Websites are not going away. They are now the repository and the center of your information and how such information can spread to all your social media channels. How then, would you design your websites for social and mobile audiences?
Way back in 1996, when we first started consulting for government and multinational corporations to help launch their websites and host them on our servers, it was a tedious world where we authored websites with clean, elegant HTML code by hand. Yes, we were writing HTML (hypertext markup language) line by line.
There was no CSS (cascading style sheets), so everything were encased within the HTML code. Even back then, we designed websites that were accessible to as many users as possible. It was our philosophy that the Web belonged to all, not to a few – as with the founding principles of the honorable Sir Tim Berners Lee himself, the inventor of the World Wide Web. One of the most elegantly designed OS, the NeXTSTEP (the precursor to today’s Mac OS X), was used by Sir Tim to design the first web browser, the first web page editor, and the first web server from.
And through the years, I stuck to writing web pages by hand, using nothing more than BBEdit, a programmers’ text editor. That was crazy to most, but the code was clean and human readable, unlike the code generated by the complex website authoring tools such as Dreamweaver. I have tried the full gamut of web authoring tools, visual or textual, including Adobe PageMill, Claris Home Page, Symantec Visual Page, NetObjects Fusion, Adobe GoLive, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Sandvox, Freeway Pro, and so on, but a simple programmers’ text editor just “clicked” with me.
All that changed when I was too busy to maintain websites by hand, and had to look for a new way to write web pages and maintain them not as singular pages, but through a content management system (CMS).
I studied the landscape of available CMS, and settled with WordPress, which is extensible and reasonable in daily use. There are many flaws with WordPress, but there are always plugins to plug whatever shortcomings there may be. The code is not as elegant as clean handwritten HTML code, but with the availability of faster and redundant web hosts these days, complex code can be made to run fast enough. And if more speed is desired to create better user experiences, there is the cloud to provide more availability and more redundancy, such as Amazon Cloudfront/S3 and the likes of Cloudflare. There is no perfect CMS or web content platform, but I can live with WordPress.
I was using WordPress and plugins such as WPTouch Pro to create desktop/tablet-friendly websites while repurposing the same content for smartphones (such as iPhones, Android and Windows Phone). However, with every tweak to the platform, sometimes the extensible mobile plugins would have some troubles with another plugin or a visual theme, and troubleshooting became a “black art” that would take more time than I like.
Then I started investigating “responsive” themes, which are themes that intelligently scales visual and textual content based on the target platforms, whether desktop, tablet, or smartphone. More and more WordPress themes are re-designed to be “responsive”, while newer themes are already designed this way. It just makes more sense to me. You can find free ones at WordPress, and you can search for commercial (paid) responsive themes online.
There is a small caveat, you may have to drop some widgets and streamline the design to be more readable in a vertical “long” format since the headers, textual and visual content, widgets, etc, will now flow in a long single column for smartphones. But design tweaks and some widget compromises are worth it when you appreciate the elegance of the responsive themes and lesser troubleshooting with one less item to worry about.
If you are going with the CMS model for your website delivery, think “responsive”, think mobile.
PS – If you think I have retired my BBEdit, I haven’t. I still use it every day, to write these blog articles, to write news releases from (and not using a traditional word processing app), and most of my writings.