Working with rich text editors in 2023: Industry overview and challenges
Published November 2nd, 2023
12 min read
In our annual Rich Text Editor Developer Survey held every year between March and June, developers, engineers and software professionals from 190+ countries share the sometimes harsh realities of working with rich text editors (RTE). This year, whilst some news was positive, some remained unchanged and provides glimpses towards exciting new developments driven by the release of Generative AI.
Director, Content and Communications at Tiny
One of the clearest signals given by the respondents was that rich text editor makers need to do a better job of the basics. Specifically, they need to more clearly explain out-of-the-box customizations, to counter the widely held belief of developers’ that they need to create their own custom plugins and functions – when they’re pre-existing in the market-leading editors.
The most popular use case remains within CMSs, but usage is widening, with DMS, LMS, CRM, WorkFlow automations and Email all featuring – where users are recognising the benefits of upgrading their editors’ capabilities by utilizing a WYSIWYG editor as key componentry within their tech stack.
Most surprising though, is that in a world where AI is the ‘word of the year’, when participants were asked what’s missing from their current rich text editor, their response outlined a formula for success that’s devoid of buzzwords:
- Do the basics really well
- Fundamentals matter more than fancy features
- Provide an easy, intuitive and secure user experience
- Clearly show and explain the opportunities for customization
It's that simple.
Read on for the rich text editing industry changes and challenges that emerged in the 2023 State of Rich Text Editor Developer Survey.
What best describes the industry in which you work?
The survey participants are spread across various industries, with a notable presence in Web Development and Developer Tooling.
As compared to 2022 results, Web Development significantly increased in its industry representation.
Previously, Web Development ranked in the middle and was far from being one of the top three industries.
This shift in results could be indicative of broader changes in the job market, especially in the post-pandemic era. The increased emphasis on digital products, services, and accessibility has become deeply ingrained in consumer expectations. As a result, the demand for professionals skilled in Web Development has risen considerably, reflecting the growing need for businesses to meet the evolving demands of the digital landscape.
Industries Using Rich Text Editors
What kind of development work does your team do?
More than half of survey participants are involved in website development, or the creation of commercial software/SaaS products.
A smaller number are engaged in open-source projects, internal/employee-only software, and OEM software.
The hierarchy of these results is consistent compared to the 2022 results.
However, there are notable shifts in the 2023 survey results.
There’s an increase in the number of respondents working on internal software, indicating a growing focus on developing systems for internal use.
On the other hand, there’s also been a decrease in those involved in commercial software/SaaS products.
This shift could be attributed to the remote work movement or the increased attention organizations are placing on enhancing their internal systems through digital transformation projects – to better accommodate distributed teams and remote workflows.
Types of Development Work
What best describes the application, industry and/or use case that you work on?
Continuing last year’s trend and their historically close relationship, CMS was by far the most popular use case for a rich text editor, although the results reveal a remarkably diverse range of applications for this component.
Content Management Systems (CMS) remain the primary use case for rich text editors.
‘Database’ has gained prominence compared to the 2022 results, signifying the increasing significance of data management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), personalization and use of big data.
The presence of AI-related use cases, both in this section and later in the results, was likely bolstered by the introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022.
This suggests a growing interest in leveraging AI technologies and highlights the expanding possibilities and technology integration opportunities offered by rich text editors, across various industries and domains.
Industry Use Cases
Have you recently customized a rich text editor?
Despite both the major rich text editors being fully-featured (either out-of-the-box or via plugin feature upgrades), a significant proportion of developers are actively customizing rich text editors.
75% of participants customize rich text editors to accommodate the unique needs of each application.
Nearly half the participants focused on customizing the user interface (UI), while many others incorporated third-party or custom plugins.
However, compared to previous years a slightly lower number of participants mentioned customizing the UI, indicating a possible shift towards investing more efforts in customizing features at the core level.
As well as making customization easy and powerful, if providers more clearly surfaced the many customizations and features already available, it could further enhance user satisfaction and deliver a more tailored experience.
Rich Text Editor Customization
What aspects of your rich text editor would you like resolved, removed, or changed?
This was a freeform question where participants shared their most top-of-mind pain points with their rich text editor.
A significant portion didn’t report any significant frustrations with their rich text editor.
The key pain points revolve around difficulties in manipulating specific types of content within a rich text editor.
Additionally, users express a desire for the RTE to seamlessly integrate with other software products, mentioning issues with plugin availability, integration with other tools, and difficulties when copy/pasting content from external sources.
Other notable mentions include the lack of comprehensive documentation, absence of autosave functionality, and concerns regarding the speed, security, and stability of the editor. In summary, difficulties included:
- Manipulating specific content (multimedia files, tables, fonts)
- Integration with other software products (plugins, other tools)
- Copy/pasting content from other sources
- Lack of comprehensive documentation
- Absence of autosave functionality
- Concerns about speed, security, and stability
- No major frustrations reported by one-third of respondents
Media file management
Working with tables/table cell editing
Copy/paste and formatting issues
Speed, security, and stability
Integrations with other tools
What are the most important features needed in a rich text editor?
The three most vital aspects of a rich text editor are its:
- Privacy protections.
These fundamental features are the key to user satisfaction.
Additionally, customizability, control, and ease of use are crucial for designing an editing experience that aligns with the needs of professionals and their users in an intuitive and user-friendly way.
Compared to previous reports, the 2023 findings indicate that customizability has grown in importance over time. And while digital asset management, AI-driven functionality, and collaboration features are overall not as significant, they are still considered very or extremely important by half of our participants.
Most Important Rich Text Editor Features 2023
What’s the most important thing missing? What new functionality would you like included in your rich text editor?
This open text question gathered information on the features and functionality that are most important, as well as what needs to be added.
AI is the ‘word of the year’ when asked what’s missing from their current rich text editor.
This interest in AI could have been skewed or influenced by the extensive media coverage since November 2022 around ChatGPT, and the growing presence of AI in our culture over the ensuing six months.
Besides AI, users also expressed a desire for various other features in their editor, including:
- More drag and drop features
- Improved media management capabilities
- Better support for MS Word pasting
- Enhanced documentation
- Increased integrations with other digital tools/software
- Collaboration features like track changes, comments and mentions
Based on the responses, it appears that users are seeking a more robust and versatile editor that not only harnesses the power of AI but also addresses their specific needs in terms of usability and collaboration.
AI integration/chat GPT
Drag and drop features
Built-in/better image/media management
Better support for MS word pasting/tables
Built-in track changes
Integrations with other tools (like GoogleDoc, Jira, Monday, Symfony)
More collaboration tools
Better spell checker and grammar checker
(Mentions in) Comments
Frequently asked questions
How can I read the full report?
Read the complete RTE 2023 Developer Survey Results here
Did only TinyMCE users take the survey?
No, it was open to all software professionals across various industries, roles, and geographic locations
How can I ask questions or give feedback
Please direct questions or comments about the survey to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d like to participate in the next survey. Can I sign up for alerts?
The best way to receive news about the Rich Text Editor Survey is to sign up for our monthly newsletter
Director, Content and Communications
Messaging strategist and copywriter whose passion lies in working with brands like Tiny, that have deep-seated values and embrace the power of their story. She gets a kick out of solving problems, loves learning new things and making stuff, every day. When she’s not thinking through clever copy lines or clarifying value propositions, she’s knitting amazing socks for everyone she knows.