Developing and Designing for Change

April 29, 2011

Topics: Web Development.

One of the main reasons for using a content management system (CMS) is that it can provide great advantages for future growth. Having the easy ability to extend your software to create new types of documents (as with WordPress’ custom post types), or to simply add new pages and new features without needing to scrap everything you currently have is a huge advantage.

However, much of that advantage can be lost through poor planning.

If you have any thoughts — at all — that you might want to add additional content to your web site in the future, it’s really not a bad idea to start planning right away when you’re building your web site. A little forethought now can save a lot of trouble down the road.

It’s not necessarily the case that your problem will be absolutely and insurmountably limiting — in fact, that’s extremely unlikely. It is very likely that it will be an inconvenience which will cost you time and money.

For example, let’s think about the most basic key element of your web site: the navigation. If you’re making changes to your web site which included adding, re-naming, or removing documents, you’re going to be making changes to the main navigation. With that in mind, does it make more sense to take the CMS navigation and style it to do what you need, or to remove it and replace it with a static menu that looks like you want it to?

Realistically, you can probably have it both ways — in my experience, a skilled web developer can take CMS output and make it look however you want. But I’ve certainly encountered many circumstances where that simply wasn’t what was done — which made later changes significantly harder than they needed to be.

This is just intended to be a quick post, so I’m not going to go into extensive details on all the possible ways that you can fail to plan for future changes on a web site — but I do want to make a few quick points:

  • Unless you’re planning on your business failing, you should always assume that your web site will grow and change.
  • Your web site will never be finished. It is a living document.
  • You should always be prepared to simplify. Change is not always additive. Removing the right things can be a huge benefit.
  • While building a new web site, it’s not at all unreasonable to ask your developer how much work it would be to change “x”, where “x” is something you may want to do next year. But it’s probably better to find out even sooner.

However much planning you do, not every change will be quick and easy. However, even though a complete redesign will always be a lot of work, adding a new page shouldn’t be.

5 Comments to “Developing and Designing for Change”

  1. Good article Joe, I’m a big believer in using content managemet systems for web design. Giving your clients the ability to update, add and change the content of their website is a huge plus. Having the website grow with your business just makes good sense and with a CMS like WordPress you can do so much with your website once you know how to use it.

  2. Put so very well! I am thankful to hear that and will always try to plan,plan,plan. I am eagerly reading more and more on your site as I am new to this world of online business. Thanks for the information it is greatly needed.

  3. Excellent post that will remind us to really sit through our website design. It doesn’t stop at just looking great. You’re correct in that we have to plan for change, especially when there is potential growth.

  4. As a web designer I’ve recently begun using WordPress and other CMS a lot more now than ever before. I can modify it to make it look completely unique while still giving me the advantage of being very robust and easy to manage. Plus the list of extensions is HUGE, there is one for practically ever need. Why reinvent the wheel?

  5. It’s important for websites to evolve. Products, services, and personnel are continually changing. A website needs to be updated frequently. The worst thing that a website or a blog can do is have outdated information.