…which is one of the first tools we built as part of the project. And it’s a lot more complex that most people expect, especially if their main exposure to a content management system is through blogging.
The main reason there’s so much to it is that there’s so much to the organisation it operates in. On a blog, if you write an article then you don’t need to worry about people finding it, because it will appear at the top of your homepage, which is more or less the only page that people will be watching if not the RSS feeds. Furthermore, a blog is really just a single stream of articles. So when you write a blog post you really only need to worry about the headline, the body text, and maybe an extract to entice people in — and you certainly don’t need to worry about the environment that the article appears in.
On a large website such as guardian.co.uk, by contrast, an article generally won’t appear on the homepage, and it has a less than 1% chance of appearing at the top of the homepage. But it will be linked from many other pages. It will also most likely be only one part of a whole mesh of other pieces of content, all touching on different aspects of that and much bigger stories (plural), so it’s important to link all these together. (This is part of what Lloyd Shepherd calls “slow news”.) Therefore the article editor has lots of boxes to fill in which ensure the article fits in properly with the rest of the site’s content. Keywords are central to link to and list it on appropriate subject pages; an alternative headline is essential to allow the article to be linked to from those subject pages and elsewhere (many newspaper headlines only make sense on the printed page with a particular layout and don’t translate to the web); a one- or two-sentence explainer is similarly important to go underneath the alternative headline.
And side from the importance of maximising cross-linking, there are other factors that explain the differences with an article editor for a blog post, but they are still all consequences of working in serious organisation. Rights issues mean the writer has to be identified exactly; design requirements will mean that different parts of the article (most obviously the standfirst) need to be separated so that they can be displayed differently; print publication times mean you’ll need to identify the print publication date and the web publication date separately; marketing decisions may mean you need to give a particular article a specific URL.
A while back, Martin Stabe lamented “Why can’t a newspaper CMS be as user-friendly as a blog?” I’m sure our article editor could be more user-friendly, but I doubt we’ll get it to be quite as user-friendly as many blog editors simply because it does a different and more complex job — a job in an organisation with hundreds of people and very sophisticated media and presentational requirements.