Your clients don’t know HTML

After doing many websites, sheer experience tells us a lot can be done just using XHTML, CSS and Javascript. If you are doing it for yourself and maintaining the site yourself, it’s easy, but if you are handing it over to your clients who do not know HTML and will be updating the site using a CMS, things can get a abit tricky on how you go about on your XHTML and CSS.

Clients (the normal kind) do not know HTML and they usually manage content of their website via WYSIWYG editors in the CMS. The common WYSIWYG editors that are used by popular CMSs are like TinyMCE (used by WordPress, Joomla, Squarespace, Interwoven, Umbraco andámore) andáCKEditor (used by MailChimp, DotNetNuke, FatWire and more).

The following are the most common stuff your clients will do:

  1. Add headings – Titles, subtitles
  2. Add paragraphs of text – with bold, italics, underlines, links + sometimes different font colours for highlighting text
  3. Add images – left and right align and sometimes with links or captions. upon click, some might even launch a larger view
  4. Add list items – ordered and unordered
  5. Add Tabular content – for displaying data, not meant for layout
  6. Highlight Quotes – to highlight specific catchy phrases
  7. Maintain Definition lists – glossary like content, but used rarely
  8. Create Forms – rarely, but maybe

So we need to ask ourselves, if our clients don’t know HTML or CSS, will they be able to achieve the layout we proposed?áJason Santa Maria’s articles are beautiful. They are what I call handcrafted pages. I’m sure your clients won’t be able to do that with a normal CMS implementation.

So when marking up XHTML and CSS for client managed content, we should always think of using the basic default HTML elements. But of cause if really really need be, these WYSIWYG editors mostly allow custom CSS class declarations, but don’t expect your clients to remember applying classes to many many items on one content page. Having a CMS is meant to be easy for maintenance for them.

So when designing a template, do make sure in the content area, all the basic HTML elements that will be used by the WYSIWYG editor is declared and styled. If you want a quick start, have a look at MollioTripoli, BlueTrip and HTML-Ipsum.

I’ve always told myself, if my clients knew advance HTML and CSS… i’ll probably be out of a job soon.

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