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Web Design Fundamentals is a survey of Web design and development techniques and technologies, fundamental concepts, terms, and best practices involved in professional web design. Instructor James Williamson examines popular web development tools, server-side software solutions, content management solutions, and cloud-based software, providing a high-level overview of the world of Web publishing.
The use of Content Management Systems, or CMSes, is an increasingly popular way to create and manage sites. Creating websites manually can be a long and sometimes complicated process. In fact, in many cases, it's just the beginning of what the client needs. Most websites change frequently and it's not uncommon to have a client request the ability to update, add and alter the content and functionality of their website. If you have a client that needs to update their website frequently, wants control over the updating process themselves, or requires additional features and functionality, a CMS can help make this entire process easier.
A Content Management Systems, or CMS, is an application that helps control the creation, publishing, and archiving of your site's content. A good CMS can speed up the creation of sites, make updating, and creating new content easier and less technical, create groups of users that have varying degrees of control over site content and easily allow added site functionality by installing prebuilt modules. Let's take a quick look at the typical workflow involved when working with a CMS. As a designer, you can create a template, or a series of templates, to control the layout and the design of the site.
Many CMSs separate page regions as well, allowing you to design multiple headers, footers, and content regions that can be assembled into custom pages later. The content for the site is then ingested into the CMS and stored into a database. This can be anything from text, images, or even multimedia. Now the content can be added as pages are created or uploaded separately. To create a page, you choose a template and then assemble the elements that you want onto the page or you can add content through the use of the CMSes Page Editor, which is typically a WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get, editor that resembles using a word processor.
Now as you create pages, you can also use the CMS to structure the site and build navigation. As a designer, this can make creating and deploying sites incredibly fast. For most web designers, the real benefits of the CMS are what they allow you do after the site is published. Updating page content is usually done through the WYSIWYG editor, allowing non-web designers and non-technical people to update the site's content. Depending upon how you organize the site, you can turn site management over to the client entirely.
CMSes also allow you to extend the function of your site in powerful ways. Often just installing modules or plug- ins will allow you to add things like blogging, ecommerce, calendars, are other features to your site. This ability often allows you to scale up a site's functionality without having to engage a development team or add additional skills on your own. So CMSes sound great, right? Well, yeah, but just like anything else they have their pros and corns. Setting up a Content Management System can be complicated, so expect a learning curve when setting up and managing any CMS for the first time.
Some CMSes drastically limit the amount of customization you can do to page design or the number of page layouts available, which many designers find frustrating. Bottom line, don't expect to be up and running with a CMS without prior web design experience. Like anything else, make sure you research Content Management Systems thoroughly before deciding to use one. Here are few things to consider when choosing a Content Management Systems. Make sure the CMSes core focus matches the focus of your site. Some CMSes were built with blogging in mind others with ecommerce and others still with overall site control.
If a client wants blogging at a core of their site, one of the many blogging CMSes may be the best choice. However, if their needs change or if they want a good deal of extra functionality, you might limit yourself with the wrong Content Management System. Now with this in mind, take a close look at the modules or plug-ins available for any CMS. These modules can scale up of site's capabilities quickly, but if they're poorly written or hard to integrate, they can slow a site down and disable it entirely. That's not something you want to find out after already committing to a solution.
Also, make sure your CMS has adequate support. If you are setting up and working with the Content Management System for the first time, you are going to need some help. Make sure you can get answers to problems quickly and correctly. Another question you want ask yourself: is an open-source or vendor specific CMS right for you? Open-source Content Management Systems are often free and they offer a low-cost way to get up and running. Like most things, in open-source however, you're often on your own on configuring and customizing your CMS. Now, a CMS offered by the vendor often offers 24 hour support and can be configured out-of-the-box to meet your needs.
These are more expensive so you might not have the budget for that option, depending upon your client. If you're planning on doing it yourself, make sure the CMS is easy to install and configure. Take some time to investigate the administrative features of the page editor as well. If you're planning on turning over site updates to your client, the administrator pages and editors should be simple and easy to use. Finally, as a web designer, you're probably going to want a high degree of control over the layout and design of your site. Make sure you choose a CMS that allows a high degree of customization and control over templates and the site's CSS.
Being tied to specific layout or template with no option to change it will be very frustrating for most designers and will likely result in unhappy clients when they request design changes throughout the site. If you want to learn more about CMSes, I suggest going straight to the source. Some of the most popular CMSes on the market today are ExpressionEngine, Frog, Drupal, Joomla, Movable Type, Radiant, and WordPress. I recommend exploring those CMSes for an overview of their capabilities and then spend some time taking a closer look at their support and user communities.
With a little research, you should have a good idea as to which CMS is right for you. One final thing. For your first CMS-driven site, I recommend utilizing a consultant. A consultant, whether an agency or freelance developer, can assist you with the installation, give you expert advice on how to control the CMS's functionality and even assist you in choosing the Content Management System that's right for your needs. It's a great way to get your feet wet with your first CMS-driven site without having to figure out everything yourself the first time.
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