web content management systems from a designer’s perspective

CMS brings content centralization, rich functionality, and easily puts management into a client’s hands. Most CMS’s out there have large designer/developer communities (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, Expression Engine).

Scott Fegette
Chris Charlton
13 March 2010

CMS comes in two flavors: run-time systems (built at each request) and publish-time system (cached at publish time and statically delivered). Different CMS’s give different levels of control over style/theme management. And some CMS’s are easy to deploy, others require more in-depth setup.

Designers are no longer designing for static unchanging interfaces: navigational states, presentational states, logical states, dynamic content. Design hits the road as a “theme” inside a CMS; a theme is an encapsulated design system that allows for fast iteration. A theme is a directory structure with files described by metadata (identifies parts of theme to system).

Designers can use different workflows to get a theme built:

  1. Use the default/baseline theme for markup (design inside CSS layer primarily, working ‘within the box’). This does not give a designer control over dymanic classes.
  2. Start from an HTML/CSS comp that can be integrated directly into PHP. There are fewer constraints this way, but more risk to a non-code-savvy designer. Also requires learning the API of a system.

3 replies on “web content management systems from a designer’s perspective”

  1. Stopped taking notes on this and left. Didn’t realize I would be attending CMS 101. Thought this would be a discussion of higher level concepts / challenges so a designer could take total advantage of a CMS. Would have been helpful if a description was listed for this one.

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