One of the biggest pain points I see when looking at a prospective client’s website is the structure and ease of use in the backend of their CMS. Many times we’re brought on retainer to make edits because the complexity or confusion of how their WordPress, Magento or Shopify is set up for their success.
A big focus of ours when building a website is not only to design a beautiful frontend UX for our client’s customers or viewers, but also to create an experience in the backend that allows for that client to make edits and changes freely without a technical tether.
It’s our job to deliver something that has the flexibility, structure, and overall ability to be manipulated without breaking the experience or causing headaches in the process.
In this post I will walk through a few things we do with WordPress to ensure structure in the CMS is as easy as a cake walk:
Advanced Custom Fields
One of the most obvious and highest used plugins on the WordPress market is Advanced Custom Fields, or ACF. Almost every site we work with and build utilizes custom fields, and this plugin allows our strategies to come to life. It allows you to set up snippets of code that then take your input, then output them on the frontend. For example, let’s say you wanted to swap an image on your site. The input for this would be as easy as this:
This is a very rudimentary example, but to understand the basics of ACF is important in then seeing the bigger picture. We structure every page on the site this way, allowing our clients to edit their web pages as if they were editing a Word document or their facebook page.
The next strategy we use when designing our clients’ CMS experience is not a plugin, but an extension of ACF called Flexible Content.
What this means is that content can be put into what I refer to as buckets, or similar to a drag and drop experience (without all of the speed and usability issues you get from a theme).
Picture it this way: I have a block of content at the bottom of my page that I need to move to the top. I can then go into my CMS and edit my page, and drag that section above other sections. Then, let’s say I need to add a section for testimonials, but it’s not on the page. We would then go into our bucket of sections and pull out testimonials, and add it to the page:
This helps client build out pages to be different if they please. Common errors with other developers come from a stranglehold on page templates, where nothing can budge or change except the written word or images used.
You can find a tutorial on flexible content for ACF here.
My final suggestion for anyone looking to optimize their CMS experience in a new website build has to do with backend performance, updates, and overall upkeep of any WordPress site.
It is important to always update WordPress, plugins, and themes when you can as to not remain vulnerable and gain all the new features that come with any new updates.
One of the ways you can do this is to hire a developer on retainer, or simple set reminders for yourself to go in and update any plugins that need it, and look out for those hefty WordPress core updates:
Keep in mind that not every update will work well with your site, so it is recommended to perform updates in a staging environment to test them, or to create a backup of the site before triggering any auto updates.
WP Engine offers a very easy and safe environment for your site if you host with them, and creates daily backups that can be easily reverted to if your site reacts poorly to an update.
If you’re a developer or someone who is building a site for a client, I urge you greatly to use my methods above to make the experience as great as you can for your client. If you are someone who is currently in the middle of a site build for themselves, make sure you are getting the most out of your CMS in the long run, and look for the ability to manipulate and succeed on your own!