Macromedia Contribute

by Joe Gillespie — Dec 1, 2002

Macromedia Contribute

I've been asked many times by clients if there is some way that they can update pages on the sites I've designed for them. What they want to do is open their page in their browser, change a few words or prices, and resave the modifications. At most, they might want to add a new product. Well, sure there are ways to do something like that but they are not foolproof enough for people who are barely computer literate and find Microsoft Office enough of a challenge.

Now, Macromedia Contribute brings Web page editing to the masses. It's a browser and an editor - and just about as foolproof as you can get.

When you login to a site, you are in browser mode but just click on a button and the page becomes instantly editable.

How editable? That's the brilliant bit. You, the designer, can determine the level of editability - you have 'admin' privileges either through Contribute or Dreamweaver. If the client is not too comfortable with computers, you can give him or her just a simple text editing ability. If they are a bit more clued-up, you can allow them to add extra table cells to a page and put text and images into those cells. So, for instance, they can add new products to an on-line catalog. If you know you can really trust them, then they can make new pages - based on a template you have supplied, of course.

The simple menu bar allows the addition of images, tables and links and the text can have a predefined style applied to it, from the style sheet you supply. It is also possible to import the contents of a Word or Excel document and apply the appropriate page styles.

Now, if something does go drastically wrong, Contribute can restore previous versions of the page with its 'rollback' feature. It's a bit like having multiple undos, or a history palette.

As you have designed the site with client-modification in mind, page templates and style sheets make sure that anything that is added is going to look as if it belongs there and not stuck-on as an afterthought. I've written an article about this for Macromedia's designer and Developer Center.

There are a couple of other ways in which Contribute can be useful. If you just want the ability to modify one of your own sites without having to download the file from the server, modify it, and upload it again, Contribute is quicker and easier. You are effectively editing the files on the server instead of on your local hard disk.

Most WYSIWYG editors are hopelessly over-featured and too complicated for newbies. Contribute is actually a very good editor in its own right and, when none of the editing capabilities have been locked-out, you have everything you need to produce simple pages with text, tables and images. You can't get at the source though, it is strictly WYSIWYG, but that won't bother the people it is aimed at.

So, at last there is a way to let clients change their own pages, and without you having to bite away fingernails or lose hair in the process. You keep control of the level of editability and the size of images that can be added. Everybody is happy!

Contribute is available now for Windows for only $99 and a Mac OSX version will be available shortly.

Macromedia Contribute
Features red bar75%
Ease of Use yellow bar90%
Value for Money green bar90%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar90%
Manufacturer Macromedia
Price $99 for Windows only. Mac OSX version to follow.
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