When DMS launches on Wednesday, it will be the world’s first official ‘Design Management System.’
A lot of people have asked the question: “what is a design management system?” Well, here, let’s go over some of the concepts behind a DMS. What they mean, and why they matter.
Why are DMS’s important?
Before we get into it, let’s quickly explain why the concept of a DMS is important. Why it has the potential to change things.
To do that, we have to rehash the weaknesses in themes and the weaknesses with drag and drop builders (WYSIWYGs, etc..).
The issue with Drag and Drop Builders
In the old days, everyone used to custom code websites. This was highly technical, and slow.
People immediately started asking, “why can’t I make my website like I make a PowerPoint presentation?”
This is where the idea of WYSIWYG builders came from.
So out came tools like FrontPage, Dreamweaver, and more recently, services like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc..
These tools solved an important problem: they let you customize without coding. Which is why people have and still use systems like these.
Unfortunately, all these tools suffer from several issues related to the methodology.
Web design doesn’t really work in harmony with a WYSIWYG system.
Essentially because you can’t drag and drop out *professional* web design (like a feature slider or carousel). There is too much technical interactively.
They also clog up your site with TONS of markup which prevents responsive design, seo, etc..
So essentially what you get is an unprofessional looking website, that is poorly structured, and actually took you longer to build. This is where themes came in.
The issue with Themes
Most professionals these days use themes and WordPress (or another CMS) to build their sites. This is because themes allow you to professional design elements to your website and they are typically plug and play.
However, themes suffer from one key issue: you have to code to customize them.
This is where things get tedious and as discussed in The Problem with Themes, it leads to other issues that take lots of time to deal with.
The case for a DMS
A DMS successfully gets around the biggest problems with themes and builders. It is as easy to customize as a builder, yet as professional and plug-and-play as a theme. Thus, it should be the best practice way to build websites once its released.
Now that’s out of the way… Let’s get into the definition of a DMS.
DMS vs. Themes vs. Frameworks vs. Builders?
A DMS is characterized by 5 key attributes.
These things are actually what define a DMS. If a tool doesn’t have all of these features, it is most likely a framework, or a builder, or a theme.
Here are the attributes:
1. It has a modular drag and drop system
There is an important distinction between DMS’ and WYSIWYG builders. A DMS has a modular system, while WYSIWYGs have a free-form style drag and drop.
The difference is that modular systems don’t break the page element flow and they don’t rely on inline CSS to create a structure.
Modular systems allow you to create high-performance, symantically structured markup; which is why this is an important distinction in a DMS.
2. It needs an extension system for design and functionality
A DMS also requires an easy, code-free way to add additional design into your modular system. For this PageLines relies on the PageLines Store and the tight-knit 300 community (for creating new extensions)
This allows you to add and remove design to your system and gives you a way to evolve your site.
For adding additional functionality, DMS supports the standard WordPress plugin system. Yup, that means it supports WP’s 26,000 plugins too.
3. A robust underlying CMS
No DMS is complete without a rich, underlying CMS infrastructure. For PageLines DMS, WordPress suits this purpose.
The CMS handles all the content and ‘meta’ information, while the DMS handles all design options, page structure and theming.
4. It is faster than a theme, more flexible and easier than a builder
There are several drag and drop tools out there that allow you to customize a part of your site using their functionality. A good example of this is the WordPress widgets system.
These systems don’t cut it as they don’t allow you full customizability and you inevitably end up coding or dealing with technical issues you didn’t want or expect in a drag and drop system.
Many builders have good intentions, yet are extremely and complicated to use. Which defeats the point.
A DMS must be faster and easier than builders AND themes to earn the title.
5. A Dynamic Template System
Inside of WordPress there has long been several problems with theming. Specifically, many things need to be hard coded and that creates vast usability issues.
A true DMS needs a way to dynamically add and remove templates, that can then be transported from install to install. This is useful in theming and in portability.
Don’t call it a framework (or a theme) please?
Since DMS for WordPress is installed as a theme in the CMS (we have to install it somewhere!) people sometimes refer to PageLines as a framework or theme. Hopefully, this article illustrates why it’s more of a system, or specifically a DMS…
Calling DMS a framework, or worse a ‘theme’, is like calling a space shuttle a ‘plane’ because they both use a runway to land and they both fly.
It just doesn’t make sense ;)
James Giroux has also written an awesome article on his experience as a DMS beta member. Read “DMS is Coming” here.
If you STILL haven’t seen the teaser for the upcoming DMS launch on Wednesday, check that out too!