When you decide to pull the trigger on a new website design, you’re often heavily, if not exclusively, focused on how it’s going to look and behave on the front-end. You’re assured by your chosen design agency that they use a world-class content management system (CMS), which will give you a smooth back-end admin experience. Cool, you think, I’m set. And, in some cases, you’d be right.
Here at Solamar, we use the WordPress CMS for all of our sites and for good reason. It is about as easy for clients to use as it gets. But that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect out of the box. It will handle all of your basic CMS tasks just fine, but it’s only as good as the theme you lay on top of it, and you can make that theme as more or less customizable as you like.
A website should be able to grow and adapt with you, and that means the more updatable and alterable the theme is after it is delivered to the client, the better (without overdoing it). For instance, your new site has a beautiful large hero image across the top of the home page, but a year in you decide to switch your brand up and need to change it. If it’s hard-coded into theme, you’re out of luck unless you know how to code or want to purchase more time from your agency. It would be much better if a custom interface was created that allowed you to use the built-in WordPress media library to swap out the image yourself.
In order to design and build sites with admin interfaces that are just as tailored to the client as the front-end design is, here are a few things we do.
Enlist A Helper
Build custom admin interfaces from scratch can be a time-consuming process, but thankfully there is a fantastic WordPress plugin called Advanced Custom Fields Pro that makes spinning up new interfaces a snap. With this plugin, we can create almost any interface we can imagine. This gives us the flexibility to create highly customizable layouts for the client without them needing to have a bit of coding experience, while simultaneously avoiding the kind of bloat that “page-builder” type themes and services like Squarespace and Visual Composer load you up with.
Always Think About Post
At every stage of the web design/development process, the end user’s experience should be considered. The project manager should have conversations with the client about what kind of customization ability they need or expect. The graphic designer should be creating layouts that don’t require too many elements that would need to be coded in such a way that they wouldn’t be customizable (as much as possible, there will always be some things that are better hard-coded, and then as the developer builds those layouts they should be constantly asking themselves, “Will the user need to / be able to alter this?” If the answer is yes, then those interfaces should be built alongside the actual structure of the site, and delivered fully customizable.
Don’t Over Do It
Just because you can make something customizable, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. It is totally possible to over-crowd and over-complicate your interfaces in the name of customization that will rarely or never be used. For instance, you could make it so that every element of the site has a color-picker on the back end, so that the client could change the color of anything to any color they want at any time. But most brands have a consistent color scheme, and would only need to change their site’s element colors once in a very long while, if ever. Giving them the ability to do so would only clutter the interface, making it more confusing, while increasing the time it takes for you to produce it.
Want to work with a team that thinks about every aspect of a website build, not just the flashy design stuff? Give the Solamar crew a shout!