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Project at the mercy of a CMS

Whilst picking tools to work with, oftentimes we neglect some of the factors that can greatly affect project’s desired outcome. We tend to chase the wrong rabbit, so to speak. Here’s my take on picking the best CMS for the job.

Developers & Designers Think Differently

Developers without a design background tend to think differently when it comes to software; their choices are often dictated by their technical experience and expertise with particular languages and frameworks. Here’s an example of what might matter to them.

  • Is the platform easy to dig into (API docs, simple structure)?
  • Is it still active (are updates/patches still being developed for it)?
  • Is it extensible?
  • Is it easy to maintain?
  • Does it have a large community of active users?

What they may not realise, is how often these questions asked too early during a project’s lifetime can quickly create obstacles, when they start to sacrifice goals of a project in favour of engineering requirements.

Designers are no better. Oftentimes they do not think about feasibility of their designs, disregarding the software engineering altogether. This may lead to frustration and is a quick way to a communication breakdown between design and development teams, not to mention that it creates more problems than it solves.

Software design is not just about pretty Photoshop mockups.

Looking For A Common Ground

What needs to happen then, is for designers and developers to find a common ground. One needs the insight of another, to figure out a good solution.

Whether you are a designer or developer, when looking for that perfect CMS, I suggest asking the following questions first:

  • Is [CMS] stable enough to use?
  • Is [CMS] easy enough for the client to use it on a daily basis?
  • Does [CMS] give us all the tools we need for the project?
  • What kinds of constraints will [CMS] impose on us (design or otherwise)?
  • Is [CMS] easy to maintain and support?

By getting answers to the above, you can filter out the software which won’t be suitable for your project from a broader point of view, getting you closer to the goal. Don’t focus on the details too early, as many engineering/design obstacles can be easily overcome. A poor software choice though (“because everyone uses WordPress for e-commerce”), can put your project in deep trouble further down the line.

In my opinion, CMS should not be dictating the UX and UI design. A platform needs to provide the support for your design decisions, not influence your way of designing around it (isn’t that why it’s called “a platform” in the first place?). At the same time, a designer needs to think about implications of his designs for software engineers.

When you start trading off either doable parts of your design or a well-engineered, but unknown software for a “peace of mind”, you will most likely end up with a half-baked product which neither you, nor the client will be happy about. Not to mention its users.

But that is not the outcome you were looking for, is it?