Applying CMS Principles To Your CMS Designs

Do you promote best practices in your SDL Tridion implementation? Are these important to your content management perspective?
  • Do you separate content from layout?
  • Should design changes be consistent and easy to manage?
  • Do you prefer to make future update easy?
If you answered yes, let's apply these to your functional and technical designs by placing text with the boxes or graphics they describe, creating documents that are easy to update, and using the right tools.

Stop Making Free-Floating Text Boxes

  • Add text directly to boxes (usually by double clicking them). Do not create separate text boxes.
  • Add labels directly to lines. Do not create separate text boxes.
  • In Visio, add related items to a Container.
When possible, let your office software handle alignment and contrast. When your text is part of a box, arrow, or other object, you should only have to work about three settings:
  • Fill
  • Line
  • Text (color)

Otherwise, free-floating text boxes double the amount of clicks for updates along with additional options for fill and lines. 

Make Design Choices Easy-to-Update

  • Apply gradients and color effects using out-of-the-box Office features. Do not use images.
  • Add captions by double-clicking graphics in Visio. Use Word's Insert Caption feature for images and tables. Do not manage these styles per image; be creatively lazy.
  • Use Microsoft Office Style Sets and Themes to manage headers, design, and effects; do not set these manually on items. You wouldn't hard-code manual styles with HTML markup, why would you break the same concept in Word?

Use the Appropriate Tools and Conventions

Keep your original diagrams either embedded in your documents or in a file stored nearby for updates.

When possible, use a familiar document format and tool to make future updates easy. For example, though you might like a particular cloud-based diagramming tool, it doesn't help your colleagues maintain a document if they only use Visio.

In collaborative environments, it also helps to place final documents in the right location, preferably a folder share, cloud storage, or the intranet. Ideally you'd also have regular backups, a form of versioning, and some good naming conventions.


I understand we sometimes inherit diagrams created in older versions of  Office, so maybe the old ways of managing text and styles were clunky. I know time's limited and learning Microsoft Office features may not be high on the priority list, but as a Web Content Professionals, as knowledge workers who understand the significance of well managed content, shouldn't we apply the same CMS principles to our CMS designs?

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