Balancing Headlines

I recently implemented the new CSS feature to balance the headings on this blog:


h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 { 
   max-inline-size: 50ch;
   text-wrap: balance;
}

Today, I noticed it works on Chrome. More explanation from Adam Argyle over at Chrome Developer Blog.

Lazy Loading

I updated all my photo galleries with the browser’s built-in loading="lazy" attribute:

<img src="image.png" loading="lazy" alt="">

Learn more at web.dev. I didn’t realize lazy loading has been widely supported in the browsers; therefore, I am a bit late. I love it when browsers implement elements like this so we don’t have to rely on JavaScript to do the job.

The Cost to Switch CMS

How much does a migration from a free, open-source CMS to a proprietary CMS cost? Here’s the breakdown:

  • Deliver 5 HTML pages based on provided mockups: $32,000
  • Implement a homepage, a landing page, a content page: $21,000
  • Implement 2 additional custom-page templates: $11,600
  • Implement events calendar: $10,000
  • Implement and customize employee directory: $9,600
  • Implement Google Custom Search and a sitemap: $4,000
  • Migrate pages from current CMS: $28,000
  • Import catalog: $20,000
  • Post-implementation support: $8,000
  • CMS license: $20,000 a year
  • Production servers: $20,000 a year

The total migration costs $184,200. CMS license, servers, and support could cost $60,000 a year. Even with so many great open source alternative, proprietary CMS is still a lucrative business.

Scalia Law’s Dynamic Pages

To get the number of pages for the dynamic portions, I logged into MODX admin and started with the Faculty Working Papers. The record shows 1,404 pages. Since SiteImprove crawled 2,098 pages and the Faculty Working Papers alone take 70% of the total pages, I wanted to dig a bit further into the database. The MySQL table for content shows a total of 5,164 pages (these included everything from public to hidden to unpublished pages).

Here are the numbers for the current dynamic portions:

Auto Upgrade Ubuntu

Every few months I have to perform an upgrade on Ubuntu. My WordPress droplet usually has about 80 updates that can be applied immediately. The upgrade process is not so bad. I have to power down the server and make a snapshot of the droplet, which takes about five minutes to complete. Two days ago, I did the upgrade and removed unused packages. WordPress’s Site Health gave me 4 errors, including the failure of scheduling post and some caching issues. I ended up restoring an old backup from four days ago. I will not remove unused packages in the future. In any rate, I wish I could enable automatic minor and security updates for Ubuntu so I don’t have to do the updates myself. I did the AutomaticSecurityUpdates, but it didn’t seem to work. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Focus on the Websites

One of the recurring themes from Computers in Libraries 2023 was the focus on the websites. Speakers talked about site design, user experience, and content strategy. They also discussed about quitting social media.

For Libraries, websites remain our homebase. Unlike social media networks, our library websites have no ads, no privacy issues, and definitely no misinformations. As a result, we should not send our users to social media, but the other way around. We have control of our sites, not social media. We provide accurate information on our site and we have no idea what type of information being pushed on social media.

I am glad to hear that librarians put their focus and effort into their websites instead of someone else’s. Library websites are still trustworthy online presence for institutions and organizations.

In my current role, I am no longer in charge of the Law School or Law Library social media. My focus is primarily on our websites. We are about to embark on a whole new direction for our main site. I don’t know how that will play out.

In my personal space, I focus only on my websites, particularly this blog. I haven’t posted anything on social media in a while. I have been tempted to deactivate them all. I also don’t have any desire to try another social media platform.

At least at the moment, my career in web design is still good. Social media networks come and go, but our sites will stay for a while. That’s my take from the conference.

Switching from em to rem

In addition to changing the wordmark, I made the switch from em to rem unit for my typographic control after a Slack discussion with my former colleagues at Vassar. I used em for scalability and inheritance, but em could cause compounding sizing. Using rem seems to avoid the headache; therefore, I might as well making the switch.

After reading Robin Rendle’s note, I added this new CSS element on all my headings:

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 {
  text-wrap: balance;
}

I am not seeing the effect yet, but I hope it will just work in the future once browsers support it. It’s not a big deal. I still like to tinker around this site as often as I could.

I am in the middle of listening to John Gruber talking with Jason Kottke about web design, Movable Type, and web development. I have tremendous respect for them on how they could turn their blogs into full-time jobs. I am not sure about Jason, but John is doing pretty darn well with the sponsorships on both his site and podcast. I don’t subscribe to their RSS feeds. I just check their homepages every once in a while. I can’t keep up with John’s podcast either. I only check in once in while for something special, like the latest episode about Kottke.org turns 25. That is quite a milestone. Congrats, Jason.

First Impression of Cascade

The Cascade editor gets the job done, but it is limited and not intuitive. Every task requires filling out forms. Use form to add a title. Use form to upload an image. To update text, use the WYSIWYG editor, which can also change styles, fonts, font sizes, colors, and background colors to the body text with inline CSS. Editing a page in Cascade is not intuitive because the pop-up editor covers up the page. I had to close the pop-up editor several times to see which part of the homepage I was editing. That’s pretty much all you can edit in Cascade. You can’t add any dynamic contents. If you need new features or new design layouts, you will have to edit or create new templates. Cascade doesn’t offer the flexibility that MODX offers.

There’s a misconception that you need to know HTML or you have to be technical savvy to make edits in MODX. You can use the WYSIWYG editor in MODX to make changes without knowing any HTML at all. In this regard, MODX is very similar to Cascade, but MODX offers users beyond the WYSIWYG editor. If you know HTML, you can switch to HTML view to keep your page clean and free of messy markups. Furthermore, you have more flexibility to create different layouts without having to add additional templates. In addition, if you know the MODX scripting language, you can create much more complex pages with dynamic contents such as the directories, working papers, and course catalogs.

Cascade has a straightforward templating system. You can create an HTML page and add in Cascade’s snippets for parts that need to be updated. Unlike WordPress’s modern templating system, Cascade takes a traditional approach. Whereas WordPress is moving toward giving users more control of the full-site editing, Cascade is still relying heavily on templates to lock down the editing capabilities. If our goal is to limit users from doing too much editing to our website then Cascade is good for that.

Cascade vs. WordPress vs. MODX

Cascade

Pros:

  • Higher-education focused
  • Fast
  • Secured
  • Non-technical friendly
  • Good technical support
  • We already have connections to people we need
  • If we pay, should be able to have new site up quickly

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Proprietary
  • No access to the backend
  • Not flexible editor
  • Limited plugins
  • Costs will continue to rise
  • Lacking dynamic content

WordPress

Pros:

  • Highly flexible
  • Full-site editor
  • University support
  • Easy to hire developers
  • May be able to get a CDN, like Cloudflare
  • High adoption rate means likely to persist for a while
  • Large community increases chances of quick access to new tech
  • Departments, student orgs, and centers are already on it

Cons:

  • Not as secured (but University has it locked down with Firewall)
  • Might be slowed (database and bloated markups)
  • The markup can be messy
  • Might depend on plugins for dynamic contents
  • Would need to find support on our own
  • May be challenging to sort through all plugins

MODX

Pros:

  • Secured
  • Fast 
  • Flexible 
  • Everything is in place
  • No need to migrate

Cons:

  • Not friendly for non-technical users (There may be a solution)
  • Small community
  • Heavily dependent on the database
  • No plug and play. 

The Visual Editor

The only reason to switch CMS is coming down to one feature for one non-technical user: the visual editor. The choices are Cascade, MODX, and WordPress.

Cascade is the potential candidate because it allows users to preview the page. Editing contents still requires filling out the forms, but users can see the changes right on the page. For this feature alone, we will have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to migrate. Is it worth the investment?

Similar to Cascade, MODX is also a form-based system for content updates. The only difference is that MODX doesn’t have the live preview page. Users have to click on the preview button to launch the page. The user interface is not as intuitive as Cascade, but it is not hard to use. MODX has a product called Fred, which is “a friendly and intuitive visual content building and editing experience for MODX.” Fred might be the solution we are looking for to stay with MODX.

WordPress offers block and full-site editing. This is a game changer for non-technical users who want to edit the entire layout of the site. I am impressed with the ability to just copy and paste any pattern into your site. Do we want to give non-technical users that much power? How do we made sure the consistency of the branding if anything can be edited or created on the spot?

The decision has yet to be made.