Online editing is a powerful technology that has been steadily evolving since the World Wide Web became popular in the 1990s. Prior to the advent of the web, the “personal computer” had itself been revolutionary, giving designers and authors incredible new power to create and publish content with a computer. PC software such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop and Aldus PageMaker liberated creators to publish high quality images and documents at scale, without depending upon massive, expensive typographic systems – this was the birth of desktop publishing . But the web was a completely new ballgame.
Design vs. Editing
For the purposes of this blog post, I will use the terms “online editing” and “online design” interchangeably. Of course an application such as Microsoft Word is document-centric (yet with a fair amount of graphic capability), while a tool like Photoshop is graphic-centric. But where exactly does content become a “graphic” or a “document”? – a program like Adobe InDesign, for example, finds itself right in the middle.
The Early Days of Online Editing
In the earliest online editing applications, browsers were so limited in capability that the solutions had to be form-based. A user would enter information through a form, submit it, and receive a document that had merged the data from those fields with a document template: the web server retained full responsibility for all formatting.
The Power of the Modern Web
In the early 2000s, web-based editors such as Silicon Designer began to offer full “WYSIWYG” authoring, in which users could directly select text and edit it on the web client itself, without having to submit data and wait for an update. They could drag and drop an image onto a document, then crop and scale in real time, much like desktop page layout applications.
And some solutions really did try to be as robust as something like Adobe InDesign. But it soon became apparent that the real power of online editing was not so much in letting designers edit in a different way, but rather that a browser-based solution could offer a user experience without the steep learning curve of desktop software.
The Value of Online Editing and Design
With today’s online editing solutions, non-designers can work in an easy-to-use, intuitive environment, making edits to branded templates. A salesperson could change a price: a legal department could edit a disclaimer. Tools such as Silicon Designer actually provide different interfaces for different users: a power user can make sweeping design changes, while business users can be limited to changing the text itself, without impacting formatting or layout.
This is liberating, as it avoids the cumbersome back-and-forth between non-designers and designers, and empowers business users or consumers to create gorgeous documents easily. This is because the design comes from the template, while the interface guides and constrains the user to remain consistent with the vision of the designer who created that template.
Web technology continues to advance, while online design and editing keep gaining greater levels of adoption. Desktop tools are not going away, but they are more and more integrated into online design solutions. Adobe, for example, is now heavily advancing their Adobe Express web-based design application, perhaps in response to the phenomenal success of the Canva product. And the real-time, connected nature of online design makes it even better than PC software when it comes to interfacing with cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual/Augmented reality.