Curse of the Redesign: Existing Content vs New Ideas

I can’t remember the last time I was involved in making a brand new website rather than an update or redesign. Maybe it’s just the sort of work we are suited to at Headscape and you may find differently.

A redesign often brings with it different challenges to making a site from scratch, one of these is challenging the client to provide new types of content. By sharing a vision of how their site could be it encourages clients to improve their site rather than continue with the same old processes.

Linked Content

One of the best ways to help users find relevant content on your site is to link to other pages that contain similar content or related subjects. You’ll probably know this best from “tags” which often appear on blogs like this one.

Over the years I have encountered both ends of the spectrum for related content.

No Relationships

It maybe that the current CMS does not allow it or it maybe that it was never thought of, but I have come across sites where there is no data linking any of the content.

Clients always see the benefit of doing this going forward but it is often hard to convince them to invest time in going over old pages and adding tags or links to other content. This doesn’t have to be an arduous task that is done in a single sitting, encourage people to tackle a small section at a time and share the work load around.

Too Many Relationships

Over time lists of tags can become over populated and some tags have been added twice with minor spelling differences. A complete audit of tags or other ways of linking content should be carried out to streamline the process and make it easier for both content editors and site users to navigate between related items.

Limiting the number of tags editors are allowed to choose is also a good way to focus them on the important ones rather than lots being selected as they don’t want to miss anything out.

Likewise on the front end do not output a huge long list of related content. Optimally 10 at maximum and then offer a way to “see all related content” through a pre filtered listing page.

Social Media

Now social media has been around long enough that the majority of people are using it and using it to consume content and communicate with other people and companies it is an area that should not be missed.

There are many good tools for automating Tweets for example, such as Buffer, and the major CMS provider, and I’m sure smaller ones, offer ways to automatically post new and updated content to various social media channels.

If the client is not used to using social media as a marketing channel it may seem like a lot of effort and another area of work. But introducing them to some automated tools will hopefully show them it needn’t be as much extra work as anticipated.

Images

I would say the one type of content that clients find the most challenging to add to a website is imagery. This is probably due to good quality images being hard to find and also tricky to convey exactly what a page is about in a single image.

Most people can at least write some words to populate a page but taking good quality images is a lot harder. There are the stock photography sites but these are often cliched and over used. At the design we often help the client source images to get them started.

It may not always be possible to find an appropriate image or the page may not need one. The two options here are to either ensure the design works without an image. We often have banner images as an optional field. The other is to ensure that any placeholder images fit in well with the overall design, at all screen resolutions, and will will not be too distracting if used multiple times.

Trying It Out

By adding new elements to a design it can really liven things up and improve the overall look and feel of a site. My only word of caution is to make sure that the client can keep producing content with the new elements. For example if your design falls over when there are too many placeholder images and the client can’t produce new imagery you may have to reconsider that aspect.

CodeIgniter based Fuel CMS

I recentley discovered a new CMS called Fuel. It is based on the PHP framework CodeIgniter and I feel it has huge potential.

Below is a post I added to the Fuel forums on why Fuel differs from other CMS systems.

When I start a project I tend to go for WordPress if a need a general blog / CMS and then if the project is a little more bespoke I will go for CodeIgniter.

Sometimes with a WordPress project it will be 90% CMS and 10% something that isn’t included or there are no plugins for. For this I will create my own plugin.

Then there is the other angle where the bespoke project needs some basic content e.g. about page, links etc.

This is where I feel Fuel really shines. Having all the functionality of CI for the more complex pages is extremely useful and the client need never be involved in this pages. Or if they do need to somehow control these ages such as through adding items to a database it is made very simple through the admin modules.

The modules also make it very quick to create the forms for users to enter and edit the data.

As admin said the others have a larger user base, but I feel this is primarily down to the fact they have been around longer. If you look at Fuel in conjunction with CI then there is actually a vast amount of libraries and contributions as well as documentation.

The only slightly negative thing I have felt so far is that the documentation is not as mature as I would hope. Although the speed and helpfulness of the admin in answering questions has meant that in a short space of time I have got really far in my first Fuel based project.

As I become more knowledgable with Fuel I will be looking to add to the documentation myself, which is exactly how all the other open source projects have evolved into the successes that they are.

I’m sure there will still be times where I use WordPress or a straight CI application, or possibly other frameworks, for projects but I already have two projects in mind that will be based in Fuel and I’m sure many more to follow.

The Fuel website, along with the forum and documentation can be found at http://www.getfuelcms.com/

Or you can download Fuel on GitHub https://github.com/daylightstudio/FUEL-CMS