Design Easy-to-Manage Websites

When designing a new site it is always important to think how it will perform. But few people think that it should be easy to edit the site, but they need to, because they will have to, sooner or later. Let's see what we can do when designing a new site to make sure it will be easy to maintain.

Benefits of easy-to-edit websites

Actually, there is onle one huge benefit of easily manageable websites. The thing is that a site, which is easy to maintain, will require less time to adjust. This should not only save you some time, but also money, because time is money.

When the goal is to save time, basically everything should be aimed at relieving the amount of site maintenance.

Basic principles

Before we go into details what exactly you need to be do to design an easy-to-manage website, let's point out several principles of easy maintenance:

  • you need to able to find what is to be edited easily
  • you should edit the least data to adjust the entire site
  • it should be easy to use the technologies, used on your site

Finding what to change

It is important to find what to change before actually doing anything. Although simple, sometimes it is relatively hard to do. This aspect is greatly affected by the technology, used on a site.

Take tables for visual layout, for example. If we want to make one block a bit wider and another a bit narrower, we need to find them in the code first. This can be difficult if there are no comments or other identifiers left. When using CSS, finding the require block is easy, first of all, because there is much less code and it is organized and, secondly, because there are unique identifiers and classes, which make finding them a piece of cake. SSI make finding the right piece to adjust really simple as well.

Actual adjustment work

Although, most often, changes affect the entire site, the actual amount of work involved may be drastically different. Here are a couple of examples:

  • you need to adjust top navigation on a site without includes
  • you want to change the look of the right column
  • you have to tweak a border color of the content area

Each of these situations, if the technologies were used improperly, may result in hours of routine work. However, when the site was designed with the web standards and the proper use of the technologies, like CSS, editing the site may be astonishingly easy.

In the examples above, if no SSI were used, it'd require to adjust the top navigation or do anything else by hand in every single file. However, if the Server Side Includes were used, it'd be much easier. Also, if tables were used in the above examples, the web designer would need to find the place to adjust in the HTML code, which would require some time. However, with XHTML / CSS it would be a matter of seconds.

Usable technology

The main factor, contributing to site maintenance is the technology used. There are several efficient ones:

  • SSI (Server Side Includes) for including the same file in numerous files
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to manage styling through the site
  • PHP to create dynamic webpages
  • SSI can make a web designer's life easier by allowing him or her to include the same file (a block of text, for instance) in numerous files. In this case, only the included file will need to be adjusted to change it's content in all the other files.

    CSS can be used to manage site styling easily. With CSS, you can apply similar styling to a similar element (a heading, for instance) throughout the site and to edit the heading on all of your pages, you'll only need to edit just a single string of code in a single file .

    PHP, though a bit more complex than HTML, can be used to create simple scripts and to show dynamically obtained data on your pages.

    Each or every of the above technologies can be used to make a site easy to manage by a single person.

    Summary

    Best of all, the ease of site use should be considered before it is designed. Of course, the site should not be limited by a technology, but our current ones are not really limiting and offer great flexibility, like the technologies mentioned above.

    Of course, the one, who is responsible for developing a site and further site maintenance, should make a decision how well-structured a web site can be, as it is or that she will spend less or more time, working on a site later. However, should senior management acknowledge a need for site maintenance simplification, the choices of how a website will be designed can be made from above.

    The above principles and technologies of creating an easy-to-edit website can greatly reduce the amount of work, required to maintain a website. However, most of efforts are determined by the web designer himself.