The Missing Theme Editor

   There are a lot of ways of getting your stuff on the web today, but they all, so far as I can tell, make at least one of two big mistakes: They either ask you to accept their predesigned themes (which are highly unlikely to match the look and feel of what you'd like your online face to be) or they force you to enter the dimly-lit dungeons of HTML5 and the murky underworld of CSS3.

   To be clear, I didn't even know what HTML5 or CSS3 were until recently, nor did I want to know. I have a lot of things going on in my life, including the Original Green, the Sky InstituteProject:SmartDwelling, the New Urban Guild, the Guild FoundationMouzon DesignMouzon ImagesKatrina Cottages, etc., and am working with great longterm clients like (alphabetically) Carlton LandingDPZPlacemakers, the Preserve, the Prince's Foundation for the Built EnvironmentSchooner Bay, the Village of Providence, etc. And I'm writing books and blogging as well. The last thing I need to do is to be forced to learn programming languages in order to move my websites off the sinking ship of iWeb. But that's exactly what has happened.

   Some companies have built WYSIWYG website editors that let you build your site by moving text and graphics around on a page until you get it where you like it. That's great. But why not do exactly the same thing with the underlying themes? InDesign lets you modify master pages as easily as other pages in a book. Pages and Word do the same with stationery, as does PowerCADD (what I use) and other CAD software. Keynote does the same with master pages in presentations. Matter of fact, with every other type of software I can think of, modifying the master pages, themes, stationery, templates, or whatever you want to call them is as easy as working on any other page. Why not web publishing???

   All I can think of is that maybe web publishing might be where all the DOS Gremlins went after they were run out of system software user interfaces. I remember years ago how people had to go to school for weeks or longer just to learn the basics of the "command-line interface." Remember that? And once they finally learned DOS, they wore it like a badge of courage, and made you run the DOS gauntlet if you dared enter their little world of computing.

   And it was a little world, because so few regular people had time to immerse themselves into DOSgatory. Apple sold a lot of Macs in the early years with a tagline something like "I want a computer that helps me do what I do better... and I don't do computers!" Once Microsoft came out with Windows, their eternally-clumsy ripoff of Apple's Graphical User Interface, a crazy thing happened: the whole world learned to do computers. And the DOS Gremlins took their "the only real way to compute is with a command line" mantra and slunk away to regions unknown to me... Until now.

   Someday soon, a web publishing software company will realize that a WYSIWYG site editor needs a WYSIWYG theme editor. I hope it'll be Karelia, author of my newly-adopted site editor Sandvox. It won't be hard to build. I could even design the interface in an hour or two, and a decent programmer could write it quickly, I suspect. And when they do, an entire world of web publishing will open up to people like me that want a specific look and feel of a website, but don't want a second career in HTML to get it. I'm not saying they'll be another Apple or Microsoft, but then who knew Apple would be Apple when Steve & Steve were working out of the Jobs family garage? Empower people, and all sorts of interesting things can happen.

© 2012 The Guild Foundation Press