Webex, oh Webex…
How do I hate thee?
Let me count the ways.
Admittedly, I've been counting the ways for years and years and years. It's easy to do, because they haven't changed the gaping design flaws in a decade or more.
I'm speaking in this case of Webex Event Center, the version of the software used for scheduled webinars or webcasts. And I'm focusing on the event setup that administrators have to do behind the scenes. Heck, let's get more specific than that… We'll focus only on customizing emails that go out to event registrants.
Seems easy and innocuous enough, doesn't it? Oh foolish mortal, you know not the anguish that lies before you.
Here's the section of the event setup page that deals with emails:
Each of those 13 blue links is a separately configured email. Can you save time by combining "Thank You for Attending" and "Absentee Follow-Up" into a single follow-up email that goes to all registrants? No, you can not.
Let's pick any one of them for editing and customization. The process and behavior is the same for each. I'll choose 1st Reminder. I click the link and get a separate pop-up or overlay window:
Oh, there's a scroll bar. I'd like to see everything at once. No problem… It's a separate window, so I can just resize it to a nice big frame that fits everything:
Fooled you! The enclosing frame gets nice and large, but the content stays right where it was, floating around in a big sea of empty white space. Good solid 1998 coding behavior.
Credit where credit is due… If I click the Edit button, I actually do get a resizable edit window that I can enlarge inside the enclosing frame. So that's nice. Why couldn't they do that for the preview window? Nobody cared enough.
Now let's take a look at the content of that email. What are all those funny symbols and unreadable junk? Why, those are HTML tags and attributes, my dear! You say you don't know how to code HTML by hand? Sorry… There is no "What You See Is What You Get" visual editor. No helpful insert buttons. Just a text editor that lets you type code. Remember, we wouldn't want to update the product to reflect capabilities introduced in the last 20 years. Go learn HTML coding, Ms. Webinar Host. We'll wait right here.
What else is hidden in that mishmosh? I see things like
Are those HTML codes as well? No, those are proprietary Webex placeholders that get filled in by the system when the email gets sent. These are actually very useful. Okay, where is the list that lets me pick and choose the variables I want to embed? Oh, there isn't one. You need to just know the special identifier names that Webex coined. Can't remember one? Maybe it's listed when you click on the big ? button for help. Nope. Nothing there. I'm sure they are in the online documentation system somewhere. Why don't you go search for a while and see if you can find them?
Let's assume we made our edits and we want to check our work. I'll bet if I click the Preview button it shows me a nice view of the finished email. No, of course it doesn't. It shows that same scrolled version that can't be expanded in the frame. And it doesn't fill in any of the variables, so I still see a bunch of percent signs and placeholder names.
Well, heck. I'm a gambling man. Let's save what we've done. I click the Save button. And get this:
No, you aren't missing anything. That picture is an accurate snapshot. This is a new bug that has given me hours of fun today. The save takes me to a blank frame and throws away all my edits. I try it numerous times and occasionally it does a proper save, but more frequently loses everything. I have to start over from scratch and hope that the next time I hit the save it might happen to work. Neat!
I'm a charitable guy… Let's assume they get that fixed sometime this year and we are able to save our work consistently. Now all I need to do is send a quick test to see how the email looks in various email clients or devices. And maybe send a test version to the business stakeholders so they can sign off on it as it will look to an attendee, with values all filled in for the variables.
You know what's coming, don't you? There is no way on God's Green Earth to send a test email. Heck, you can't even see the entire preview version at once without the scroll bar. Better cross your fingers and hope your HTML skills are top notch and that you didn't hit a wrong keystroke somewhere.
Now repeat the whole process anywhere from 4 to 13 times per webinar. That's how I've been spending my evening. How's yours going?