An Interesting Concept For Front-end Editing – Inline Access

Amidst the different projects currently ongoing around WordPress, there is one that will potentially change the way in which we edit published content. It’s called Front-end Editor and is being developed as part of the features as plugins program. While the initial concept and mockups look good, there is another perspective by Mark Root-Wiley that folks should take a look at, inline access.

Rather than editing content “inline” on the front-end, let users click editable chunks of content to drill down to the appropriate admin edit page. To be clear, this is explicitly and intentionally not front-end editing.

Edit Info Bar
The “Info Bar” — Sister of the Admin Bar, provides contextual information about the page.

Inline access is interesting because instead of actually editing the text on the page, the idea is to take you specifically to the place in the administration area to edit the text instead. In Mark’s concept, there’s an ‘info bar‘ and ‘edit mode tool tips‘. This would be built into the existing admin bar. Once the edit tool bar was selected, you’d be able to see outlined regions of the page that are available for editing. I like this technique because the info bar provides information such as content type, templates, and where the content is being applied and where to go in the administration area to edit the content. This not only provides an easy way to edit content, but the educational aspects of it are a big bonus.

Please read through his idea and provide any feedback you have in the comments.

12 Comments


  1. Thanks for posting this, Jeff! I just got started on a rough prototype this morning, so your timing is excellent. I look forward to hearing what other people think.

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  2. Interesting, the next version of Joomla, currently in alpha, is introducing the same feature.

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  3. @Mark Root-Wiley – This Australian guy, Peter Bui, has a regular, concise podcast, called Joomla Beat, which does a good job of keeping me up-to-date with what our Joomla friends are up to. I guess you could say that Peter is their Jeffro!

    Here is the specific episode in which the new features in the upcoming 3.2 release are discussed:

    Joomla Beat Ep33 – What’s New in Joomla 3.2

    … and he is basing that on this article by Nick Antimisiaris in the Joomla Community Portal:

    THE POTENTIAL OF JOOMLA 3.2

    If anything, inline access is even more important for Joomla than WordPress because it also solves the eternally frustrating problem of working out which module each page element belongs to – coming from WordPress, having to search through so many modules and menus is bewildering, so, being able to simply click straight through to the appropriate editing page will be a big, big deal for Joomla.

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  4. @donnacha -Thanks! Very helpful. Sounds like they’re only doing it for menus and modules (the “Widget” equivalent) but those are good places to start.

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  5. @Mark Root-Wiley – The odd way Joomla works, modules are far more central to how content is displayed than widgets are in WordPress, and menus also play a different role. Regardless of CMS, however, your insights on the importance of inline access, as opposed to front-end editing, are perceptive.

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  6. Interesting. I wonder what the die hards “don’t let anyone in the backend” would say about the differing concepts.

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  7. @Joshua Parker – That’s a good question, and I’ve been a little surprised not to have heard any responses along those lines.

    However, I have a couple preemptive points:

    1) I think it would be a mistake for WordPress to create a front end interface that acts as a crutch for the back end. One concern I have about front end editing is that it creates two editing interfaces to build, maintain, and perfect. Why not focus on one and make it amazing?

    2) As I wrote in the article linked in this post, I think front end editing techniques tend to hinder the development of a solid mental model of how a site’s component parts come together to build the site in a way the back end doesn’t. Front end editing makes it easier to be a lite user and harder to be a power user.

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  8. Hi Everyone,

    I’m back to report that the plugin development has continued to a point where it’s in great shape for testing and I’ve put together an article of lessons learned. There’s also a survey asking people for feedback to help me determine how to move forward with this project. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    http://mrwweb.com/wp-inline-access-future/

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