jay djay at pretaweb.com
Mon Oct 27 09:58:57 UTC 2014

On 27 Oct 2014, at 3:55 pm, Fulvio Casali <fulviocasali at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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 ever!)
> - 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

As a measure of the kinds of usability improvements we *could* make have a look at the UX hit list we made last year. 
While mockup and Plone 5 are great, and in particular the new folder contents makes those operations a lot quicker, there is lots of room for improvement.
And as steve points out, the editors are just one of many user groups Plone has create a great user experience for. The theming/integrator experience from first install up until going live with a custom site has a lot of areas we could improve. And of course helping the core developers and addon authors so that doing all this new work is a pleasure rather than a chore.
I'm really crossing my figures going into this conference that we are all on the same page that all these areas need a lot of improvement and just how critical that improvement is as Fulvio demonstrates. Hopefully we are just arguing about which improvements need to go first.

> 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.

The reason: Xero.com. Purely online competition that put user experience first.

> 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 think the good news is we do have a really solid base start on. It's not as pretty underneath as we'd like but it does have a huge number of features and there are some that others don't have. I really believe starting again, or spending developer capitol on reworking the underlying technology right now would be a big mistake because the effort would be huge and we'd still have the same Plone from a user perspective. It won't bring us a bigger community, core developers or customers. On the other hand, if we can create a Weebly experience, except in an open source tool so customers aren't locked in, AND keep a development experience for advanced developers that is just as flexible as it is now.... then we would have something that sells itself. and I don't think it is nearly as hard to Plone on top of Plone as we think it will be.

BUT: Going the weebly+plone way is my personal opinion and one of many possible ideas on how to save Plone. This is an *open* openspace for brainstorming about how Plone should change to have the relevance it deserves. As long as we leave this conference with a clear path forward I will be happy.

> (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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