In Web Design

Every website project begins with a design phase that focuses on information architecture and the user experience. It’s all about sitemaps, wireframes, functional specification documents, technical requirements and design mockups. Each stakeholder provides his/her input to craft the form and function of the site with the focus on the end-user: the customer.

But there’s another end-user that is often overlooked—the website administrator. And that’s just one reason you need a well-designed backend administration platform in the ever-evolving world of web design.

How It Used to Be
In the early days of website development, sites were static. Each page had to be maintained separately, and all changes were funneled to the webmaster, the individual with in-depth know-how of web programming languages. Not much thought had to be given to the user experience for maintaining the site; it was up to the preferences of the webmaster.

Then dynamic sites were born, and with that enhancement came the web Content Management System (CMS). No longer were site updates relegated to the programmer. Now ordinary users could become contributors and manage content through a web-based interface. At first, these systems were relatively simple: a dialog box to accept log-in credentials, a link to edit the page and a familiar WYSIWYG input area to record updates.

Why Everything Changed
Soon, the web itself became much more dynamic. Social networking was born. Content reigned as king, and sites required continual updates. The CMS admin menu grew from a few functions to a laundry list of links for each feature. The team expanded from a single webmaster to contributors, authors, editors, content managers, community builders—all needing the ability to create, edit, enhance, post, approve, tweet, pin, etc.

Often, different platforms were cobbled together, resulting in a different experience for each function. Mostly, the users accepted the inadequate functionality. There was so much to do and little time to make modifications to the backend. Having an attractive admin area seemed like a luxury they could only dream of.

What’s Important Now?
Relegating backend admin to the back burner seems a strange rationalization, especially when you consider these four important questions.

  1. Isn’t the reason for using a CMS usually based on achieving some sort of ROI by increasing efficiency and actually producing content for the website?
  2. Shouldn’t the user interface be optimized to make tasks as easy and comfortable as possible?
  3. Aren’t the internal customers who spend their day deep in the CMS entitled to a little user experience enhancement?
  4. Shouldn’t the CMS be a tool that supports the content management process?

What Are Your Options?
With the demand for CMS increasing, a diversity of open-source systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have entered the arena with admin dashboards and interfaces designed to be useful and aesthetically pleasing. Besides plug-ins built to add required functionality, there are pre-designed templates that can be applied to the admin area to give it a look and feel from minimalist to extra glossy.

Another option is to rely on a professional team, like Dana’s interactive group, to build a custom CMS and pay special attention to admin design elements like colors and fonts, plus functional elements like process flow and user personalization. Whatever option you choose, you’ll have your backend administration covered and you can answer YES to those four key questions above.

For more about interactive strategies, contact Chris Buckelew at 609.466.9187 x131 or

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