First Impressions of Blocs


#1

I have been interested in Blocs for a while and also see this forum as one of its strengths. I finally downloaded the 5 day trial last weekend and thought that I would record some of my impressions. Sadly the demo version has stopped working and I didn’t put in as many hours as intended so forgive these comments being from memory.

I like the concept and the app was totally stable while I played with it. It started me off well and the documentation was fair. With that in mind…

Am I right in thinking that the basic styles (heading etc) are fixed and that I need a custom class to override anything that I want to change? If they are editable, I missed how to do it so that may be a comment on the UI (or on dumb users, of course).

I like the fact that Blocs allows for different resolutions of images according to the client’s display resolution. However, I am surprised that Blocs expects the user to provide several images. Could it not accept one image (presumably the highest resolution) and produce the others on the fly as required (presumably just at export time). This seems an obvious piece of automation so have I missed something?

If I want a series of paragraphs with a neat separation (ie not just a blank line), must I use a series of paragraph Brics?

I didn’t like the Brics bar at the bottom of the window. If I hit the + icon, I get a nice table of all the Brics that, crucially, includes their names. Why doesn’t the bar include, at least as an option, the names (think macOS toolbar options)? The icons for various text styles are (understandably) very similar to each other. The + icon seems to edit some default selection in the bar - I could not find that documented anywhere - it seemed to replace rather than add?

I think the Bric ‘insertion’ mode (can’t remember the right name) that allows clicking rather than drag and drop is a poor ergonomic choice. I repeatedly expected to drag and drop 'cos that’s how macOS works. The comment that drag and drop is so '90s misses the point that modal interfaces are so early '80s.

The Asset Manager is indeed in need of a revamp. However, I deduce that it is a front end to assets provided (and stored) by the user, not a repository in its own right (I didn’t find that documented anywhere). I think that’s a sound design so it’s a front-end revamp that’s needed, not a fundamental change.

I described the documentation as “fair”. I should add that I did not watch most of the videos (personal opinion: I dislike videos as they force someone else’s, single, pace and are hard to skim). The thing I missed was an overview/how to produce your first page document. My first impression was the ‘what do I do now?’ response, followed by ‘why aren’t there any templates?’. Once I looked at the Brics, I understood that there are lots of modular templates and I like the page construction mechanisms. Somehow, it would be good to introduce that earlier (maybe it just needs a handful of dummy but complete pages to hack around)? This is not a big deal, at least for me.

I tried looking for some of the points in this note in the forum but found that quite difficult. Simple text searching didn’t give me good results (so apologies if I have duplicated previous posts). I don’t know the answer to this, short of someone indexing/arranging the issues here into a structured FAQ or whatever. I accept entirely that the Blocs team is small and better deployed on the app itself.

In summary, I hope these thoughts come over as positive. I liked Blocs in general and it’s the best of the site construction tools that I’ve yet seen. I may be parting with £s and posting more issues in the future, haven’t decided yet.


#2

@Cmd-F I’ll try to address some of your points and perhaps somebody can correct me if I am wrong.

There is quite a lot you can do with basic styling, if your ambitions are simple, however custom classes are needed to make Blocs sing and it opens up a whole world of possibilities. Due to the understated interface this can be missed by new users. Try with the free course by @Eldar at https://store.eldargezalov.com/getting-started-with-blocs and then progress to Core Training if Blocs seems rights for you.

On the question of resolution options, this might be something that could work, but from past experience automated tools of this nature rarely work as well as expected, because they rely on algorithms that cannot work reliably on all images. Personally, I like to fine-tune every image manually in Photoshop, though I appreciate not everybody has the tools, experience or will power to do this on large numbers of images.

You could in theory add a line space between between different paragraphs and keep them all in a single paragraph bric, but it’s not considered good practice and may lead to odd results in different browsers, so ideally you should use a separate paragraph bric for each paragraph. This would apply to all design apps and it’s probably better for SEO as well if you use separate brics for each section, because search engines like well constructed sites.

I gather the Brics bar at the bottom of the interface is actually due to be overhauled with a redesign and moved to the side panel in Blocs 3. This is an area that other users, including myself have commented upon.

Drag & drop is perfectly Mac like and very intuitive for Mac users, but it’s actually a bit 1990s. Once you get used to the “Blocs way” you may be shocked at how much faster it is.

The Asset manager is currently being rebuilt in version 2.5, which is in the final week or so of beta testing. It’s much improved over previous versions.

Lack of general documentation has been mentioned frequently and I’ve been one of the more vocal proponents for more documentation. The problem in part is that Blocs has been developing at a very fast rate, so any tutorials, whether written or visual are quickly outdated. This should start to calm down with 2.5 and I hope version 3 will have everything pretty sorted. Hopefully documentation will also be plentiful at that point.

The forum itself is not that old and I agree it’s not always brilliant for finding solutions, however it will grow over time, especially as more users become involved.


#3

Thanks for the very informative response. How nice it is to be able to express opinions without promptly being flamed!

My issue with styles was easily fixed with a custom class but it was something that I would want to apply to every heading (changing the space following a heading) so I wondered if the CC was overkill and I could just change the default. I found the basic style options and I agree that they’re useful.

The paragraphs issue was similar. It’s not a problem to add a Bric per paragraph but I would feel foolish doing that if the design intent was to package many paragraphs inside a single Bric.

I had read that the Asset Manager was being overhauled but not the Brics bar. Hopefully it will move in the direction I suggested.

The resolution issue depends upon the nature of the images. In my case, most would be photos and I’d just export two different resolutions from Lightroom. If Blocs used NSImage or whatever to downscale automatically, I frankly doubt that in practice the result would be much different. I would see automating this as an option so, where necessary, you could still supply multiple resolution images (though there may actually be a need for vector image support for some use cases).

I will agree to differ on the Brics ergonomics. I can tolerate a modal interface :roll_eyes:.

Thanks again for the reply.