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Designed Content 1.1 - Understanding Beautiful Content

A lot of web sites have terrible looking, non-responsive, non-retina content. This is very common when non-designers (including programmers) manage the content - which is the core goal of a CMS. Let's change this once and for all!

This is the intro of my first series about beautiful content, in which I define what it's all about, the goals and ensure we're all on the same page. 

What is it about?

So when we talk about beautiful content, it's important that we're using the same terms and ideas before we start. So the goal is…

The web designer can empower the content editor, to easily and faultlessly manage content on a live web site, in as many languages as necessary, targeting current devices with minimal time and cost for both designer and editor. And both web designer and content-editors must easily re-use the content and apply changes when the future hits us with new devices, new requirements and new visualizations.

What does this mean?

  1. Web Designer: This is a person with HTML/CSS and maybe Razor know-how who is in charge of preparing the web site for the layman editor. The web designer knows image formats and sizes, understands mobile-design and retina-resolution images and can usually copy something existing and customize it to the customers needs.
  2. Empower: The web designer should not be required to add/edit images, texts, image galleries or any other normal content. So it's very important to work in such a way, that the content editor can work on his own.
  3. Content Editor: This role/person is in charge of content. They are under time pressure but have an idea of the text and pictures they want to add. They are usually neither web nor graphics designers and "just want to get the job done" as effortlessly as possible. They don't understand design, so if they f***-up, they won't know that they did and will save it anyhow. Their needs are simplicity and automatic-beauty.
    Even though the content-editor is not good at design, he still has some needs for trying different layouts.
  4. Content: Content is a wide assortment of text and media which only becomes meaningful in a specific arrangement on screen. Content is NOT data, so it should never feel like you have to edit a data-table when managing it. Content has very specific - constantly changing - needs to manage it - like handling file references and similar.
  5. Live Web Site: Most web sites are live, and changes are on the same system as almost nobody has time or resources to manage a separate staging system. We must always keep this in mind when we (the web pros) give the content-editors tools to work with.
  6. Many Languages: I used to think the Americans never need multilanguage because they didn't seem to care - while we Swiss always ask that when we evaluate a module. I was wrong. All web agencies I met in the states have ML web sites and fight with the same i18n (internationalization) issues like we do. And i18n is very complex - especially when you want to simplify content-lifecycle, so not just the first-time entry, but also future changes across languages.
  7. Minimal time and cost: Both web designers and content editors have a constant time pressure. And IT should help us get our jobs done ASAP.
  8. Re-use Content: Content is alive - and has a content-lifecycle. Because of this, it's often evil to copy content - because the copies won't get updated when the original content is modified. Because so product-summaries, addresses and must be re-usable in various displays and still be the same entity.
  9. The future hits us: Websites are moving targets - common changes in the future:
    1. new user devices require corrections in the HTML of EVERY link in the site
    2. changes in Google/SEO require corrections everywhere
    3. changes in the customer's needs (like a new customer-field linked to his customers in gallery images) require data and visualization changes

There is only one way to achieve this

 We must fully separate Content from the Presentation (the Template+ settings)! 

To do that, we need strategies and tools. This will be discussed in the next part.

With love from Switzerland,
Daniel 

Daniel Mettler grew up in the jungles of Indonesia and is founder and CEO of 2sic internet solutions in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, an 20-head web specialist with over 600 DNN projects since 1999. He is also chief architect of 2sxc (2SexyContent - see forge), an open source module for creating attractive content and DNN Apps.

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