Visual CMS… cool for React devs? Now’s the time!

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1. A brief history of web content management since 1996, with alternating code and visual tools:
   - The “FTP” era: Code editors > FrontPage/Dreamweaver
   - The “monolithic” era: CGI/ASP/PHP simple CMSs with gray tables > WordPress visual > WordPress with ACF
   - The “current” era: Headless CMSs <> Visual tools like Wix and WebFlow
2. Why now’s the time we need a new kind of CMS
3. What is React Bricks
4. The experience for content editors (explained by a customer’s content editor)
5. The experience for developers (explained by a partner agency’s web developer)

8 min
06 Jun, 2023


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Video Summary and Transcription

The Talk discusses the need for a revolutionary product that will change the way people edit websites. It highlights the challenges faced in visual editing and the limitations of existing CMSs. The Talk also emphasizes the benefits of headless CMSes for developers but acknowledges the sacrifice of visual editing. Ultimately, a solution is sought that caters to both content editors and developers.

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1. The Evolution of Content Management

Short description:

I am Matteo Frana, founder of React Bricks. Let me show you why we need a revolutionary product that will change the way people edit websites. Back in 1996, creating websites was a different process. Frontpage and CGI were introduced, but visual editing was lost. CMSs like Joomla! and WordPress brought visual editing back, but we still faced challenges. Wix and Webflow offer great UX for visual editing, but they are not suitable for corporate websites. We need a solution that provides a Pixel Perfect corporate image and constraints for content editors.

Hello, everybody. Welcome to my talk. I am Matteo Frana, founder of React Bricks, and I'm gonna tell you the story of content management since the very beginning. So get ready and I will show you why we need a revolutionary product today that will change the way people edit websites.

Back to 1996 when I started creating websites, you used a tool like this to write HTML that you would send to a server via FTP and was it a pain? No. It was great, I was 17 and they had customers who paid me to write this strange code, but the fact is those pages never changed. So let's start our journey from HTML.

When the need to edit pages became a thing, Frontpage appeared. On the CD you read professional websites without programming. Microsoft added GPT already, no? But you could edit in a visual way with the added bonus of beautiful unusable themes. So we had visual editing, but the code created was a mess. For anything you touched, you added four levels of nested tables inside of tables. And then, customers wanted to edit the content by themselves. But if you gave them Frontpage, they would destroy the website before you could say Frontpage. And so came CGI. You wrote programs in Perl, executed on the server, that would write the HTML code for you. So you could create a beautiful interface to let customers edit content on a database and then read from this database and create HTML, which is powerful. And ASP and PHP just made it easier with the templating language.

But you see, the visual editing of Frontpage was lost. And there was another problem. We were reinventing the wheel every time. So CMSs were created, Joomla!, then WordPress, and we had visual editing again. Essentially, HTML saved on database, and users could write the big green comic sans title over red background. So we added custom fields to WordPress to get back our beloved gray forms. All structure, all good. And we lost visual editing once again. But the need for visual editing is there so Wix and Webflow satisfy it with a great UX. The problem is that they are not suitable for corporate websites because we don't need a template we love, but the Pixel Perfect corporate image. And we need also good constraints for content editors to be sure that the design can't be broken. As soon as editors understand how to touch margins and paddings in Webflow they can use their creativity to break the design.

2. The Challenge of Headless CMSes

Short description:

Headless CMSes provide freedom for developers on the frontend and structured data on the backend. However, visual editing is sacrificed, making it a nightmare for editors. We need a solution that benefits both content editors and developers.

So we have great visual editing, but we need to move away from it. And so we come to headless CMSes, a dream for developers because we are free to do whatever we want on the frontend and we have structured data on the backend. But guess what? We are back to great forms and bye-bye to visual editing. Oh yeah, we have the instant preview which is like writing a Word or Pages document in a sidebar form and see the preview on the page. You think it's a great UX? Well, if this is a dream for developers it is surely a nightmare for editors. This is why we need something new which is finally good for both content editors and developers.

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