Many times developers will assign the site owner as an editor to hide away all of the extra screens and menus that they’ve added into the back-end. But we are doing the site owner a disservice when s/he is not given full access to her/his website. Let’s talk about the reasons why this strategy is flawed and only a bandaid for the real problem of over-complexity in the back-end.
The Strategy of Minimizing Through User Roles
When discussing how to restore the back-end to its ease-of-use feature, many times developers will tell me that they handle it by assigning their clients as an editor instead of administrator. Hum, let’s think about what happens for the site owner as an editor.
As I mentioned in my article about how complex and disconnected the back-end is, I can see why many developers are opting for this “editor” role strategy. On the surface, it seems like a reasonable and plausible solution to workaround the problems in the back-end.
Yes, the back-end is very minimal and easy to use. But [wait for it] the person who owns the site no longer has control of it. The minimal features means the built-in functionality of a WordPress website is greatly reduced. I’ll explain in a moment why this is a problem for the site owner and for all of us.
The Flaw in the “Editor” User Role Strategy
Let’s talk about why it’s a flawed strategy. Like I introduced previously, our site owner and client is Sally.
1. Site Ownership
Who owns the website? The client or site owner.Our role in the life cycle of the site is temporary. We are just the designers and developers. Our role is temporary. If we have a maintenance contract, this does not mean the client will continue to hire you continuously and forever.
What happens when we go away, if we are the only administrators? Think about this question deeply. It is the key to understanding why this strategy is flawed.
2. Editors Can’t Change Themes or Plugins
Let’s say that Sally wants to add a new plugin or change the theme to give her site a new look or feature. If she is only an editor, she can’t. She doesn’t have access to the plugins or themes. She can’t change or manage her own website.
Ok, that model works when she has a contract for support from a developer who has admin rights. But let’s say she wants to manage it on her own or switches to a different developer. She doesn’t have rights to add a new person or delete your access. She’s forced to hire someone to go into the database and give her access.
3. Editors Can’t Do Updates
Let’s say there’s an update from WordPress. Sally gets a notice to contact the site’s administrator, as she does not have the security (capabilities) rights to update her own website. So she has to hire someone to do it for her.
4. Editors Can’t Run e-Commerce Shops
Let’s say Sally wants to add an e-commerce shop to her site. She hires a developer to setup the shop and make sure it matches the presentational branding and UX of the rest of her site. But as an editor, she can’t run her shop. She can’t add products, check receipts, or work with her clients. In this case, she has to be an administrator or she has to hire someone full-time to manage the shop for her.
Do You See Why Now?
Making Sally and any client an “editor” means they are not able to interact with or manage their site. They are forced to hire professionals to do what WordPress out-of-box promises to give them.
This strategy is flawed because we are limiting site owners due to the complexity of the back-end. It is a way to make it easier for them. But instead we end up creating more problems.
Site Owners Are Administrators
Let’s go back and ask the question again: who owns the site? Right, the site owner, your client. It’s his/her website. They should be the administrator in order to use what WordPress gives to them.
The complexity, disorganization, and confusion are problems that we can solve to return the back-end to the ease-of-use draw and benefit.
Let’s do our clients a favor and give them access and control of their website.
Should We Create a New User Role for Us?
I often hear discussions about creating a new “super admin” role that is for us. But our role in the website is temporary, as we are building the site and then delivering it.No, we should not create a new user role for us. The support contracts are not a forever thing. Therefore, we are temporary. Why would we create a user role and the complexity of managing this role if the use case is temporary?
I advocate that “No, we should not create a new user role for us.” But hold on, I have other ideas that are tailored to our needs to better serve our clients.
I have an idea (or actually a couple of them) which can solve these problems and move us forward. While a full discussion warrants a separate article (or ten), let me quench your thirst and introduce you to one of the solutions.
Introducing the Development Mode
I propose instead that we create a “Development Mode” which we can turn on via the
wp-config.php file. This mode would then turn on the screens and code that will allow us to do our thang. All of those settings pages and meta boxes that let us configure without coding, those features can be enabled when the site is in developer mode. Then when we deliver the website, we turn off this mode.A “development mode” that gives us the suite of tools we need to our thang.
Hum, imagine what else we could build for a “development mode,” a suite of tools to help us monitor, test, and build the sites for our clients. Features like the “editor” can be moved into the developer mode and out of the hands of those who might break their site by using it.
While the details of this mode and new API are more than I want to cover in this article, I wanted to drop a hint as to what I’m thinking. Moving the complexity to a space that is all our own is just one option. There’s a whole offline business opportunity just waiting for enterprising themers and plugin authors. I’ll be presenting this and more about the Development API in future articles.
.wrap it Up
What do you think? Can you see why the “editor” role for site owners is a flawed strategy? Can you see how frustrating it would be to a client to not be able to do what s/he wants with the site they own? Let’s give them back their site and make them an administrator. And let’s work together to find solutions that let us do our work.
Cheers and <happy coding>