Archive for the 'faq' category
1 Jan 2011
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) | back to the top of the page
- Why why why why do you only support Firefox?
- What is the difference between the Content Manager tab and the Site Manager tab?
- Why can't I change things like font size, colour and line spacing?
- Why do I have to choose from set image sizes?
- Why can't I drop an image into just the right spot on the page?
- How does the File Manager work?
Why why why why do you only support Firefox?
NB: websites created using Decal can be viewed in any browser. It is only the actual CMS editing interface that requires Firefox.
We've actually been building the editing interface for Decal for a long time - since before Webkit browsers became popular and since Firefox was the only browser with reasonable debugging tools and back in the days when prototype.js was all the rage and jQuery didn't even exist yet.
At the end of 2009 and after a 2 year hiatus, we resurrected the project in earnest and rather than Rewrite Everything From Scratch we decided to do the best with what we had in the shortest time possible and this meant only supporting one browser, and this meant only supporting Firefox.
After a lot of refining of the interface and the deployment model, we're now up to the point where we want to ensure that we are, actually, solving the right problem in the right way before we commence porting the existing code to work with all modern browsers.
Our first release which allows designers/developers to experience the complete deployment process we have dubbed the "4 minute challenge"! We'd love to hear your thoughts - feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the difference between the Content Manager tab and the Site Manager tab?
The Content Manager tab is where you edit the content of your pages that will be most visible to your website viewers. This is where you add images and text to your pages, embed videos and create links. You can navigate your website as you normally would using the menu or other links on your pages in order to get to the page you wish to edit and then simply unlock the page to begin making changes.
The Site Manager tab is where you add and remove pages and manage the properties of your pages that will be most visible to search engines such as page titles, meta tags and descriptions and parent/child relationships between pages (for example to control the breadcrumb menu on your website). You can also search for pages in the site manager, and see a list of all pages in a site map so you can browse through and choose a page to edit.
Why can't I change things like font size, colour and line spacing?
Whilst editing a Decal site, you have access to basic bold, italic and underline styles, as well as the ability to choose from one of several available headings in the heading menu. You also have a "custom styles" menu which gives you various styling options. These may differ depending on what type of text you're editing, and in which area of the site.
When a website is created, the way it looks should be controlled by something called a "stylesheet". The stylesheet of a website is a like a style guide - it dictates how everything should appear on the page from font style and size, to text foreground and background colours, decorative imagery, borders, letter and line spacing ... everything!
Traditionally, content management systems allow people editing the website content a great degree of freedom in the types of styling options they have available to them, but this presents a some significant problems:
- The content manager needs to know how to make the styles look exactly like they should according to the stylesheet
- The content manager needs to remember which styles to use in various parts of the site
- The content manager can make design decisions that aren't in line with the original design of the site
- You now have a whole lot of content that has been created which includes it's own display instructions
This means that, over time (especially if more than one person uses the CMS), your site will lose it's design consistency and start to look more "broken" as the people managing the content attempt to try and make each part of the site look the same as the original stylesheet intended.
After a time, if you wish to update the design of the site, having all the "display instructions" embedded in your content (such as content which specifies that it should be aligned right at 16pt font using the colour red) you will find that you have to actually re-enter all of your content in order to make it consistent with the updated design.
By ensuring that content managers make no design decisions, and by using the stylesheet provided with the website's initial design as an "embedded style guide", Decal not only ensures that your website is effortlessly kept consistent over time, no matter how many people are editing the content, but also makes your content more valuable in the long term by keep it's semantic function completely separated from it's display instructions.
Let's get technical ...
For the web designers in the audience, adding "custom styles" to your Decal site is easy! Just include a special comment in your CSS that will enable this style as a menu option. In the following code snippet, any time the content manager clicks on a paragraph node inside a div of class someComponent on the template with the wrapper that has the id somePageId, they will see the option "Some custom style" in their custom styles menu. If they select that menu option, the class customStyle will be applied to the paragraph they had selected.
Custom styles can be applied to any block level element (except list items) and will only be available in the menu when the element the content manager has clicked on is capable of receiving that style, according to the stylesheet rules/css selectors. You can also apply custom styles to anchor tags (links) which will show up as style options in the link editor dialog.
Why do I have to choose from set image sizes?
It's a fact that, for any website design, the website will look better if images of a certain size are used. Using images that are too large or too small may break the layout of the page.
Also, in most cases using the same sized images consistently throughout the site will dramatically improve the look and feel of your site and subtly improve your viewers' experiences.
To this end, when a Decal website is deployed, the designer who builds the site decides what image sizes should be allowed in each area, and gives them each a name that is easy for you to identify when adding them to the site. These sizes are provided to you as options in the image insert dialog.
The designer can also choose to provide the content manager with the option to drop images in at their original size, or to have an image size "fixed" so that the content manager has no option at all.
Why can't I drop an image into just the right spot on the page?
All web content is designed to be displayed in a range of situations and by a range of different browsers and devices. Positioning of elements on a web page is not the same as positioning of elements on, say, a poster. Once you have printed your poster, that's it - there will be no changes to the way in which that poster is displayed. You can't "resize" or change the font size of a piece of paper.
This is what makes the web so powerful as a communications medium, but it's the disconnection between the way traditional design tools work (such as illustrator and photoshop) and the way that web page displays work that causes many of our greatest problems.
When you drag and drop an image on a Decal page, you're telling Decal where you'd like the image to be positioned - however Decal needs to "translate" your desired position into the actual code that will make it work, and this is a difficult job. There is a big trade off between "breaking the rules" of good web page structure principles, and allowing the content manager to do just "do whatever the hell they want". Decal always errs on the side of the rules.
The designer building a Decal site is able to provide "structured templates" which simplify the process of adding complex image layouts to the page - for "every day situations", the content manager is able to choose alignment and vertical positioning on the page, and nudge the image around to try and get it into the right place - however the options are limited by what is possible within the confines of a standard web page.
We're constantly working to improve this aspect of the user experience but we are dedicated to maintaining our strict adherence to "best practices" when it comes to separation of design and content within the context of editable web content.
How does the File Manager work?
The File Manager in Decal is very simple. You upload files and they are then listed alphabetically according to the file name. You can also select to view all files in descending date order according to how recently they were uploaded.
The primary purpose of the file manager is for you to drop images or link to documents from your web pages. As such, you should generally be able to find the file you're looking for, by browsing to that part of your web page.
That being said, the absence of more sophisticated "folder grouping" functionality in the File Manager necessitates that the content manager be thoughtful when naming their files if they wish to find them easily in future, and we also recommend that you do not use Decal as your primary storage mechanism for organising your files.
The File Manager is one of the features in Decal we are most interested in improving as it is currently quite rudimentary - however our primary focus has been on building the world's best web page editor and revolutionary website deployment model, so we've been a little busy ;)
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