Why Content Management Systems are not a total solution
Why a Content Construction Kit can benefit web designers, content editors and end users
Any web designer worth their salt knows to separate content from presentation. Keeping presentation separate means content editors (the users responsible for editing and maintaining website content) can not change and subsequently break the style of your lovingly crafted website. That is the theory anyway!
CSS promoting this separation and helps the website designer to present a consistent brand and image through the use of a well designed website. This leaves the content editors to focus on managing content, by using a Content Management System. However this content that is being edited is still HTML, and no matter how much you try you cannot shield people from the underlying code.
Inevitably I will get calls after a website goes live such as "Why are my fonts not formatted correctly", "Why is my image not the correct size", "Why are my colours not correct". These are typical issues for website content editors who do not want to get their hands dirty with HTML.
The solution is simple, you eitherinvest time in learning and understanding HTML, an admirable choice, but not one favoured by everybody, or you look for a technological solution to the problem.
The solution that most clients don't realise they need is a Content Construction Kit. Let me give you a recent example of how a Content Construction Kit can benefit your business.
Client Case Study
This is not a failing of the user, but rather a failing of the CMS. Most of my clients are small to medium sized business who have enough demands on their time without having to resort to putting on another hat, namely that of website designer. In their defence, why should they have to resort to what is to them highly technical editing just to achieve a simple content change?
We sell the concept of a Content Management System as a solution to non technical users and tell them it will be easy for them to maintain their own sites. For certain scenarios this definitely can be the case, however throw in any advanced functionality and this premise quickly breaks down.
So, do we send all of our users on advanced HTML and CSS website design courses? Of course not, business owners do not want to be website designers or to know the intricacies of HTML. what we can do is provide them with a solution that provides the best of both worlds, that harnesses the designers knowledge of HTML/CSS whilst providing the content editor with the tools they require to manage and maintain that most valuable resource – their website content.
The website designer gets the flexibility they require, and the user gets the simplicity and ease of maintenance that they demand.
This piece of software that sits in between the users content and the content management system is called a Content Construction Kit or CCK.
In my opinion, it is not well named, but the term has stuck, so I will continue to use it. A CCK deals with content and the creation of it (i.e. fields, forms etc) but it really should be called a Content Templating Kit, as its most valuable feature is how it helps define and control the content to be input into a website, where it is input to, and how that content is (or is not) displayed.
In the example I cited previously, I had designed a product page for a client. This product page had seven images per page, several text fields, all with various forms of CSS styling, as well as references to thumbnails and full sized versions of the same images.
By utilising a CCK I created an “input form” for the client to input the required six full sized images. The CCK automatically resizes the images, creating not only the correctly sized preview images but also the thumbnail preview images. Anything that solves just this issue alone is of great benefit to both the designer and content editor.
As well as providing an input form for the user, the CCK also provides the ability to create an “content” template. The output from the content template is what the website user sees, and allows the website designer to take the information from the input form, integrate it with the required layout and graphics and display a perfectly formatted document.
The content creator is more productive, as they simply follow your instructions as defined in the “input form”. This reduces input and editing mistakes to virtually zero, and stops the user editing non-content related material.
The website designer is happy, because support calls are greatly reduced, and he/she does not have to worry about the user accidently changing some piece of code or HTML and breaking the website.
The end user of the website benefits as they get to see the website the way the designer envisaged. There is no risk of website users viewing badly formatted website content.