After fun and a few frustrations sorting out designs in MySource Matrix in my last post (probably mostly caused by me not knowing what I was doing, and with limited time to sort things out), I’ve been looking at the overall user interface for editors.
The interface is possibly a tad intimidating for some (could you imagine your mum using it?), but the great thing about the system is that it’s flexible enough that you can build your own very simple content edit interfaces.
Lots of buttons and flashing lights…
The thing to remember here is that MySource Matrix is a powerful system, with all kinds of features on all kinds of screens. Tickboxes, drop-downs, options, buttons all over the place. It’s great, but it’s complex. And as we all know, making something easy to use is a real trick. Just think back (if you can) to the days of video recorders that no one knew how to use because they made actually fairly simple things seem very hard to do. It’s the kind of thing companies like Apple have spent decades trying to perfect.
Actually the developers of Matrix have done a reasonable job, and in any case much of the interface is only for system administrators (like me) setting the thing up.
But if all you want to do is make a new page with some text, images, and links in it (this must be like 95% of all web pages) you don’t need or want to know about all the fancy stuff in the backend, all the different types of assets, etc, etc. You probably don’t even want to know what an asset is. You just want a nice box you can type stuff into, press a button, and away you go. You want something like wordpress with all its web 2.0 goodness.
Asset builders and simple edit
Thankfully Matrix has two features which you can get to work together to build a simple editing interface the way you want it.
The simple edit interface is basically a way of allowing users to edit a page without all that backend admin stuff. On its own it’s a nice feature, but not much use if you actually want to make a new page. Asset builders are really the other side of the coin, because they give you the flexibility to allow any user to add in whatever new assets you want them to add.
So, make a new page with asset builder. Edit it with simple edit.
I have to say that I haven’t tried getting them to work together yet. I don’t even know to what extent that’s possible. What would be nice is to be able to make a new page and edit it at the same time, then either publish it or save it for later if I don’t want it to go live. That’s what I’m doing now in wordpress. That’s what google docs does. It’s intuitive and quick. That said, I’m probably hoping for too much, because bolting something that simple onto what can often be a considerably more complex process (think workflows, nested content, etc) is a real problem.
Matrix offers a very comprehensive and rich backend interface. If you want something easier for your users you can build your own very simple frontend new page/edit interface, which is a really nice feature. Users still have to go into the admin interface to delete or move those pages, and do other fairly simple operations.
I’d love to see a friendlier backend interface to Matrix, and I have no idea if that’s planned for Matrix 4 (due out sometime next year apparently). Sprucing it up somewhat would certainly turn it into a pretty much unrivalled open source CMS.