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Doing Away With Detours: How Inline Editing and Design Freedom Fit Together

2013.12.06 by 

Umwege abschaffen: Wie Inline Editing und Designfreiheit zusammenpassen

“We have always done it like this.”

“We will just do it that way.”

The above are evidently not expressions that will cause creative people to jump for joy.

Web design itself is a field that is increasingly becoming more flexible and better with the development of technological possibilities. This development is being driven by people, who understand that a solution is not by any means the best, just because it is already being applied for a long time.

Of course, none of us have to reinvent the wheel, but whoever aims to make an existing solution even better and more dynamic, should ask themselves this question, is every known step truly needed or is there a more direct path to the result?

Searching for unnecessary detours, checking them, and, if possible, replacing them with a direct solution, is a method of thinking, which is relevant in many fields.


Before we decided to build our own CMS for smooster, we first tested various existing solutions. During the tests, an important criterion was finding a CMS that could be operated intuitively by both designers and untrained end users - simply put, a CMS without unnecessary detours.

Deciding to build our own CMS, finally gave us the freedom to rethink each step and to make sure that operating the end product would be straightforward and intuitive. The separation of processing into the back end and front end often leads to frustration especially among customers. Entries made via the back end are often displayed on the finished website differently from what was expected, and less tech-savvy customers would then have to contact the designer or undergo expensive training just to be able to update their own website now and then.

Inline editing, i.e. editing content directly in the website, makes it easy to change text and images on websites, since you immediately see how the modification looks in the website - [[[what you see is what you get.]]] The detour - jumping back and forth between the back end and front end - is longer necessary, when you use inline / front end editing.

smooster Editor: Ein fetter blauer Rahmen markiert den Bereich in der Website, in dem man gerade Änderungen vornimmt.

smooster editor: A bold, blue border marks the part of the website, in which you are currently carrying out modifications.


By now, an increasing number of developers are realizing that it is high time that editing websites becomes more intuitive, faster, and simpler. Recently, a new inline editing plugin for WordPress caused a sensation in the blogosphere and on twitter, and the reactions to it show that many designers want a more direct method of editing. There is one thing that must not lose out in all this, freedom of design. Especially for gigantic systems, extensions, e.g. via plugins, are only feasible if design options are limited. The more areas a system tries to cover, the more restrictions occur, in order to keep the large system stable. However, inline editing that is based on restricted freedom of design is a bit like saying, “Here is a direct way, isn’t it beautiful? You can only step in the footprints though and please do not touch anything.”

It is important that we ensure that a particular design can be edited via inline editing to the extent each website requires. The customer should not have to adapt himself to the technology. The design determines editing, not the other way round. Thanks to the way we make websites editable in the smooster CMS, we can also adjust the inline editing to the design.


A designer with many years of experience in using WordPress and Typo3 told us that his customers often request a similar system, but there is nothing comparable among the big CMS. A customer, who has never worked with a CMS before, could, without any training, create his own subpages and immediately fill them with content in the space of just 20 minutes.

Due to the feedback we got both from people, who have already worked with many different CMS, and from customers, who are editing the content of a website for the first time, we know that we made the right decision by not building inline editing into the narrow framework of a large system, but going our own way instead.

Sure, we love technology, but we also believe that it must be possible to create and edit great websites without having to be a total tech junkie. This will not work with limited web creation tools, but it will work with creative people and an intuitive system, which will adapt afresh to each design individually.

To recognize detours, you must be able to let go of what you know. Sometimes it also means you must start from square one - but it pays off.

Are there detours in your workflow that you would actually like to be different?

Have you already recognized detours and found new solutions? I would be happy to hear of them.


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