This is a touchy subject and I have seen many designers and web developers fall out on it. As a designer you want to encompass good design principal. This is based on a thorough review of the sites visitors using user profiling and the company’s own brand guidelines (the companies marketing director wouldn’t let you get away with anything else!). Included in this you will probably throw in some good sense common design practices.
The problem with your great designs is that they probably are not compatible with a content managed website and this is where you and the developer fall out. From the other side of the company the IT department has its own stake in this project. Why should I worry about the IT department? I am in design, IT knows nothing about design! That may be so but IT’s vested interest in the website is not having to use their only development resource to change content on the website but instead making it a job for marketing. Probably the main reason why the project took place was because IT funded it out if its budget and marketing came along for the ride. This means that IT wants a worth while return on their investment and that means a site that is easy to update using a content management application.
So IT wants a content managed website, what does this mean?
A content managed website is a site that enables non technical users (people who do not need to know HTML code) to change content on the website. This may sound rather simple. When you as a designer introduce a wonderful design which has images as its titles and text spaced out carefully over different colour backgrounds it can produce some severe issues when it comes to Content Management. Content Management no matter what product you use is usually based on templates. These templates are based on the design and have place holders in them for the content management system to insert the users’ content such as the title, body text, description etc. When each bit of content doesn’t follow a strongly defined template approach that is arguments start with developers. What can be done to get around this issue?
The first thing is to talk to the lead content management developer and include him in any display of initial concepts you have. He will let you know if something is going to be an issue. Remember that while marketing and the rest of the company will love the initial design. If changing content becomes a nightmare you may find that 6 months down the line your design actually gets simplified to enable the content management to work correctly. This usually involves removing those nicely anti aliased images you used as titles on the site and replacing them with normal text. When you think of a content managed website forget the idea that the web is just an online version of the company brochure, because it really isn’t. There is no typesetter who shortens the text to make sure it fits into the little boxes of content you have put into your design. The company may have a press release that needs to be identical online as it is on print and your design might hinder this being displayed correctly when they enter the text. When putting the design together think about streaming text always bear in mind that you will never be able to limit the amount of text to your design, your design should adapt easily to accommodate extra text and the text should flow naturally. So to sum up
• When creating your design always talk to the content management developer.
• Title that use fancy fonts are difficult to content manage if they are images try and find a font that is available on the majority of desktop machine or use a technology such as sFIR (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement is a technology that allows you to replace text elements on screen with Flash equivalents).
• Try to think of designs as templates that can be reused if you are creating designs for pages that contain news articles try and stick to one type of template and not multiple types off news articles.
• Think ahead when you create your designs while the design you leave behind will be all singing and dancing. To maintain this look and feel may not be possible and who ever inherits what you have done will inevitably simplify it.
• Create designs that do not restrict text to a certain size. If a design you create for displaying news articles will only display 200 words and the news article the that needs to be published is 400 words, they are not going to shorten it.