Wind back 20 years and most websites were static meaning they were built using desktop software programs or coded by hand by web designers. These days most websites have content management systems where unskilled or semi-skilled people can edit them. That’s a great natural progression, right? Well, not always…
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that we are advocates of websites with content management systems and sell them ourselves, and the purpose of this article is not to say that they are bad, but to highlight some issues that they have.
When a website designer creates a website they will produce brand guidelines with the website. In its simplest form this will show what colours and fonts are to be used in the document, for example, headings are dark red in Arial 12pt, and buttons are in a dark blue box with curved edges. These brand guidelines are carefully designed to ensure that the whole style of the site (and other media/literature) matches so that there is consistency in the website that contributes to a professional look across different media and literature that subtly tells the user that they are all related and helps build the brand.
Imagine a set of leaflets, each designed by someone different, each with a different colour scheme, font, shape, some with photos, some with cartoons, it would look a mess. This is what brand guidelines strive to eliminate.
So, a couple of decades ago the web designer was often solely responsible for updating a website, and as such would ensure that all changes adhered to the brand guidelines.
These days, a web agency can create a website, add a content management system for a client, and this can be updated by multiple people, with no design experience and possible without actually ever seeing the brand guidelines. The end result is that one page has a call to action highlighted in bright red, another as a big button, and another with a yellow background. The end result is that the professionally made brand guidelines have been broken, and the website starts to lose its professional appearance. We see this all the time.
So how is this prevented? Well here’s the tricky part. Some content management systems offer full flexibility, and literally give the clients a page builder where they can modify everything. This is great for the experienced user following brand guidelines, but can easily go wrong. Other content management systems are ‘locked down’ so that the users enter a title, description or testimonial and it is formatted automatically To keep the site adhering to the brand guidelines but offers less flexibility. There are of course lots of options in between, it’s a sliding scale.
Whether you have a flexible system such as WordPress’s Gutenberg, or something more restrictive such as a custom system where the web agency can decide what clients are given down to a colour or font box, there will always be advantages and compromises.
So which is best? As with most things in life, it depends on the site, the client, the number of content editors, their experience, and the brand guidelines.
Here at Webbed Feet, we work with pretty much every content management system, so can find one that fits the client.
We are Webbed Feet, we’re here to advise