Website builders make it super easy to build a website. Find out below how React Bricks satisfies the needs of Content editors, Developers and Designers.
What is the history of React Bricks?
We are a web development agency, mainly focused on the development of complex web applications using React and Node.js, but sometimes we also create websites for customers.
At the end of 2019 we were using WordPress as a headless CMS together with Gatsby (a React framework) for the frontend, but we were not satisfied with our development experience and the content editing experience of our customers.
We had to switch constantly between WordPress to define custom fields and our React code. We used WordPress custom fields to be sure that our customers could not break the design system, but in this way, they had to edit the content by filling in gray forms, with no clue on how the content would be presented on the website. So I started thinking of a new kind of CMS: a CMS that would be ideal for all the actors involved in a CMS: Content editors, Developers, and Designers. And so in January 2020 I published the article “The shape of the CMS to come”, a sort of “manifesto” of React Bricks, while I was creating the first prototype. Then we had the first Covid lockdown in Italy and I was able to work very fast on the prototype (having less work for customers). Once the prototype was ready, I involved my co-founder Dario for the backend part and the first MVP was ready in March 2020. Soon after we had our first customer, Capbase, a US startup who trusted us since the beginning and is still using React Bricks.
What does React Bricks do and what problem does it solve for your customers?
As I said, I was looking for the “holy grail” of CMS’s, something that is great for Content editors, Developers, and Designers. So we need to start with what each actor is looking for in a content management solution.
Content editors want a system that is easy to use. And so we give them direct visual editing of content. If they can use Word or Pages, they can use React Bricks: you just click on text and edit, click on images to upload and crop, and change properties using simple sidebar controls. Content editors have all the freedom they want and no more than they need. As it is easy, no training is needed.
Designers want their exact design system (representing the corporate image) and they need to be sure nobody can break the design. With React Bricks you choose exactly what editors will be able to change either visually over the content or with the help of sidebar controls. In fact, developers define in code what controls they need and set validation rules. The design cannot be broken.
Developers want flexibility. And flexibility for a developer means code. We give developers a React library they can use to create visually editable content blocks in code, so that they can create a pixel-perfect custom design using any CSS framework, leveraging the full power of React. React Bricks supports all the React frameworks (Next.js, Gatsby, and Remix) so that developers can create a blazing fast modern website using the technology they love.
What makes you unique?
Let’s compare React Bricks to the alternatives you have when you want to switch from an old monolithic CMS solution.
First of all, we have headless CMSs. A headless CMS provides just the data layer: the database, an admin interface to edit data, and APIs to retrieve content. They don’t care about how the content will be presented on the frontend. They care about abstract entities, not web pages. And developers love them. But… content editors don’t like them at all! Why? Because with a headless CMS they are still filling in gray forms: boring, not convenient, and surely not inspiring.
On the other hand, we have visual tools, like Wix or Webflow. But they are either not flexible or… too flexible! Let’s take Wix for example. Editors love it: point, click, edit. But you have to choose a template with little ability to customize the design. Surely you cannot reproduce a pixel-perfect corporate design. So, it is not flexible for designers.
What about tools like Webflow? They are more flexible, sure, but now editors need to understand CSS properties like margins, paddings, etc. and, once they understand them… they can change them! In this way, we lose the design safety because such systems are too flexible. Content editors should not be able to choose on styling – and they don’t want to!
With React Bricks you can build your design system using React and be sure editors cannot break it. React Bricks unique selling proposition is that it is great for Content Creators, Developers, and Designers.
What features are your most popular and why?
Surely the visual editing interface and the ability to use React components. A feature developers love is the CLI (Command Line Interface). In 1’15” you can be up and running: just launch the command, choose the name of the project, the desired starter, and framework and you have a full project scaffolded for you.
Then we have image optimization and serving from a fast global CDN, multi-language with easy internationalization of content, scheduled publishing with an editorial calendar, history changes to go back in time to a past version of the content, self backup and restore, ability to host anywhere, to get content from external data sources and much more.
React Bricks is not only truly innovative but also enterprise-grade.
Why visual editing?
Simple: visual editing is the best possible authoring experience for content editors. And content editors are the ones who spend more time on a CMS. Think about it: the first requirement of a website based on a content management system is that content is good and updated. A happy content editor creates better content.
What improvements /changes do you foresee happening with visual editing in the future?
In the future, we’ll see more and more no-code tools to visually build websites.
The interesting thing is who they will target. Now we have tools targeting users who don’t have a strong corporate image, like Wix, and tools targeting developers-designers like WebFlow.
In a corporate content management solution, we have different needs that must be satisfied at the same time. There is not a single visual interface that will suit everyone, as we have two opposite requirements: flexibility for developers, constraints, and ease of use for content creators.
React Bricks is a no-code tool for content editors, but a code tool for developers. I think that this is the best solution at the moment: visual for marketers, code for those who can leverage the flexibility of code.
For web applications, where we need fewer graphics customizations, I think that visual tools will become very popular and I’m looking forward to seeing great AI-driven visual app builders in the future.
What level of expertise is required for your customers to successfully use React Bricks?
Content editors need no particular level of expertise. If you can use a word processor, you can use React Bricks.
What can we expect to see from React Bricks in the next 5 years?
We are on a mission to change the way people edit websites. Editing was fun when we had the first visual HTML editors, like Dreamweaver, then we went back to code. Visual editing is coming back, but we still give content editors gray forms.
Now’s the time to make content editing fun, again. And this is what we’ll do in the next 5 years. This means that we’ll improve React Bricks, in order to make it even more customizable and with better support to teams who collaborate on the same content. We’ll listen to our users and customers to give the best experience to all the actors involved: editors, developers, designers, and, of course, the end-users of websites, the surfing people who are the reason websites are created in the first place.
I hope we’ll also create a large and vibrant community of people who share the idea that content editing should be easy and fun.
Karen has studied psychology and business management, and has spent the majority of her career in online retail focusing on people management and development in a virtual environment. In her free time, you can find her in the garden planting vegetables, practicing lawn bowling, or relaxing at home with her partner and four beautiful cats.