Impress with a custom CMS

Content management systems either come with the online platform you’re building your site with or as a custom developed database tool.

The first is set up in just a few clicks, with little or no technical knowledge needed. The custom-made CMS takes much more effort and technical skill. And although there are tools to speed up the development, it still requires a good understanding of databases.

So why choose the hard way? Simple: so you can offer your client a stripped-down CMS that is much easier to work with. It speeds up the task of updating the site, makes your client happy, and avoids the mistakes and frustration that result from a complex user interface.

Clients sometimes get overwhelmed by back-end systems found in WordPress, Joomla, and the like.

Some clients work several hours a day with your CMS, and it is very important for them to feel good about it. One of the things I do besides web design is UI/UX for corporate software, and it all comes down to achieving simplicity and beauty so the employee who has to work with it goes home happy at the end of the day.

Never underestimate the importance of the quality of the back-end system. It can make or break a relationship with your client.

Secondly, as mentioned in my blog post on learning programming languages, you’re less prone to hackers, as they mainly focus on widespread systems and/or sites with very sensitive data.

While writing your own CMS keep these things in mind:

  • Provide a versioning system. Clients are often afraid of making a mistake. It gives them peace of mind to know they can go one or more versions back.
  • Provide a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get). It’s a simple online text editor, like CKeditor or TinyMce, which lets you avoid having to type HTML code to style a text (font type, colour, size, …). Some even let you insert and upload images.
  • Make sure (by using the same CSS for your site and the editor) that the preview in your WYSIWYG editor matches the look of your site as closely as possible. It gives the client confidence in what he/she is doing.

Look for good CMS’s on the net, make screen shots, study them. Make mock-ups to convince prospects they should work with you.

Some tools to automate the creation of a CMS:

  • PHPMaker (my work horse, for over 15 years now)
  • Scriptcase
  • PHPRunner

A good CMS makes you stand out of the crowd and demonstrates your technical competence.

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