Is the price of flexibility, complexity?

Since I’m now paying for hosting, I’m starting to install some of the open source systems to borrow good practice in my own work. Usually when I have an idea for a new feature, I work out my approach and then investigate similar systems to see how they’ve approached the same problem but I rarely install the software to see how they work in practice. Media Temple, my hosting company provide a handy one-click install for some useful software such as WordPress and Drupal, an open source ‘community’ platform. So along with Drupal, I’ve installed Joomla, an open source CMS.

Working within a University, the skill-base of staff varies dramatically. I’ve always taken the view that anything we develop should be no more complex than using an email form and should replicate approaches staff will develop through their day to day use of the computer. So creating resources on StudyNet is basically as comples as writing an email. There are advanced tools for staff such as online resource libraries, TinyMCE & RealObjects Java based editor, podcasting, group work, blogging, media tools etc. But at the base level, if you can create a folder and post an email, you can use StudyNet.

I often get complaints from ‘power’ users who want extra functionality and I often wonder if I’m doing the right thing constraining the system by designing for the lower-end of our skill base but playing with Joomla and Drupal, they have more flexibility over things such as menu designs, but to be honest, they’re still not designed for my ‘average’ user.

Sometimes it’s good to have some reassurances

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