Scrutinizing SPARKLE (Freeway alternative)

But since you’re criticizing Sparkle out loud in the Sparkle thread I feel the need to defend it.

I can’t judge a product - and I never did. All I can judge is a result - no matter how and with what it has been created. And you shared results. And I had a brief look into it.

What Sparkle’s code looks like is frankly completely irrelevant if you don’t need to further edit it, as is the case with Sparkle and for Sparkle users. Not liking the “font-1” css selector is akin to not liking the color of the fuel pipe in your car. I’m sure your mechanic loves you for that.

Perhaps - yes. But I’m not sure if semantics in web is really irrelevant. Or for screen-readers?

As per the 33k you fail to mention that by using the rather verbose element (standards committees to thank for that), asset download is optimal for each visiting device. In other words, because Sparkle resizes and compresses images for different devices and pixel densities, an iPhone would be downloading the 150kb jpeg instead of the 330kb jpeg a desktop visitor would download. Sparkle also goes to great lengths to avoid bloat in the bundled javascript, something even many developers fail at doing.

Yep - the picture element. I’m aware of. Well done.

We have thousands of users for whom code simply isn’t an option, either because symbolic thinking (left brain) and visual thinking (right brain) are too hard to mix for them, or because the time needed to wrap their head around some arcane browser bug or CSS “feature” isn’t compatible with their busy life. In fact statistically speaking I’d say WYSIWYG is the future and handcoding HTML is dead, it just isn’t apparent in this particular echo-chamber.

No - the point is, that an adaptive web is way too flexible to see it from a static standpoint. I forgot to mention that VCD (We see design) or Visual Controlled Design would cover this aspect much better.

Unlike Freeway, Sparkle isn’t a dead product. You don’t want to use Sparkle? Fine. You don’t think Sparkle is good for you? Understood. Intellectual honesty would have you admitting that Sparkle is simply amazing for its target audience.

Yes it’s true. And I think Sparkle is the closest match to substitute Freeway. I don’t think that I ever wrote anything else. I’m not application oriented. But watching your promo video “Why Sparkle”, I feel myself named and shamed. A true idiot, just because I do research in web and even read books.

So it’s the amateurs who are creating the unique, distinct new websites and the professionals creating the canned-looking ones. Go figure…

Duncan

Visually spoken - maybe (it’s anyway too hard to judge “design”). But I still see both: The things I see - and the things I can’t (but sometimes wonder).

Cheers

Thomas


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Duncan,

Can you see the code in Sparkle at all? Add html markup and/or edit css?? I love the aspect of visual design, but sometimes I like to push things a little farther with added bits of code here or there. Basically, I’m fine with not seeing the code… Until I need to!

Thanks.
Doty


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Doty, no, Sparkle is visual only. I am convinced that a tool that is visual and jargon free can’t allow arbitrary HTML/CSS editing. And if the tool isn’t jargon free, or allows more advanced features only by editing HTML or CSS, it’s just a thin coat of paint over code and you still need to understand CSS positioning or browser bugs or even the concept of a CSS class, and what’s the point then?

There are plenty tools that try to mix visual editing and code, but as you have probably found they fall short on the visual side.

As to why a truly visual editor can’t allow arbitrary code editing, the reason is quite simple really. Take any non trivial technique, say an image gallery or animation or a lightbox. For each there are as many different techniques as you can count. Unlike a web browser that “executes” the page, an editor would have to understand the intent to go back to visual editing. The intent is never part of the page, and code acts in local fashion, so a change in one place can affect the layout or functionality in another. So to be truly visual an editor would have to understand all of the possible techniques. Finally many techniques are JavaScript based, code which is impossible to analyze by a piece of code for all practical purposes.

Now if you’re ok with an editor that doesn’t quite preview what the final result will be, there are plenty of options, they are essentially glorified web inspectors and expose all of it.

This difficulty in reconciliation of needs of code and visual use cases is incidentally the reason I think macaw 1 didn’t work out.

Duncan


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Thomas, I guess I need to apologize that you feel offended by the Sparkle video. It really is intended tongue in cheek, but whatever.

Yes we do care about the semantics and accessibility of web content (and of the Mac App), and what we don’t do yet we’ll be adding soon. A feature addition that, like any sparkle addition, will require minimal effort for sparkle users to adopt.

I figure you have all been burnt by Softpress’ outcome or by greedy corporations, but we fully intend to make Sparkle a fully visual environment for many web needs.

Duncan


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Duncan, my humble thanks not only for your detailed replies, but for your kindness in extending a 15% discount off Sparkle to us. Once again, for you folks who might have missed it, Duncan (developer of Sparkle) is offering the discount here:

I would also like to add, Duncan, that Thomas is someone whom I consider a “Responsive genius” among us. He used Freeway to accomplish things I could only dream of, and that remained true even after I watched his videos on GridMeister. I’ve been a Freeway user since version 2 back in 1999, but my poor brain is handicapped in that I’ve never been able to figure out how to use Freeway (or rather, how to ENJOY using Freeway) to create truly responsive sites like Thomas, Ernie S., and others here. Those folks may chide me (if not but in their hearts) about my having “not spent enough time on learning it,” like they did. And they’re right. But I lack the time and desire to learn it. I may know how to code in Assembly on a PIC MCU, but that doesn’t mean I want to be a web coder. Not in the least!

“WYSIWYG” being deemed “dead” or not, I nevertheless want to pour my right brain on the web in as painless a way as possible, yet yielding a truly responsive website result, without bloated code, and with a very beautiful to behold look. Except for the left-brained coders, I think that’s what we all want (the majority of people who need to create or modify websites).

Let it also be know that I am not a full time web designer. Web design is only a tiny part of my job. So even though I’ve been using Freeway since 1999, I’ve never had my job description changed such that I have become a web-designer-only. People who design web sites for a living, living and breathing that almost exclusively, will perhaps think differently than I do. And that’s okay. I am just saying for the record who I am and what I want to accomplish.

Yes, I’ve heard that some full time web designers are called upon by big corporations to create only a Foundation website or only a Bootstrap website. In that case, those full time web designers may need to buy more than one web design tool to help them. But that doesn’t relate to me. I couldn’t care less if it is Bootstrap or Foundation or Thomas’ Gridmeister. I just want a truly responsive site that looks great and is easy to build and is easy to modify. Modify being the key word seeing that I often need to make modest edits fast and get those uploaded with only 5 or 10 minutes to spare.

I have been participating in FreewayTalk for years, but never more than now. Now that Freeway is no longer updated or supported, I am scrambling to decide what to do. And I am not embarrassed or ashamed at telling the world my thoughts. So here they are…

I like many thinks about Sparkle.

I like many things about Blocs.

Pinegrow is only useful to me as a last resort HTML importer that allows feeble-brained folk like me to make minor edits easily.

From what I’ve read about apps other than those 3, I am not in the least bit interested in those.

I am still using Freeway for now, but would like to get started on a fully responsive site soon, prompting me to choose either Sparkle or Blocs.

Sparkle Pro is, for a limited time to us here, 15% off the $79.99 retail price, making it $67.99. Sparkle, to me, is similar to Freeway in some respects and may be a somewhat painless move for some. Sparkle also has a trial app that is limited by number of pages and a watermark, but it is free to use forever. That is very helpful for people really wanting to test the app (which requires more than just 5 days).

Blocs Personal also retails for $79.99, but there is no discount being offered (to my knowledge), and the trial version limits you to a shocking 5 days. It looks a bit easier to use than Sparkle, but then you have less flexibility than Sparkle too. The Blocs UI is lovely to behold, and like Kentucky Fried Chicken, there is something mysterious about it that makes you crave it.

And there you have it.


marka,

Does our recent dialog help? If you or others have any additional questions, let them be known. This thread is about Sparkle. Duncan has been very helpful. And even though Thomas disagrees on certain points, his input is necessary and helpful too. No one wants to merely sing to the choir. We want to hear all sides and examine Sparkle objectively.

Thanks to all who have kindly contributed to this thread to date.

James Wages


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Hi Duncan,

Thanks for your reply. Okay, I can’t see the code w/ Sparkle. I couldn’t see it with freeway and that was usually okay. But can I ADD code???

In FreeWay, I need to add code in several typical web situations:

  • buy buttons
  • MailChimp or similar signups
  • WowSlider/Amazing slider or some other similar element
  • Music players

That’s off the top of my head, but there are plenty of others. Can I add code via html markup or other similar functionality? Thanks.


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Duncan,

To supplement Doty’s question I must emphasize that Freeway has long allowed us to add a splattering of code here and there via its HTML Markup feature – a dialog box that let’s you dump in JS or CSS as you see fit. And honestly, without that feature, I never would have gotten a search feature of my site to work and look as I like. I have quite a bit of HTML Markup in my Freeway sites, actually.

Here are some examples of how its done in Freeway:

James Wages


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Doty, Sparkle does have an embed element, typically used to embed the HTML code for paypal or shopify buttons (for example in http://kralikarna.com/A/ http://kralikarna.com/A/), or an ecwid.com http://ecwid.com/ shopping cart. I’m pretty sure mailchimp or the self hosted sendy have been integrated as well.

More complex embedding such as WowSlider probably aren’t as straightforward, though I have never tried myself. You can add simple code in Sparkle, but integration of a whole folder of assets the best route is probably to export say the WowSlider HTML to the web host and integrate it via an iframe in Sparkle. This is what customers who are integrating Hype-generated content do.

I’m not familiar with different music players, Sparkle has plyr.io http://plyr.io/ built in for mp3s and soundcloud embedding works (or needs minor tweaking), for others we’d have to look into them.

Duncan


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The problem with dumping JS or CSS anywhere is the behavior becomes unpredictable.

One one hand it’s impossible to provide a WYSIWYG rendition of that code (for the reasons stated previously, an editor is either all visual or it exposes HTML concepts). We don’t want Sparkle to become a container for gray boxes. Also we don’t want sites built with a sprinkle of code to be a notch above sites built without, or there goes the visual nature of the tool.

On the other hand we want to guarantee that the page loads fast under all circumstances, but if you put a link to a CSS file, a script or other render-blocking code, the page won’t be as fast.

In a more under the hood way, we want to be free to significantly change the generated code in the future, say we switch to flexbox and the markup ends up being entirely different, any code that significantly interacts with the code that Sparkle generates today is going to break, and it’s going to be a nightmare to move forward. So we draw the line at “self contained piece of code”, like say a Google map or a Youtube embed (which we support directly, but they are good examples).

This means that some things today in Sparkle can’t be done. The good news is we release a bunch of updates throughout the year, and we’re happy to talk and integrate what makes sense to fit in. favicon is definitely ridiculous to have to set up manually, it’s in Sparkle since the original release.

Duncan


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Is there any notion of an “Action”, the way that Freeway allows you to interrupt the publishing cycle programmatically, alter the code about to be generated, and then carry on as though nothing else happened? I am thinking here about my Inlay Action, which does nothing more except decorate an element with a data- attribute, which means that Freeway users can use my CMS without having to “code”.

I would love to see Inlay appear as native as possible on as many different static HTML generators as possible, since that is how it was designed and intended.

Walter

On Aug 17, 2016, at 9:43 AM, Duncan Wilcox email@hidden wrote:

This means that some things today in Sparkle can’t be done.


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Walter, Sparkle doesn’t have any form of plugin. On one hand it’s to be leaner and quicker by avoiding dependencies. On the other hand, app stores really don’t like plugins so that makes it tricky.

Duncan


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Gotcha. So any form of adding data-attributes to individual page elements would have to come through post-processing?

Walter

On Aug 17, 2016, at 10:34 AM, Duncan Wilcox email@hidden wrote:

Walter, Sparkle doesn’t have any form of plugin. On one hand it’s to be leaner and quicker by avoiding dependencies. On the other hand, app stores really don’t like plugins so that makes it tricky.

Duncan


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Information for existing FreewayTalk / Groups.io users - Site Feedback - Softpress Talk


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Yeah.

On 17 Aug 2016, at 16:43, Walter Lee Davis email@hidden wrote:

Gotcha. So any form of adding data-attributes to individual page elements would have to come through post-processing?

Walter


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Duncan,

Perhaps I should have added a caveat to my question… For example, I recently added flexbox to a FreeWay site that I designed. You can see the result here and here. In each of these situations, the WYSIWYG aspect of FreeWay is limited. But I understand that. I’m asking it to do more than what it is built out of the box to handle. So the trade off I’m making is the visual look of FreeWay is not totally what it is after it’s uploaded, but it is close enough for my purposes.

For beginner FreeWay users, keeping things exactly WYSIWYG is important. It’s too confusing otherwise. But once people get a handle on things, the questions come… “how do I do thus-in-such in FreeWay,” often the answer is either a plugin or special code pasted somewhere.

Sometimes, that code needs to be placed in two places, in the section, or before /head section AND wherever the code is to appear. It was necessary to do this "two place pasting of code on this page for the slideshow, and on this page for the “sticky” nav menu. Those are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about. They were tricky for me to learn the first time, but once tackled, I want to be able to use such elements on future sites. I want to add to my toolbox as I gain more skills as a designer.

Another example is, if I want to add CMS bits of code with Pulse or Perch, or Inlay, can I do that in Sparkle. iFrame is not ideal when it comes to responsive sites and I’ve been trying to avoid it as much as possible for several years. If a bit of Pulse code has to be inside an iFrame for my client to edit their site I’m afraid that would lead to all kinds of problems. In freeway, I just wrapped this special code in a

all it’s own and then moved on with my day. YES, the code does not appear on the FreeWay document itself. I don’t need it to. I just need the ability to paste it where I need it. I know you were getting at this in Walt’s question above, but I didn’t really understand the answer or if it would work for my purposes.

I realize the excessive use of sliders and whatnot can slow a site loading time down. But sometimes that is exactly what the client wants. I’m dealing with that on the slider example I gave you. It’s less than ideal when it comes to loading time, but it is exactly what the client wants and sometimes at the end of the day that is the necessary trade we have to make.

I know Sparkle is trying to keep things simple, but are these more complicated elements supported? Out of the box, Sparkle looks great, but I’m afraid if I can’t stretch it’s capabilities here and there I will feel very limited.


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Doty, I might need to mention again that Sparkle’s focus is to do everything visually, at the expense of possibly not having everything you need right now. You are expressing your needs with a frame of reference of tools of the past. We can do better, nothing you mention is unfeasible via a visual user interface. Again Sparkle isn’t dead and we’re moving ahead at high speed.

Again we can’t support adding arbitrary code anywhere, because whatever you’re latching on to might not exist in a later version of Sparkle, for example a div might not be there anymore, and we don’t want to break documents as we move forward. It’s a can of worms that once opened can’t be re-canned.

The point about performance isn’t whether in absolute terms a page is fast or slow, rather whether given the design you added code that pushes a page off the fast path. In fact probably no page on the web would need more than a fraction of a second to first render in a modern browser, given appropriate server side conditions that are entirely in control of who builds a website. Google page speed has all the details on this, say https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.durangoheritage.org%2Factivities.html

Anyway I’m not sure whether you have given Sparkle a try, but it does have built in image gallery (based on slick.js), image and video lightbox (magnific popup), HTML5 video player (plyr.io http://plyr.io/), stick to top, anchors with smooth scrolling, scroll animations (animate.css), contact forms, youtube/vimeo/maps/twitter/facebook. All in one integrated, tidy package.

Duncan


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Thanks for all your time and explanations Duncan.
Barry


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I might need to mention again that Sparkle’s focus is to do everything visually, at the expense of possibly not having everything you need right now.

Yep. Understood. I’m just trying to get a feel for what the limitations are. There are trade-offs with each and every approach.

Again Sparkle isn’t dead and we’re moving ahead at high speed.

I never meant to imply that it was dead. In fact it has been stated that Sparkle is a much younger product than FW and they can’t be compared apples to apples. I would argue FW for the moment isn’t dead either. For now it works just fine. In Sierra reports are it will work fine. If it comes down to it, I will maintain an old piece of hardware if needed to update old client designs.

However, since this is FreewayTalk and what the users here KNOW is Freeway, comparisons are inevitable. “How do I do this thing I already know how to do if I wanted to in Sparkle?” It’s an understandable, albeit perhaps unfair question. But again, since this is FWT, I hope you can understand where we are coming from. If your answer is “do it in an iFrame” then I will have to pass. If I had come to Sparkle 10 years ago, I would have made different choice, but today, it is too big a step backwards. I don’t want to be limited to only this one image gallery or this one lightbox. I know myself. It will be great for a few months, but inevitably I will want to do more and try something different. There are plenty of people on this forum for whom Sparkle is a fantastic choice, but I don’t think that user is me. And frankly, that bums me out. There’s a lot to like about your program.

Google page speed has all the details on this,

I actually expected you to do this with my page. I invited the critique when I told you it was admittedly slow to load. I just uploaded last night and those fixes are yet to come. When I started in web design I was scared to make a mistake, at this point, I’m realizing that is how I learn. I don’t want an app to protect me from myself, but rather one that will help me grow.

Anyway I’m not sure whether you have given Sparkle a try

Only minimally. I’ve watched videos and downloaded it. While testing the app, I bumped into the questions I had above and that is why I started asking these difficult questions. Thank you for your time and explaining your approach.


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I have no “fairness” problems, I’m just saying comparisons with Freeway might make sense from someone who’s been using it for 10 years, but perhaps some of the learned skills are distortions of an insufficiently developed product and need to be unlearned. In fact we’d probably have the same development difficulty with Sparkle if we said “yes” to adding all the things we are asked.

Also I didn’t intend to shame your site specifically, 99% of the web is like that.

Duncan


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need to be unlearned…

I have no doubt this is true.

Also I didn’t intend to shame your site specifically, 99% of the web is like that.

No offense taken. When I uploaded it I knew I would need to go back and fix it. But the client needed it uploaded and that’s what the client got.

Like I said above, there are trade offs with each and every approach. For me, the purpose of these discussions on FWT is to find the best FW replacement fit for us. There is no one-size-fits all. There is no FW “replacement.” We all have to ask what our non-negotiables are for our work style/skill level and typical client/user base. I’m glad FWT has allowed this forum to remain for the time being as we make our transition.


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On 17 Aug 2016, 9:50 pm, Duncan Wilcox wrote:

perhaps some of the learned skills are distortions of an insufficiently developed product and need to be unlearned

Wow. Ok… so in Sparkle, how do I do a page redirect? Manage page caching? Do some form validation? Create a popup for a form or navigation? Are rollovers possible? Anyway to prevent mousewheel events/drag scrolling from endlessly zooming/panning an embedded Google Map? I seem to hit the wall on all of these when trying out Sparkle. Hopefully it’s all in there and I just missed it.


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