webdoc is a new social sharing/blogging system that I’ve had the chance to try this week.
This user experience is so damn good, Apple should look at it and just buy the company right now. These guys are the first ones to nail down web creation near 100% — and they do it in an Apple-like way. Apple needs a social component of its own and these guys are on the cutting edge and would add a lot to Apple.
I’m going to show certain aspects of creating a post — each one is actually called a webdoc — to highlight aspects of the wonderful user interface and experience.
This is not an all-encompassing tutorial, just some bits to illustrate how they are way ahead of everyone else in doing it right.
Even at that, this is a very, very long post. But if you’re a pro who wants to see how it should really be done, you’ll read all of this.
Let me illustrate something that people all love to do: Share photos. This is done a lot on Tumblr. There are entire Tumblrs that are nothing but photos.
That is the main view of webdoc. Hitting the green button will create a post — a webdoc, really. They are more than just posts, as will be clear by the end of this account.
That is the overall webdoc creation screen. I’m going to focus on the creation area itself to make this easier to follow.
I’ve added nothing to that screensnap. That’s what you’ll see it on webdoc itself. Look at that clean layout, colorful buttons, and helpful tips with pointers. Most sites have pale, flat, crude buttons floating on a white background that give the overall impression there’s a pixel shortage!
When I hit the image button, it’s immediately apparent just how different webdoc is from everything else out there:
Look at that. It’s not a malnourished choice of a file selector to upload a photo! You can do things. But notice this also:
How many times I wish I had a screen large enough to be able to do that — and wished that WordPress and Twitter and other sites offered drag and drop too! Using a File Selector is so 1980s!
But what’s especially exciting is being able to just immediately grab an image from the Net itself:
There I am doing a search for Nook Touch images. Now watch this and be sure to enlarge the snap for the full effect:
BAM! The image search results appear in a sidebar.
How iPad-like is that? Very!
Here’s a closer look at that iPad-like sidebar:
And this is an image I’ve seen before:
I know it’s large, so it’s a good test picture. I click on it:
And then hit the Add button:
And I get this:
Now pay attention to this:
Look at all the controls that are available! I’ve highlighted them in light blue and red circles. I will let all of you go play with them when you rush to try webdoc after reading the rest of this post. I’m interested in the one at the upper left I highlighted in red. This is a control I wish every damn site had. Hit it and:
BAM! The image is automagically scaled to fill the post (you can see how crap small my own screen is from the cutoff of the snap). No math here, no manual stretching of things, no having to download it to your desktop first to resize to fit. It’s wonderful!
There I’ve added a headline and a brief description of my test.
And one more thing to look at, which is great for people like me with crap small screens. When scrolling down to the bottom …
… that iconbar stays at the top of the screen so I don’t have to scroll back up to do something else!
Now I want to get a bit redundantly freaky to illustrate another feature. I’m going to add a box of text over the photo:
Notice all the controls:
Again, I’ve circled them in light blue. Notice the one especially in the lower right corner that will allow the text box to be rotated! Also, see the line the red arrow is pointing to. That’s a guide to center the box; it appears when it’s been horizontally centered! A wonderful touch that shows real deep thinking about the user experience.
Text has a selection of typefaces too:
I will skip a few steps here and just show the completed text box I made:
Yeah, I know I made it look like crap, but this was just an quick test, so I could screensnap for this post. It can still be fixed later. The point is, I don’t have to do this offline in a program on my desktop — I can do it right in webdoc!
Here’s a preview of that webdoc:
The full height is cut off by my small screen.
Back in edit mode, see the options at the bottom:
Once published, it can be publicized on Facebook and Twitter. I know this feature is available at other sites, but those mostly do it on a publicize everything basis. I like this method, choosing which to send out, so people aren’t flooded with irrelevant things. A webdoc can also be made private easily, without setting up that option beforehand, when it might be forgotten.
And this is the finished test photo webdoc as others will see it:
It took far less time to do that than to describe it!
Another thing people like to do is share video.
Clicking the video button gives BAM!
And just like with images:
There is drag and drop. And there I search for a video clip of writer Dennis Potter.
And just like with images, BAM!, an iPad-like sidebar:
And I’ve highlighted the clip I’m going to use, and once clicked on, it looks like this:
And when the Add button has been clicked:
There are resizing tools, that I’ve highlighted in light blue. But what’s that I circled in red? Let’s look:
The clip can be trimmed! While in webdoc! No exiting to go to YouTube to do it. This is fantastic!
Do you understand the rightness of all this? webdoc is acting just like Apple here. Apple went and bundled a whole bunch of little tools into the Mac OS, plus iLife later, and allowed people to be productive without having to spend money on things like a photo viewer or PDF reader or much of anything else to be able to do what most people do. webdoc is similarly saying, Hey, we can help you do that — and make it easy!
No one has to exit webdoc to search for an illustration or photo or to look for a video clip. It’s all right there. I’m not even covering other options here. There has to be room for all of you to explore webdoc and be similarly delighted!
This is all just brilliant design that is far ahead of everyone else on the Web! (Don’t bail on this post yet; you will see proof of this at the end.)
Back to that video post. Here I’ve added a title (webdoc will remind you to add one if, like I did, you forget to):
And here is the completed video webdoc as everyone sees it:
Now let me close this three-example post with the special sauce: Apps!
Clicking that brings up the iPad-like sidebar:
And here’s a closeup of the entire sidebar:
I’m going to try only one of the those, the final orange tile with the big WWW on it. That will insert a web page into a webdoc!
After clicking on it and hitting the Add button:
I popped in my URL and BAM:
Note that my admin bar is being shown there because I was also logged into my blog at the time (no one else would see that).
Here it is as a completed webdoc that everyone can see:
And look, it’s scrollable, the entire blog is embedded there:
And it updates! See the test post I did to confirm that shows up in it:
Some of the formatting might look questionable, but that’s due to the nature of blog templates themselves. Also, my blog — all of my blogs — have the main text box on the left. I knew that was the necessary thing to do for mobile site reading since my painful experience with the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. If your blog has its text box on the right, you’re just doing it wrong in the 21st century to begin with.
Not every blog will render well when embedded, their templates aren’t made for such a possibility, so keep that in mind when trying it.
But scroll through my own embedded blog. You’ll see that all the graphic elements — photos, JPEGS, embedded tweets — are rescaled properly. It’s like magic! Search can be used, every post can be read, the Category links can be clicked on. Magic!
What I’ve shown here are just simple webdocs. They can become quite complex, with actual magazine-like layouts. I’ll point out one near the end.
What I want to do now, to hammer home the point of how advanced webdoc is, is show a few screensnaps from Tumblr.
This is what it’s like to add a photo to Tumblr:
Yes, it’s as barren as that!
And inserting a photo is just primitive. The only way to actually upload it is to Preview it, like this:
And editing the image?
There’s nothing! No tools at all. What’s uploaded is what you get, period!
And as for video? Here’s the page for that:
Want to embed something from YouTube or Vimeo? Open a new tab and go fetch that URL! It’s just not possible to stay inside Tumblr to get things done. So why does everyone say it’s so simple?
Tumblr is not simple. It’s restricting. That’s different than merely being easy to use. I quickly got fed up with it and left. (I had to go through much pain to do a very basic post like this one on Tumblr.)
Despite being touted for ease of use, Tumblr actually still does everything just like everyone else. It’s as if the entire mindset of web creation has been frozen in amber.
webdoc is the only fresh thinking I’ve seen that finally takes everything into the future, beyond dealing with file selectors, beyond opening new tabs for basic tasks, and beyond having to do things offline to prepare them for online publication.
webdoc turns everything into an object, not an HTML line of code. And objects can be physically manipulated.
This is iPad-like thinking, where things such as photos are no longer static, but can be squeezed in and out to shrink or enlarge them on an iPad.
webdoc just cries for an iOS app as its creation interface. It’s already like an iPad app within a web browser. Instead of all the mousing controls I’ve circled in snaps above, imagine being able to do that by fingertip! It’d be wonderful!
As I’ve shown, webdoc provides a lot of power in a very easy way.
Unfortunately, it’s aiming at the wrong people.
webdoc reminds me of the early days of desktop publishing, when PageMaker had just come out and a lot of people still had dot-matrix ImageWriter printers. Very few of those people were skilled in the art of graphic design. So people were exposed to the power of desktop publishing by abominable examples:
During these early years, desktop publishing acquired a bad reputation from untrained users who created poorly-organized ransom note effect layouts —criticisms that would be levied again against early web publishers a decade later.
Here is a thankfully small example of the kind of thing people saw:
Except back then it would be all uneven gray and very pixelated.
webdoc offers so much power, but it’s only been used by people who really have no idea what to do with it.
Even when someone who you think should know better uses it, the effect is that of bad desktop publishing or a MySpace page gone overboard, such as this example.
Let me take the sting out of your eyes by showing you an example that really displays the possibilities of webdoc.
This webdoc is about the annual American Library Association conference. It has a professional design that doesn’t sear the eyes. The only problem is that it’s too narrow. It should be as wide as this blog. I couldn’t do something like that in this blog, with WordPress tools. webdoc really has some incredible power there. But it’s being given to the wrong people.
And that brings up the overall problem of webdoc: It’s not just aiming at the wrong people, the mimicry of the Tumblr/Twitter Follow model is hampering its true potential.
The best way to understand that is this screensnap from this webdoc:
YouTube inside a TV!
webdoc in its current form is something like that: YouTube (webdoc) trapped in a TV (Tumblr/Twitter UI).
If webdoc could get away from the idea of competing against Tumblr, of the entire Follow paradigm, they could unleash their power by attracting people who understood the power of their tools and could create some really wonderful things.
That’s why I think Apple needs this company. Apple doesn’t yet see the Internet as it did desktop publishing. webdoc is Apple’s answer.
Apple would rethink the aim of this company, create some killer templates (think of all of those in Pages and Keynote), insert social features that tie into OS X and iOS, and crush everything else that’s out there.
Also: Apple pioneered desktop publishing. Their customers have a sense of aesthetics and would understand what to do with the power of webdoc.
If you want a glimpse of the future, go to webdoc and try it out. I think anyone who’s a design pro should especially go there and try it out. Create some things to show everyone what’s really possible. Leave a link to your webdoc in Comments.