CSS customization of site
Here is my problem:
The way that we are utilizing the Wild Apricot site is as a membership management site. We have an existing website that we are integrating some of the widget pages from WA, into. This means that for the most part, I simply need to modify many of the style settings of the widgets, to match the style of the existing website.
At one point, I thought that I had done this. Then, somehow, the theme was changed. Now, the colors and text are different. I have literally put off going in to fix this because every time I do, and every time I download the CSS template for the theme that I have selected, I freeze up.
When I look at the template and see that between the div for the content wrapper and the div that contains the content, there are 9 intermediate div's, I get lost. Then, when you look at the template, even as commented as it is, it is almost impossible to figure out what you have to change in order to get the colors correct. I am confident in my skills with html and css. I built our existing website from the ground up, including styles. I just feel that the current style model is WAY to complex, to the point of being almost UNUSABLE. I understand that much of the reason for having the nested div's is to provide as many customization options as you can for your customers. I am willing to state that the customizations available on WA, could be done much simpler. A simple web search reveals web sites with large numbers of templates, using pure html/css that are just as complex in many ways, and use 1/3 the number of divs in each area.
The other problem that I have is the disconnect between the editing options related to parts of the header, footer, and and menu bars, text and links, and the styles for the rest of the website. All styles NEED to be together, as do all html modifications. I think if you made this simple change, the satisfaction level would increase and stress level would decrease of all people trying to integrate WA into their current website.
My proposal is this:
* If there is going to be a section to edit the look and feel of the site, presented in a wizard format like the editing options for header, menu and footer, then ALL style options should be presented that way as well.
* Change the area to modify CSS. Having to download the template, then find the sections that you want to change, cut that out and upload it into the Customize CSS window is clumsy and confusing. Allow someone to download the CSS template, modify it and upload the entire thing to preview changes, then apply them to the site. Having to cut out sections and paste them somewhere else is confusing because you lose the context of where they fit to the rest of the template.
* Combine this area with where you choose and apply a theme. Having to switch between each of these things makes me lose track of where certain parts are kept, where I was last, and what I still need to change.
If someone has already suggested something like this, then please merge this comment with that request. I have been working with WA for almost 2 years now, and it has been AWESOME. I can't express enough how great and responsive you all have been. That being said, this area is a HUGE stumbling block, to the point that I get frustrated every time I think about it. I have not attempted to fix it because I honestly don't have time to sit and parse through the CSS template to find the correct style sections to cut out, paste in the Customize area, and then modify.
Dmitry Buterin commented
Russell, thanks for your understanding and support, much appreciated!
Thank you for the, as usual, very prompt response. This is what makes WA great. I did recall that you were working on overhauling the architecture of the site. I just didn't remember where you were with that effort. I will admit that a large portion of my post last night was out of frustration in trying to figure out the modifications necessary to match my existing site, which I have now done.
I eagerly look forward to seeing the changes you have made when you roll out 4.2 Never fear, I and my organization, have no intention of leaving. We're in it for the long haul because at heart, the product works great.
Dmitry Buterin commented
Hey Russell - I really appreciate this detailed feedback and will share it with a bunch of people on our team.
We are quite aware of the challenges in customization of WA sites - and have been looking for solutions. The reason behind this crazy complicated CSS is because we currently use the same HTML for all the themes in WA - so we had to go for an 'overkill' with DIVs to achieve the level of variety in themes (and we are still not satisfied with what we have).
We have been researching various options and eventually decided that we have to totally overhaul our CMS architecture - and we have been going down this this path starting in mid 2010.
You might want to review this thread for additional background:
In our next update 4.2 we are finally rolling out this new architecture - slowly and carefully, to minimize potential problems with existing heavily customized sites. Basically 4.2 will run on a totally new different templating architecture and it will become possible (as a beta) to do HTML customization of templates. Version 4.3 will follow-up on that and offer a new CMS UI to use new capabilities.
So please be patient with us and stay tuned for version 4.2 (May) and let's resume this dialog once you have a chance to lay with 4.2 and review the documentation. It will not address all of your comments right away but I am confident that it puts us on the right path to take WA CMS/customization to the new level.