WYSIWTF – A Record Aside
Arguing for “separation of content material from presentation” implies a neat division between the 2. The truth, in fact, is that content material and kind, construction and magnificence, can by no means be absolutely separated. Anybody who’s ever written a doc and performed round to see the impression of various fonts, heading weights, and whitespace on the way in which the writing flows is aware of that is true. Anybody who’s ever squinted at HTML code, making an attempt to parse textual content from tags, is aware of it too.
Article Continues Under
On one hand, the division of labor between writing and presentation may be seen at each level in our historical past. Historic scribes chiseling stone tablets, medieval monks copying illuminated manuscripts, printers inserting movable sort—we’ve by no means assumed that the one who produces the doc and the one who comes up with the concepts should be one and the identical.
And but, we all know that medium and message are intertwined so tightly, they will’t be simply cut up aside. Graphic designers rail towards the notion that “feel and look” may be painted on on the finish of the method, as a result of design influences that means. The extra expert we’re as communicators, the extra we notice that the separation of content material from presentation is an industrial-age feint, an try to standardize and section duties which might be deeply linked.
Immediately, we attempt to implement the separation of content material and kind as a result of it’s good for the net. It’s what makes internet requirements doable. It permits social sharing and versatile reuse of content material. It helps accessibility. It’s what is going to hold us sane as we attempt to get content material onto tons of of recent gadgets and kind components.
When speaking about how finest to separate content material from presentation, designers and builders are inclined to deal with front-end code—which is smart, as a result of that’s what we’ve probably the most management over. However, as with so many challenges we’ve with content material on the internet, the actual subject lies within the instruments we give content material creators to assist them construction, handle, and publish their content material. The shape that content material takes relies upon as a lot on CMS because it does on CSS.
How ought to content material administration instruments information content material creators to deal with that means and construction? What’s the correct amount of management over presentation and styling within the CMS? And the way ought to these instruments evolve as we escape of the net web page metaphor and publish content material flexibly to a number of platforms? Let’s have a look at three instruments that sit on the intersection of content material and kind.
Even probably the most die-hard structured content material editors nonetheless like seeing what their work goes to appear like. Writers print out paperwork for enhancing to present them a distinct view from what they see on the display screen. Bloggers instinctively hit the preview button to have a look at their work the way in which a person will see it.
Whoops. Many years of labor refining the emulators between desktop publishing applications and laser printers signifies that writers can really feel assured that their doc will look nearly an identical, no matter the place it’s printed. We’ve carried that assumption over to the net, the place it’s categorically unfaithful. Completely different browsers render content material in their very own vexingly particular approach. Customers can change the font dimension—even add their very own customized model sheet. Immediately, the identical doc will render in a different way on desktops, tablets, and cell gadgets. The preview button is a lie.
But we will’t simply throw the infant out with the bathwater. In actual fact, seeing content material in context turns into even extra essential as our content material now lives throughout gadgets and platforms. As an alternative of throwing up our arms and saying “preview is damaged,” it’s time to invent a greater preview button.
One publishing firm I do know of has constructed its personal customized preview rendering interface, which reveals content material producers an instance of how every story will seem on the desktop internet, the cell internet, and an app. Is it excellent? Removed from it. Content material will seem in lots of extra contexts than simply these three. Is it higher than nothing? Completely.
The desktop publishing revolution ushered in by the Macintosh allowed the person to see a doc on display screen in a kind that carefully mirrored the printed model. The toolbar on the prime of the display screen enabled the person so as to add formatting—change the font, insert a picture, add typographic results like headings and bullets, and way more.
In an effort to hold over this ease of use to the net, we permit content material creators to embed format and styling info instantly into their content material. Sadly, the code added by content material creators may be at odds with the model sheet, and it’s tough for builders to parse what’s model and what’s substance. When it comes time to place that content material on different platforms, we wind up with a muddled mess.
What’s the correct quantity of formatting management to present content material creators? That’s a tough query to reply, as a result of it pierces proper to the center of what’s stylistic and what’s semantic. Even one thing so simple as including daring and italic textual content forces us to ask if we’re actually simply styling the textual content, or including semantic that means (say, a guide title or a warning message.)
Higher content material modeling can clear up a few of these issues, encouraging content material creators to appropriately “chunk” their textual content. By banishing blobs of textual content with formatting embedded and changing them with chunks of fresh, presentation-independent content material, we’re constructing within the distinction between content material and kind proper from the beginning.
However imagining that every “chunk” of content material is a discipline within the database (with its personal enter discipline) quickly devolves into the absurd. That approach lies insanity. The actual answer isn’t essentially to “banish blobs,” however to switch the WYSIWYG toolbar with semantic markup. Slightly than coming into all textual content into discrete fields, content material authors wrap textual content that describes what it’s. Our guide title doesn’t must be a separate discipline if we will wrap it within the correct tags.
Defining what goes in a discipline and what goes in a tag requires a tighter collaboration between content material authors, CMS architects, and front-end builders. It’s time we began having these conversations.
We’re evolving. Not happy to rely simply on instruments which might be vestiges of the desktop publishing period, we’re creating new and modern methods to combine up content material and formatting which might be distinctive to the way in which the net works. There’s no higher instance of this than inline enhancing.
Inline enhancing permits content material creators to instantly manipulate content material within the interface, with no separation between the enhancing display screen and the show. Medium gives an enhancing interface that’s an identical to the desktop show and in-place enhancing is being added to Drupal 8 core.
One of many questions I get requested most incessantly is “how can I get my content material creators to grasp why it’s so essential so as to add construction and metadata to their content material?” This, I consider, is likely one of the elementary challenges we’re going through on the internet, significantly as we adapt to a multi-channel future. Inline enhancing encourages content material creators to deal with the visible presentation of the desktop interface. Simply in the mean time after we want content material creators to consider the underlying construction, we’re investing in instruments that obscure the “connective tissue.”
Jeff Eaton sums up this downside properly in a put up referred to as Inline Enhancing and the Value of Leaky Abstractions:
The most effective answer isn’t to construct instruments that disguise that complexity from the person, that make them suppose that the styling they’re including to the desktop website is the “actual” model of the content material. As an alternative, our aim must be to speak the suitable complexity of the interface, and assist information customers so as to add the fitting construction and styling.
The period of “desktop publishing” is over. Similar goes for the period the place we privilege the desktop internet interface above all others. The instruments we create to handle our content material are vestiges of the desktop publishing revolution, the place we tried to allow as a lot direct manipulation of content material as doable. In a world the place we’ve infinite doable outputs for our content material, it’s time to maneuver past instruments that depend on visible styling to convey semantic that means. If we wish true separation of content material from kind, it has to begin within the CMS.