Today’s thought is short and sweet. Generally, when using tools, having more control is considered better. For instance, instead of having to go through an “HTML person” to get fresh content onto your website, it’s better to have tools that give you the control to put it up yourself. There is one important exception, though.
Having a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor as a part of your page admin lets you quickly and easily drop in text, images, links, etc. Gone are the days of submitting a Word doc to someone who will code it up and put it on the site for you. You can have a thought at any hour of the day, and add to or change your content in an instant. However, for people who are used to working in a word processor, one of the first things that comes up is, “Hey – where do I change the font?” or “I want this to be BIG – like 36 points… how do I do that?” And as your sherpa in the land of branded, content managed websites, I turn and say “I have intentionally left those things out.”
When the message of content management is all about empowerment, that may seem like it flies in the face of everything we’re trying to do. Why would I opt to take away an ability? I’m so glad you asked. You’ve just spent time and resources having a new branded site put together, so why would you want to turn around and dilute your brand? Dilute? Indeed.
When your website is designed, all of the ingredients including colors, layout, imagery and type are crafted to present a harmonious package which resonates with your brand positioning. Techy, friendly, academic, scientific, etc, and always professional. This means that each element has a specific way that it is designed to look in order to fit into the overall whole, and to make it clear where it fits into the hierarchy of importance. Is it a page headline? Is it a caption on a small image? It is an item in the sidebar? The footer? The look of a thing is determined by what it is. Its appearance is semantically determined. BUT the other approach – the one that is focused on making something arbitrarily look a certain way – causes elements to break out of that well-organized formation. Instead of all the instruments in the orchestra playing together, you start to have dissonance. Certain elements are out of step with the overall whole, and often out of step with each other, since they are done in an ad-hoc manner. Before long, you end up with the “yard sale” look. It’s all mismatched odds and ends that have lost any sense of harmony.
By resisting the impulse to style things, and instead focusing on what things are semantically (Is it a subhead? A blockquote?), your content picks up the designed-in styles that make it all work together. Now, instead of swimming against the stream, you can go with it. You can know that the unity of presentation is working powerfully on your behalf to keep things in resonance with your brand, and to make sure no odds & ends disrupt the professional look and feel that makes up your presentation.