18th July 2017

WordPress: A tailored admin experience

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WordPress. A CMS (content management system) we have all heard of and one you’ve probably had the pleasure, or displeasure of working with.

WordPress counts for over 27% of the web, which is equivalent to a mind-numbing 75,000,000 sites and is trusted as the backend solution for some industry-leading companies’ online content. And for good reason.

WordPress is and has been trusted by worldwide organisations including Spotify, TED, CNN, BBC, Sony Music, MTV, Playstation, eBay Inc., METRO.co.uk, Xerox, The Rolling Stones, The Wall Street Journal and so many more…

Love or hate WordPress — it’s undeniably a popular solution for managing your website thanks to its’ incredible community support, expandability and huge library of free (and premium) plugins built to enhance your website even further.

It truly is a remarkable CMS with a lot of capabilities and enough flexibility to make it adaptable to almost any industry, while remaining simple enough to maintain. But so many Developers and Agencies are doing it wrong. Which is affecting you, the customer.

So in this article I want to talk about “a tailored admin experience”. Why? Because so many businesses settle for less than they should, and I want to set a new standard MVP (minimum viable product) for WordPress sites. It’s what you the customer deserves. Right? I want to make you fall in love with WordPress — if you haven’t already.

I believe that thus far, most Content Editors and site admins find it difficult and time-consuming to update simple content on their websites, resulting in calls to Developers, which in turn send invoices for simple bug-fixes. Fixes for issues that should’ve never been there in the first place. Because of this, companies often resort to switching to other Developers only to have the same problem.

This isn’t the way it should be.

A website should be headache-free, easy to edit and maintain in the long run. A website is a crucial investment in creating an online identity for your business and should result in more sales or larger brand awareness with the right consultancy and guidance by your Web Developer or Agency. But if Content Editors are too scared to access the admin area to update and edit content, where is the benefit in that? Note that this applies to all CMS platforms, not just WordPress.

Does this look somewhat familiar? Unfortunately this is the sort of admin area that a lot of companies receive from their Web Developers when they spend good money on a new website with this apparent “CMS solution”. Doesn’t it looks messy? Yes.

This is an example of a cluttered, over-complicated admin area, packed with unnecessary plugins and no consideration for usability. Where do I click? And this is just a snapshot of the Plugins page. I stress, it gets so much worse. Many websites I have been handed over from clients that weren’t happy with their previous Website Developers have a similar issue. This issue, is when the Content Editor is trying to edit content on their website, which is supposed to be easy, because of your CMS. And yet, they find themselves delving into the code editor, to change static code (which you, the client, should NEVER have to do, or even access) because your Developer didn’t make the content manageable.

Why are so many Developers “implementing a CMS” but not making the content editable? That isn’t a rhetorical question. Truly, I want to know. Because the only thing WordPress is handy for in this scenario, is to add Pages (but not add any content) and upload images (but not display them without editing code). And Plugins on-top of other Plugins, is no good for anybody — and just requires maintenance.

You’ve paid professional Web Developer(s) to build your site and make it “future-proof”, with the ability for you to edit content on the fly. So you definitely don’t want to see this…

Unfortunately, same goes with developers that leave a WYSWYG editor for a client to edit. Because many Content Editors change fonts, colours, add tables etc. which can stray away from brand guidelines or can commonly cause layout issues. It’s a shortcut and doesn’t do the job.

By allowing yourself to maintain your website content through an admin area like this, you’re torturing yourself

What you deserve

You paid for your website. It wasn’t free. You paid a professional to be your consultant, to design your website and develop it to a high standard with a content management solution that allows you to edit your website with ease.

You expect a simple, intuitive admin area with access to edit your Pages, your News articles and other areas of your site. You may want to add testimonials to those pages, upload a photograph to an article, or modify the meta data to improve your SEO… You want flexibility and control.

You want the back-end of your website to reflect the needs of your business, to be on-par with the rest of your brand. You want it to be secure, whilst remaining accessible. You don’t want to log-in to Google Analytics elsewhere to view your latest stats, you want them in your admin area of your website. You want to change a piece of text, change a colour, add a button or upload a new image — without ever looking at HTML.

This is what “a tailored admin experience” is all about. It isn’t an out-of-the-box WordPress experience, nor is it a one-size-fits-all. It’s an interface that is tailored to the needs of YOUR particular business, not the needs of your competitors, or your Agencies’ client before you.

It’s an interface that is tailored to the needs of YOUR business, not the needs of your competitors, or your Agencies’ client before you.

If your company sells shoes, for example, you want a section in your admin area where you can add shoes. For each pair of shoes, you want to add details, like the type of shoes they are, the material, shoe sizes, colour options etc. This should be simple, straight-forward and require minimal effort for your Content Editors.

If your company publishes articles about the stock markets, you need a section to modify your articles, set expiration dates, schedule publications or feed in information from other sources. You want to allow users to share your content and track referrals.

Website Development is a specialism, it requires years of learning programming languages, understanding common user interaction and behaviour, accessibility, security, search engine optimisation, compatibility, responsiveness… The depth of knowledge is endless. A Website Developer like myself must take this knowledge and refine it, to be consultants for our clients, not just a one-stop shop for websites.

Website Developers must take this knowledge and refine it, to be consultants for our clients, not just a one-stop shop for websites.

For the last couple of years I’ve put as much effort and care into the admin experience as I have the public facing websites. I’ve done this by stripping away any unnecessary features and functionality that WordPress offers but my clients don’t need, to increase performance and strip away any confusing parts. I modify the look and feel to make the admin area visually appealing and friendly. Content areas are specific and share consistent layouts, accompanied with instructions to help new admins get around the site. Navigation is simplified. This serves as a ‘boilerplate’ or starting point for future projects to cut down time repeating this process.

This doesn’t stop here, years of experience has helped my team and I make every admin area as bulletproof as we can, and it’s something we are constantly monitoring and improving with every project.

So what’s tailored?

While I reuse this custom ‘boilerplate’ for each and every project, I make subtle improvements to tailor each site to individual clients. New sections are added to the admin area that are specifically created from the ground up, whether it be shoes or stocks. Brand colours are added throughout the admin area, other tools used by the client are implemented wherever possible — like Google Analytics. And I don’t just give them one single WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) text editor. I give them simple forms relevant to the content, and WYSIWYG editors are stripped down to the brand-specific formats and buttons.

The whole experience should feel bespoke, as though it’s a CMS made entirely just for you. It should feel so much like it’s your own product, that your forget it is running on what’s probably the most supported CMS platform in the world.

“Future-proof”? It’s just a buzz-word

Agencies around the world promise “Future-proof” websites. This is easier said than done, because as the web evolves, old technologies, techniques and tools become obsolete. Plugins become increasingly outdated, as does the version of the CMS. This causes insecurities if the website isn’t properly maintained. Agencies that present their solutions as “Future-proof” are misleading customers into thinking their websites aren’t going to break or become outdated overtime.

Companies don’t want to pay Agencies every couple of months to fix their websites or add functionality that they already thought was there. That’s why tailoring the admin area is important and it only requires some consultancy and up-front planning for the future.

A tailored admin area pays itself off in the long-run, because it will reduce any additional costs of hiring developers in the future. It also removes any restrictive barriers like a confusing admin area, that prevents you from delivering important messages, new products or content to your audiences, causing you to fall behind from your competitors.

With a tailored admin area, Content Editors will love their job, and your business will seriously benefit from that.

So what do you want out of your website?

If you know what you want out of your website, write a plan. Create a brief that scopes all of your desired functionality and control. Know what you expect and make it clear that this is what you want upfront (not towards the end of a project, as this just incurs extra costs).

Here at Creode we have a ‘Discovery Phase’ at the beginning of a project, where we listen to your needs as a business. In these sessions we provide professional advise and guidance, pointing you in the right direction to make the biggest impact with your new digital material. We want your business and online brand identity to thrive. So we listen, we strategise, we implement and we maintain.

 Your website is yours.

Creode is a Digital Agency based in Leeds & London, UK. We’re a team of experienced, passionate and dedicated digital specialists, specialising in WordPress, Drupal and Magento.