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Web Development Tips For Web Solutions Management Server (previously RedDot CMS)

One(!) of my current projects is about to have some web development done prior to being built in Web Solutions Management Server (previously RedDot CMS) which has started me thinking about some of the lessons I have learnt through this process previously. Passing these tips on to whomever is doing the web development, whether it be yourself, a colleague or an outside agency should make your job a lot easier!

Tip 1 – Develop *outside* of the CMS

Web Solutions Management Server is *not* an IDE and you will only frustrate yourself trying to use it as one. Use your favourite tools and construct a plain HTML site first. Doing so provides numerous additional advantages:

  • You can use dedicated web development tools.
  • You can use dedicated version control software to track changes in the design.
  • Yuo can use diff tools to pinpoint changes to be made to the CMS implementation.
  • You can check display issues free from issues with the CMS implementation.
  • Iterating the design is much faster and less frustrating.

Obviously not an issue if you are using an agency unfamiliar with Web Solutions Management Server.

Tip 2 – Separate your CSS into files with and without images

Take your CSS file(s) and extract all of the background images into a single CSS file. Why? Because all of these will become image placeholders in the CMS. (In fact, anything that will become a placeholder should be in this file). Background image links will rarely change in the iterative process, but your CSS probably will – and this way you should be able to simply copy and paste over the other templates without worrying where the changes actually occurred or re-instating multitudes of image placeholders…

Tip 3 – Make sure you have examples of content permutations

You are building an author editable site, not a static brochure site right? So you should check the design for edge cases in the content:

  • Zero intances – what happens if there is no content in a particular area or areas?
  • One instance – we usually get this right, but it pays to check
  • Many instances – what happens with many instances?

Also, you should check that the order of the content doesn’t break anything or look wrong either. All of these issues will soon become apparent in your implementation. All are much more easily discovered and rectified before you start building in the CMS.

Tip 4 – Do a red dot version as well

Why buy one when you can buy two for twice the price? Incorporating the editing interface into a second version of your plain HTML site has a number of advantages:

  • It makes sure you have thought about the red dots up front and therefore determined to some extent the content classes that will need to be built.
  • It makes sure that there is space for the editing interface.
  • It prevents you from trying to design the red dot editing interface within the CMS (see Tip 1) which is bound to cause more CSS issues (see Tip 2)

Tip 5 – Surround content areas with DIV tags

By content areas I mean those that will later become text placeholders. This will allow you to style the content areas independently via class attributes on the DIV tags. You should probably style the DIV and P text the same, in case your P tags go missing. Make sure these content areas are styled based on the output of the Rich Text Editor or you will be fighting an uphill battle.

What tips do you have?

While it would be nice to be able to hold off implementation until all of the web development is complete, I have yet to see this happen. If nothing else, the implementation itself often leads to changes in the design. Rather than fighting change, here we at least try to minimise and control it.

Do you have any pre CMS build web development tips to share?

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About the author:

Adrian Mateljan Adrian Mateljan lives in Reading, United Kingdom but is actually an Australian hailing from Perth, Western Australia. Currently contracting in London specialising in RedDot CMS.


3 comments for “Web Development Tips For Web Solutions Management Server (previously RedDot CMS)”

  1. We often use a “sceleton project” to start a new development. Instead of creating each new project from scratch we import a starter project with already created folders, RedDot stylesheets, collection of re-usable templates (i.e. admin page, navigation components), defined publishing settings and some basic workflows.

    Posted by Irina Krasteleva | April 29, 2009, 4:32 am
  2. My tip is to use less Block Marks and Rendertags. The make your publishing slower.

    Design a user friendly SmartEdit page.

    Posted by D. Suma | May 6, 2009, 2:04 pm
  3. Great to see some valuable hints and tips being added!

    @Irina: A “skeleton project” is a great idea, and one I hope to see an article about here (and perhaps even a download) in the future. Care to contribute?

    @D. Suma: Simpler is indeed better – one of the joys of RedDot is balancing Block Marks, Render tags and user functionality! I imagine some example “friendly SmartEdit” would make a good article too. Anything in particular you recommend?

    @Everyone else: Keep’em coming!

    Posted by Adrian Mateljan | May 6, 2009, 2:55 pm

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