The static page template is dead; long live the flexible page template!
Ok, I’m being over-dramatic (always a possibility for us passionate geeky types), but there is a fundamental change afoot in how we’re approaching the concept of building CMS (Content Management System) websites for our clients.
The well-trodden method of building a different page template for each key page in a site – locking down the order and style of content based on pre-defined layouts – is giving way to a smarter, more flexible ‘framework’ approach. So, what’s the difference?
The traditional way to build a page template is to match up pre-designed areas in the page layout design with fields in the admin area of the CMS. The admin can add and change content within those areas, but cannot add additional areas or change the order the content appears in. This approach still has its place – a contact page for example, where the order really does need to stay fixed: an address, a map, a contact form. However, when this is used for other more ‘fluid’ pages and areas in the site such as About Us or Careers sections, the admin may become frustrated that as the content for these pages evolves over time, they’re still stuck with the original order and layout. What if they splash out on a beautiful video to promote a recruitment drive and find themselves stuck with a page template that has a fixed text header? Faced with this scenario, they would likely come back to us and ask for a new template to be built, which would take time and cost to develop. Or…
…we build them a flexible template system from the very start. In a flexible system, there is a ‘default’ page template available to the website admin which allows them to choose from a list of pre-designed content blocks and layouts, and they can add them in any order they want. Want a full frame video header of your soon-to-be-launched product followed by two columns of text? How about when the video is no longer relevant but you now have a gallery of your product launch event? No problem – you can choose the content blocks and then swap them in and out for others, delete or edit them whenever you want. The beauty of this approach – and what sets it apart from all those website-builder plugins out there – is that the content blocks have all been coded and designed to play nicely together. The admin can’t break the layout, change the brand styling or otherwise mess up the beautifully designed framework. It’s putting the focus back on the content and displaying it in the best possible way, without running the risk of a design disaster. In fact, we’ve found that the flexibility of this approach reduces the occurrences of awful WYSIWYG hacking that clients are sometimes guilty of (no, a bright red, all-caps italicised call to action shoe-horned into your gorgeous minimalist design is NOT cool).
The future is flexible
We’re really excited about this new, dynamic way of building page templates – we’ve seen the benefits in action and have had great feedback from clients who feel empowered and in control of their content – confident they’re not going to screw up their beautiful new investment. Obviously, caution must still exercised (hey, it’s our job to be brand police) but with the right training it can really bring a website to life and give it meaningful longevity in fast-moving markets.
Give us a shout today if you like the sound of this new approach – we’ll always be happy to give you a demo, show you how it works and talk you through the benefits it will bring your business.