Harmony: User Management
When we set out to make Harmony, our upcoming website management system, we wanted to solve some of the more annoying issues that we had run into with managing content on the web. User management is one such issue.
The administrative utility of adding users to a management system is commonplace. And there’s nothing particularly difficult about it. But we feel there are a few ways to simplify the process for content managers and developers alike. Keep in mind that we’re talking here about people who manage the website from the administrative interface, not ‘public facing’ users, like forum members for example. Also, Harmony will start off, at least, being a hosted management solution, so many of these features become more powerful in that environment.
Let it be known that both John and I are both fiercely opposed to granular permission levels. They add over-complexity for their little usefulness, and are only in place to help paranoid managers. John and I like to say that “we don’t write software to solve social problems.”
That said, there will be a few basic permission levels where they make the most sense.
- Account Owners: Owners will have access to anything in an account, including managing billing information, users, and sites.
- Administrators: Administrators are nearly identical to account owners, but won’t have access to the billing section of the account. They also can’t remove/demote account owners. Just like account owners, they will have access to manage any site in the account, including sites that are added in the future.
- Site Managers: Site managers are assigned to only one or more specific sites in an account, but will have full access to add users and manage content on those sites. The specific sites assigned to these users will stay the same, even as more sites are added to the account in the future.
One other key feature is that users can be identified as developers, which will show all the template tools and advanced theming utilities. If a user is not assigned this developer flag, these tools will simply be removed from the interface to simplify management for those at a non-technical level.
After working with content management systems for years, specifically working with single-installs of either custom software or open-source tools like WordPress, maintaining content across a distributed set of accounts and servers is a nightmare. Remembering your login for each separate instance is a pain, but even if you use tools like 1password, or simply have the same username/password everywhere, you still have to go through the login process at each location. Harmony will be different. Your user account, be it with your email address and password or your OpenID, will be completely unique to the system. You may belong to only one main account, or you may have several that you manage. All you have to do is login once, and you’ll have access to everything you need from one administrative interface. Finally.
As a developer, you’ll have options on how to serve your clients with Harmony. You can have a large account for your business, host all your client sites in that one account, and bill your clients to cover the cost, or profit from, your single account. If you prefer to avoid the monthly billing scenario, you can have your clients sign up for their own site account, and grant you administrative access. In the interface, the accounts and sites will be organized and easy to access, no matter which method you use. Or you could even blend the two, with almost no difference in how you, or your clients, manage their sites and content.
Our CMS survey showed that the average number of sites being managed was typically not less than 4, and often times more like 20 or 30. Starting with user accounts, we’re trying to make the process of managing your websites as convenient as possible. We have many more ideas that are being built into Harmony, so if the project interests you, watch out for more updates.