Yay! What an amazing day! Thank you to Cass Phillips and Diane Loviglio for an awesome FailCon 2010.
Many months ago they asked if I wanted to participate when I was just starting on the Hiyakoo CMS idea and I just “sure, sign me up”. I didn’t know exactly what I’d be presenting or even if I’d have anything to present. Actually, up until last Friday I was pretty skeptical that I’d have working code at all. But things came together and I was actually able to demo a lot of the core tech to all the people that came by the Hiyakoo table. And by the end of the day I was sooooo tired. I talked with dozens of attendees directly for like 11 hours. What a rush, though.
Now a lot of people have seen a very early version of Hiyakoo CMS in an actual demo-able state. It is a versioned content management system with a focus on mobile and SEO. It is intuitive by its direct click-and-edit or click-and-drag manipulation of things on the page, but it’s also technical in that you can get in and tweak properties in a properties panel. It allows for an immediate WYSIWYG preview in multiple formats: computer, tablet, mobile. It lets you compare multiple versions. It offers infinite site style customization, but uses physical restrictions to guide users into lessons that us web designers have learned over the years. It lets both designers and small business owners work collaboratively together.
Hiyakoo CMS isn’t for everyone: it’s just the super fast and easy CMS for busy people who care about good web design that has a little future-proofing built in. I’m trying to finally integrate the best practices of the web into one handy app that is both easily to grok but has super-powerful tech behind it all.
So I’ve been semi hush-hush about the project except to a few people because honestly I’m still trying to prove out theories. Anyone that knows me directly knows that I love doing visual stuff and anything to do with the web. Even with the advent of mobile apps, the web still remains a place for people to congregate en masse—not everybody is stuck inside their Facebook or Twitter microchannels. The web allows us to discover one another because it’s the common platform for the world. But there’s some big big problems a-brewin’ and I’m trying to solve them.
Theory #1: Small business don’t want the hassle of maintaining a web site; designers aren’t necessarily helping. Biz people really just don’t. They don’t want to build it, they don’t want to maintain it. Many have tried it themselves and created sites which are now completely outdated. And it’s too much of a hassle to get it back up to current technology. That’s where web designers come in. Even a quick pass by a designer is better than none. Still, biz owners need to make small changes but sometimes the designers’ modifications to the base site templates are so extensive that it’s not obvious (to the small biz owner) what needs to be changed.
Theory #2: The mobile web is a mystery. It’s a completely foreign language to most small businesses. They can’t grasp the differences required to view a site on mobile—”but it looks great on my laptop computer?!” It is true that iPads and tablets are mobile devices with higher screen resolution but there are still tech considerations that need to be made.
Theory #3: Eyes bigger than stomach. It’s like having an SUV or a sports car. They really like the idea that you can do anything because the system is so powerful and flexible it can. But the reality is that once you get things set up it’s a pain to change it and you don’t end up using all the extra features anyways. Just because you can configure your template any way you want turns out to be too much freedom. Small businesses end up spending days or weeks editing and tweaking before giving up and then just going with a designer. Then we’re right back to Theory #1 where the site can become too hard to maintain.
So. Enter Hiyakoo CMS.
I’m getting back to basics. I think that simpler is really better for a few reasons:
Restrictions on input don’t mean restrictions on creativity. I think of it more as guiding the user to focus their creativity in certain ways. Hiyakoo limits the number of colors, number of fonts, size of the site, width of the navigation bar, and so on. There are physical restrictions everywhere. That does two things:
1) Users don’t spend forever configuring things. They have enough flexibility to get a lot of personalization done, but it limits the time they’ll waste. I come from a rapid-prototyping background where it’s more important to get something up than nothing. It doesn’t have to be perfect! But it has to be good enough.
2) Physically restricting the things you can do means you actually become more inventive. You realize that in order to achieve a better balance of the thing you have they have to work better together. That means you are forced to think about the layouts, the imagery, and the text. You go more towards creating short, quality-packed text than sprawling diatribes that NO ONE EVER READS. Get to your core message and just say it with brevity.
Mobile is the future. Millions of mobile devices have been sold this year that have the capability to access the web. Plus, netbooks are underpowered and have low screen resolutions. What that means to small business owners is that they need to truly consider how their mobile customers get access to their site. Which means that a system (like Hiyakoo CMS) that tries to nudge small businesses into making mobile-compatible sites really is important.
It’s not just enough to have “responsive web design” that uses CSS to change the presentation based on number of pixels available—consider the iPhone Retina Display which has the same resolution as many small laptops yet is physically smaller by magnitudes than a laptop! You really have to be device-aware and have an application making decisions over what is the best presentation for your content. Remember: small business owners DON’T CARE about the mobile versions, so thusly the mobile version should be automatic. Yep, Hiyakoo CMS does that.
Low cost is important, but free sucks. Free sounds nice at first, but a small business owner wants a stable service that will be around for a long time. I just don’t get how a free business model can actually truly work. Good quality engineering and support requires good people, and good people aren’t free. Hiyakoo CMS isn’t free, but it won’t break the bank. Actually, it will be quite modestly priced considering what you’re getting. However, small businesses do want to at least test-drive the solution. So, creating an account and playing around will be free. Even viewing a public version of their site (for a short while) will be free.
There’s so much more to do and say, but for now it seems like Hiyakoo CMS is definitely on the right track.