This decision should be made early on in a website project, as it will influence a number of other decisions throughout the process. While the choice to use a CMS most directly impacts the development phase, there are also considerations to be made during design that can make integration easier.
The following tips will help guide your design choices in order to create a CMS-friendly website design.
Research CMS featuresSuccessfully designing a CMS-driven website requires some research, specifically the features and limitations that might impact content presentation. If you design something that isn’t possible to replicate within the CMS, you could run into costly rework during development.
For example, if there are certain content types like blog posts or events that must use a predefined layout within the CMS, make sure your design follows that layout. Work closely with your development team to find out what is and isn’t possible from a technical standpoint, and design accordingly.
Design for reusabilityContent management systems typically work best with a modular website design, that is, a design that consists of reusable components and patterns.
Within a CMS, general content editors will be able to create and modify pages, and the types of content being added will likely vary. Creating reusable design components helps to maintain a cohesive look throughout a website while still providing the user with options for how to display new content.
Keep content flexibleNot only should content components be reusable when designing for a CMS-based website, but they should also be flexible. This flexibility is beneficial to content editors, but can be challenging for designers.
While designing a page, consider what areas will likely need to be editable. Then, think about how the content might change and how that would affect the design. For example, if a text area is designed to look best at a specific height, what happens if a user adds more text? Or less text?
Typically, editable areas will benefit from a simplified design to account for flexible content. Find the right balance between creativity and flexibility that will work best for the needs of your website.
Think in terms of templatesWhile most websites use page templates, they are a necessity for most content management systems, where users often must choose a template for each new page created.
Before starting a design, plan out what templates will be needed for your website. How many unique page designs are needed? Which of those designs could be reused for other content?
The goal should be to provide enough options for both planned content and future content while keeping the amount of templates to a minimum. Too many templates can be hard to manage for developers and can be confusing for content editors.
Consider the technical level of the end-userThe technical expertise of the primary website content editors can change how you approach the design of certain elements.
For example, if there are editable areas where a special treatment has been added to images, will a general user be able to recreate it if they need to replace the image? Or, if there are special text or link styles within a content area, will the CMS allow editors to add those styles?
Paying attention to these types of details will help ensure you are designing pages that will maintain their design integrity when updated in the future.
Don’t overlook built-in featuresEach CMS has unique features, with many providing base elements that users can add to their website. For example, there might be form features, pagination, buttons, or other functional elements built into the system.
If your CMS has these types of features, don’t forget to create designs for any elements that could be in use on your website. While many CMS components have default styling, you’ll likely want to adjust the design to match the look and feel of the rest of your website. Ask your developers what types of functionality you need to account for during the design phase.
Ultimately, creating a flexible and template-focused design that is tailored towards the features of your website’s CMS will help to save time and effort down the line. Not only will it make your design more easily integrated with the CMS during development, but it will help to maintain a consistent design experience throughout any user-generated content.
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