Rants & Raves Software & Hardware Usability

Adobe don’t care Contribute is broken

So finally we have our answer from Adobe Technical Support with regards to how Adobe Contribute is breaking every website we use it with.

Apparently, it’s the users fault. Specifically, my client.

Excellent .. and there was me thinking Adobe had been utterly unprofessional.


For anyone who’s used the very much broken Adobe Contribute, you’ll know how simple it is to use.

You navigate to the web page of choice, click the Edit button, do your thing, and then click the Publish button.

But that’s when things start to go hideously wrong, because Adobe Contribute is so fundamentally broken, it either doesn’t let you do this, or it ruins the web pages you’re trying to edit.

Words such as professionalism, prompt, honest .. forget about them, ‘coz they never entered into the dialogue I had with Adobe with regards to their utterly broken Adobe Contribute web CMS (Content Management System.)

I recently went live with a website for the client who have been experiencing problems with Adobe Contribute, and the understanding was, they’d be using Adobe Contribute to manage the website.

Fast forward a week or so and I’m busy working on some amends for their other website that I manage for them. Quite by accident, I log into the wrong FTP account, and as I look at the directory listing for the new website, I see lots of files that I just don’t recognize.

There were two new folders and four new files in the directory, two of which were some kind of Microsoft ActiveX component files. Which is strange, because there’s nothing on the website that uses ActiveX.

So I pay a visit to the website via Firefox and look at the code for one of the web pages. To my utter horror, Adobe Contribute had added in loads of totally spurious and pointless characters and styling options for no reason whatsoever.

Rather than making use of the carefully-crafted styles that I’d created for the website, Adobe Contribute was butchering everything by adding in new styles, overwriting existing styles and basically making a nonsense of all of the web standards compliant coding I’d applied.

Such was the mess that Adobe Contribute had made of the web pages, it’s going to take some effort to re-work them.

Now, imagine if you will just how amazingly annoyed my client is by all of this? After all, who the hell is going to pay for this debacle? A debacle caused entirely by Adobe Contribute, no less.

Well, what we now know is that after the issue had be escalated to Adobe’s research people – who for some reason believe they are beyond reproach – feel that they have nothing else to add to the matter.

As far as Adobe’s research department are concerned, this is user error, which I find puzzling.

The thing is, there’s so little latitude for doing something wrong in Adobe Contribute, what might my client actually be doing that is wrong?

Further to this, if we dignify for a second or two the completely idiotic conclusion of Adobe’s technical support people, even if this really is user error, then why is it that Adobe aren’t asking me what it is that my client is allegedly doing wrong?

After all, if you want to create the best software possible, you’d think they’d be a little curious?

So if the user is making a mistake, then the only reason that’s possible is because Adobe Contribute is so broken that it allows for such things.

Problem is for Adobe, I have conclusive and irrefutable proof that Adobe Contribute is fundamentally broken.

The exact same things are happening on both Microsoft Windows IIS and on Apache running on Linux.

The thing is, I took over from a previous design agency, and my first impression of the first website they’d produced for my client was that someone had started the website – someone who knew what they were doing – but then someone else took over and was making a complete mess of things.

The website is in different languages (English, German, Spanish, French et cetera,) all of which need accented characters, which need special characters embedded in the text of the web pages.

Some of the web pages had these characters, but a lot didn’t. Some just had the literal accented characters in the code, which was a result of the erroneous endeavors of Adobe Contribute.

As an emergency precaution, I’ve had to change the encoding and language options for some web pages so that they remain usable.

All of which means that when the client makes a text change to a foreign web page, when someone views the changed web pages, where any new words contain accented characters, they don’t render properly.

So when I saw what had happened to the new website, I knew straight away what I was looking at – the chaos of garbled HTML code left by Adobe Contribute.

The question I put to Adobe has never changed, and it’s a question they’ve so far totally avoided answering: if I can do the self same thing that Adobe Contribute purports to do with Transmit (an excellent FTP client for the Mac) and BBEdit (a bafflingly large text editor for the Mac) why can’t Adobe Contribute?

Based on the joint experiences of my client and I, Adobe Contribute is fundamentally a very broken application and I would strongly urge you never to use it, under no circumstances.

If you value the custom of your clients the same way I do, then get yourself a web developer and have them supply you with either a custom, bought-in or free Content Management System like Joomla! or Drupal .. anything but Adobe Contribute!

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

13 replies on “Adobe don’t care Contribute is broken”

Just a suggestion: Could it be your client used Word to create his contents and used just the Contribute toolbar button?

I am not quite sure how Contribute and Word integrate, but my experience with Word and HTML is that they don’t go together well. Copying over text from Word – i.e. from an article written in the word processor – to a Web site design tool will almost inevitably lead to problems just like you describe.

Hi Dierk and thanks for the comment!

Yeah, I know what you mean. What with the not-so-SmartQuotes thing, I’ve seen that before myself.

Even if that was the case, it doesn’t account for the fact that Adobe Contribute adds in entirely new blocks of CSS into the header and applies them to previously styled elements.

It’s deeply frustrating, as you can imagine…

Admittedly I just stumbled upon contribute, am not an expert on it.

On Adobe’s CS3 promo workshop site [] I just saw a video under Contribute->Accessibility called ‘Administering a website’ by Mark Fletcher. He quickly goes through setting up a Role – essentially the same as a group in CMS – with permissions of what users can change.

If I am not mistaken there is an option on what users in a specific role are allowed to change on a file basis; it seems one can forbid to add, modify and delete file types, like CSS [by extension I presume internal as well].

Can it be that your client was assigned to a rather powerful tole, say Administrator, with authorisation to change just these vital files?

Hi Dierk, and thanks for returning.

Yes, there are various roles, and the client needs to have an Administrator role, while the other staff from around the world have lesser roles.

All the client does is edit text and add in images.

She knows nothing of CSS. But my point is, Adobe Contribute should not only preserve the styles present in the web pages, but make use of them.

This is patently not the case. Adobe Contribute routinely makes such a total mess of things that web pages are effectively not fit to be used in my projects any longer, and need to be re-written…

What I find most disappointing about this whole thing is that Adobe have inherited the ills of Macromedia, who were renown for their poor quality, quirky products.

What I find so dismaying is that Adobe seem to have done nothing to bring Adobe Contribute up to their own high standards.

Even worse, I can’t find anything out there that directly competes with Adobe Contribute.

If you happen to find anything else, please let me know…

The only thing that comes to mind immediately is developed to update Blogs not normal Web pages: Windows Live Writer.

We are using contribute with several clients. I am wondering if you are using Dreamweaver templates to keep your client from messing up their own site. We find that with Dreamweaver templates and CT the client can’t mess up any of the un-editable areas of the pages. They can only change the text only in areas we want them to be able to do this in.

You might want to make your client only a writer and not a publisher till you have this all sorted out.

I am not trying to be a smart ass and I want to make sure I don’t have the same problems so drop me an email if you think I need to have some more info about this totally crappy issue.

Sounds like a lot of work.

Hi Kevin and thanks for feedback, that’s greatly appreciated.

I don’t use Dreamweaver, largely because I just can’t stand it. I barely use WYSIWYG editors these days — maybe for the odd table or two.

That said, the files supplied by the previous agency had Dreamweaver tags in there, but they were all ignored by Contribute.

Since all of this nonsense emerged, I’m steering existing and new clients towards Joomla! for their CMS needs.

Yes, it’s a kludge in places, but it’s better than managing someone else’s broken software, like Adobe Contribute…

I manage a web design company and I have been using Contribute for many years without any problems. It has restrictions but works well with most small websites and find it is a well written piece of software. I hardcode my sites into Dreamweaver and as long as I code correctly when making the templates and set the users up all goes smoothly.

I would highly recommend Contribute for anyone that has a small website and wants to make regular updates to it.

Drupal and Joomla are time-consuming and expensive (for the client) to set up and nearly impossible for the average user to comprehend. Joomla, in particular, is not design-friendly, and both were created with the mistaken notion that all websites are or should be blogs.

Contribute on the other hand, is easy to learn and relatively easy to install. If you put the editable regions inside of the markup, and limit the user to your style sheet, you can minimize the damage.

The thing to remember is that ultimately the user looks at the content not the code.

Why would you build a client site on a CMS that you clearly didn’t understand? If the client was requiring Adobe Contribute and you didn’t know how to use it you should have passed on the project. It’s not Adobe’s fault that you didn’t take the time to learn how to use their application.

I admit there are several shortcomings in Adobe Contribute, but if you use it with DreamWeaver (like it’s designed) it’s very easy to create a site that looks good and works simply for clients. It may not be the purest code, but Adobe Contribute is cheap… you get what you (or your client) pays for.

“Why would you build a client site on a CMS that you clearly didn’t understand?”

I didn’t build anything with Adobe Contribute. The website had been built previously with Adobe DreamWeaver. The client insisted on using Adobe Contribute, despite my protestations.

Irrespective of who built the website, or the choice of CMS afterwards, Adobe are selling Contribute on its alleged simplicity and ease of use, which it lacks completely.

The CMS I make reference to is Adobe Contribute, not the website.

Adobe Contribute was and still is an utterly broken product, who many people have and continue to have many, many problems with…

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