Adobe Contribute’s Identity Crisis

If you purchased the Adobe CS3 Web Premium suite, you may not realize that you have a tool that can allow non-techies to manage content on a website.

I recently presented on the topic of Adobe Contribute at the Chicago Dreamweaver Meet-up. And one of the main questions was “What is Contribute and when should I consider using Contribute?”

What is Adobe Contribute?

Adobe Contribute, currently in its fifth version, is a software application for editing the content of a website. It is a desktop application, originally developed by Macromedia, allowing a wide variety of people within an organization to update web pages by reducing the amount of web design skills necessary for the process. —Wikipedia

Now for what this means. In practical terms, individuals who surf the web, even for recreational purposes, and know the basics of using Microsoft Word, should be able to use Contribute fairly easily to create, update, or delete content on a website. Contribute was created to allow individuals without knowledge of web design, HTML, etc. to manage content on a web page or site. It is a web editor, compared to Dreamweaver, which is a website designing/authoring tool.

When to Consider Using Adobe Contribute?

Here’s where things become a little vague. For me, it’s just gut thinking (and I have plenty of gut). I list out the best scenarios below:

  • If a site’s content will be managed by one or more individuals who lack web design or technical skills such as HTML or FTP.
  • If you wish to have a site that conforms to strict guidelines related to look & feel. For instance, if you wanted all headings, body text to use a certain font and size, without any exception to the guidelines.
  • If you want to free up a web designer/developer and hand off the content management to someone else.

Note that since you (or your client) will need to purchase a copy of Contribute ($169, slightly cheaper elsewhere online) for each user, budget may play a role in deciding.

Now that you know if and when you should consider using Contribute, let’s look at some best practices in implementing a Contribute-enabled site.

Best Practices in Implementing Contribute

  • First, make sure to get buy-in from all parties. Meaning, make sure that they agree to move in the direction of using Contribute to manage the content on the website. I had a client who agreed to use Contribute, then backed out after the site was designed.
  • While the tool is very easy to use, do provide some initial guidance, either awareness or full blown education. This could be anything from a cheat sheet or some documentation to a training session.
  • Design the site with Contribute in mind. Leverage editable regions and repeating editable regions on all pages and templates. And definitely consider creating templates if users will be creating new pages.
  • Use an external Cascading Stylesheet for all presentation (layout and formating). You can then limit text formatting to those styles.
  • The administration of a Contribute-enabled site in Dreamweaver allows plenty of control of what users have access to or can do. Become familiar with these options and plan wisely. A suggestion is to lock down most text formatting, limiting a formatting to the external stylesheet for optimal control.

Feel free to leave a comment below, sharing your situations and how you plan to implement Adobe Contribute.


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