What is a DMS?

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.

All this markup, ack! My eyes!
All this markup, ack, My eyes!

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.

Diagram showing the comparative positioning of DMS
Diagram showing the comparative positioning of DMS

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.

Modular drag and drop
Modular drag and drop

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.

New PageLines Design Store
New PageLines Design Store

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.

Gool 'ol WordPress post management
Gool ‘ol WordPress post management

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.

Dynamic Template System
Dynamic Template System

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 ;)

Additional Reading

If you’re interested in more reading on the DMS concept…
Kenneth Jamieson over at Samurai Developer has written an awesome article called “Can PageLines DMS Save WordPress?” Check it out!

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!

97 Responses to "What is a DMS?"
  1. Really well said Andrew! For a long time the interlocking (and overlapping) blind spots of Canvas, Headway, PageLines 2.x have meant that it was always a problem to pick one for a project. You would get so far in and realize that a particular tool just lacked the needed flexibility in one area – and you were back in custom theme land. 
    Having worked with the beta for DMS, I really think you hit the sweet spot. Every proble, child site I have built int he last year would have been much easier under DMS. I build a lot of custom plug-ins / shortcodes for my clients – but I have to say that the section API is going to make that a lot easier as well. I can develop a good looking, flexible display extension under DMS than I could under raw WordPress.
    No tool is without flaws, but you guys have done a really great job here. The only question is… (shameless plug)
    Can PageLines DMS Save WordPress?? 

  2. After reading (pagelines’) “what is a DMS”, it really sounds as if they have achieve what one could call the holy grail of wordpress!
     I think that along with allot of others like me we are really anxious to get our hands on it, and to knowwhatthe pricing will be (specially for those who have had  the PageLines Framework – Developer versionsince it’srelease!)

      • arpowers x3mgroup
        I’m concerned about using a theme buiding technology which relies on dynamic data to represent customisation constructs rather than lean and mean and highly engineered code (html/Css and javascript for example). I get that WordPress provides a good core CMS and god knows the work that went into developing that, but shouldn’t DMS be a technology that works over other CMS platforms as in being platform independant.
        Just wondering, I’ve used Platform PRo for several commercial clients but reverted to bootstrap and designing from scratch to get a more free standing quality and lean coded pages.

      • mikeriches arpowers x3mgroup Mike, I see your point about the freestanding thing… but (at least for me) it isn’t an issue. Past a certain level of sophistication your solution is deeply tied to your technology anyway. If I wanted REALLY lean, I wouldn’t be on WordPress. If I wanted really separate front ends, I would build against a REST API. 
        That isn’t to say when I use WordPress I have abandoned performance, it is just to say that by using WordPress I have already bought into a whole technology stack – DMS isn’t going to make me any MORE tied to that stack, cause I already am.
        Make sense?

      • webmatros For me, Headway is not fast enough. It isn’t so much the coding, I have found the tool itself to be stable and quick – but the layout is too free form by default. Think of DMS as Headway with power steering and one of the new automatic transmissions where you can still shift on your own if you want.
        It means I still have all the power available (without resorting to code tricks or the like) but I can lay the broad strokes down much faster in DMS than in headway, and make changes much faster.
        As with any such tool, some folks will like one or the other and that is fine, but I think a LOT of folks will like DMS and feel that it is just what they needed.
        The haters? Well, they will be hatin’.

      • soulhuntre That’s a vague explanation. I’m not a hater, and webmatros is hardly a hater just for asking. Rather than metaphors like power steering and automatic transmissions I’d like some concrete examples. I’m open minded, and I will recognize the advantages DMS might have over HeadWay when I see them. The most recent version of HeadWay is quite fast. I tested a vanilla WP+HeadWay install against the vanilla WP+TwentyTwelve install, and it’s not really slower. Also tested the stats in terms of processing load and queries. . When you add something like Views from wp-types, that’s another story, very slow.. but HW alone is fine. I am an experienced HW user/develoepr, and I will be testing DMS thoroughly and look forward to sharing what I find out. I would really love to see a comparison matrix of DMS and HW with features, speed, queries, workflow tests, etc..

      • soulhuntre Adding to my other comment just posted, I’ll agree with you that Headway is more of a blank canvas, where as PageLines takes more choices for the non-coder, and is more out of the box.
        But what you’re saying about DMS sounds just like the current version of PageLines?? What’s new? It would be nice with some actual screenshots or videos instead of hype. There’s only 2 days until launch after all.

      • soulhuntre webmatros IMO this term “hater” is used way too much in Pagelines discussion forums. Once is probably too often.. 
        It’s a way of brushing aside criticism and imputing bad motives to anyone who raises questions and mentions counter-arguments, however legitimate.
        I’m a Pagelines user and enthusiast, but for me it’s a major turn-off when critics are disparaged in this way. I’ve often seen similar tactics used in political debate, to plaster over big holes in shonky cases. Surely Pagelines/DMS doesn’t need this flaky kind of defense?

      • FnqWeb soulhuntre webmatros I dont think soulhuntre was saying anyone in particular was a ‘hater’ he’s only saying that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. 
        Here is PageLines, as hard as we work, it’s sometimes discouraging that no matter what we do, there is always someone pissed off. 
        We have to remind ourselves not to take it personally, do our best, and ‘haters are gonna hate’: meaning its inevitable.

      • mikkelbreum I wasn’t thinking of you as a hater, it was a general comment that divergent tools attract differing audiences.
        When I saw faster, I mean it is faster to develop with, for me. Let me be more concrete, for me headway is analogous to the 960 css grid, and DMS is Bootstrap. If you can make use of some of it’s conventions int he final look, you can go SUPER fast because it is more complete – if you need to strip that away and get fill control, you can do that.
        That’s the analogy. I am sorry if you don’t want that – but that is the best I can do. It is like explaining why I:
        *  Find Visual Studio is faster than Eclipse
        * Use Cinema4D instead of Mya
        * After Effects instead of Vegas
        For any specific feature, there will be an equivalent – but at a certain level of sophistication these tools need to fit your STYLE as well. We can get bogged down in technical stuff – but that is pointless (to me) at the moment.

      • webmatros It doesn’t matter if there is a lot of info before launch day – it isn’t like they will only have X number of copies in inventory so if you can’t buy it on launch day you are locked out. When the info goes public, you will evaluate it and make your decision.
        The really nice thing is with the Open Source nature of the core, you can try it without risking a thing.
        Other than that, of COURSE it sounds like PageLInes, I mean, they had a great thing in 2.x so the basic goals and philosophy are goign to carry over – but it is just, all around, evolved.

      • FnqWeb  webmatros PageLines doesn’t need any “defense” at all. Sheesh, it’s software, not a city under siege. Folks will try it, judge it and use it for themselves. The ones who avoid it simply because they read a bad blog post about it were never a factor in any case, for any company.
        I disagree about the term “hater”. It is a perfectly good word and applies to many areas of the world and technology. Some folks just get all wrapped up in validating their own choices, for their own insecurity. I mean, you can see people almost get in fist fights about what type of PHONE they are using. It’s just idiocy. 
        “Hater” is a fine phrase for people who have connected their own self worth to a technology choice, and let it govern their emotions.
        Tools are tools. Technology will change. If you get emotionally attached to any of it, you’re doing it wrong.

      • arpowers FnqWeb soulhuntre webmatros and thanks to the Open Source connection now, it is going to get a whole lot more interesting. OS brings with it a whole new set of politics to deal with :)
        The first time you reject a bad patch that happens to come from a prominent user of a competitors products, or who is an outspoken critic – expect a firestorm.

      • arpowers FnqWeb soulhuntre webmatros Andrew – the last thing I want to do – at what must be an extremely busy time for you and your team – is try to distract you into a semantic debate.
        I am a fan of PL  – and I’m excited you’re all so excited about DMS. Like many PL users, I’m keen to help promote the framework/system that I’ve chosen.
        However, questions about comparisons with other frameworks, IMO, deserve a better answer than “Headway has nothing on this, I’ve used both”. That’s helpful for someone who shares the author’s high opinion of himself (and no, it wasn’t your comment, of course! :-)) – but the rest of us can be more effective if we have rational arguments to deploy. I can well believe such arguments exist – and in a few days time I’ll be able to find out directly – but surely it’s not ‘hating’ to inquire now?
        Anyhow, soulhuntre’s subsequent comments go into a little more detail and I think/hope it’s been healthy airing this issue. I occasionally check out Brian Gardner’s blog over at Genesis; the community who post comments there are almost 100% positive almost 100% of the time. For folk accustomed to thinking for ourselves, that’s not a strength. Part of what attracts me to the PL/DMS project is that rational discussion is possible here.

      • FnqWeb High opinion of himself? lol Give me less than 12 hours and I”ll have you an in-depth post explaining why DMS blows away anything that’s out there, period, all based on facts.

      • arpowers soulhuntre I know. Didn’t feel targeted;-) But I wholeheartedly agree with the remarks of FnqWeb – it’s needless to be so defensive and use rhetoric like “haters are gonna hate”. After all, people are allowed to have their opinions, and this is not a religion, neither a war. It’s not a football match… and we ain’t hooligans;-)
        Me personally? I really want PageLines to succeed. What do I have to gain? Better tools to do my work faster, more choices to pick the right tool for specific jobs, etc. I would gain nothing to see PageLines DMS be a dud. I’d be disappointed though. But that feeling would be a result of passion and enthusiasm. So if I were to be disappointed, it would be an indication that I had high hopes.
        I do find the PageLines culture a bit harsh, bordering on arrogant at times. I’ve had access to the community / forums via client logins, so from your perspective I’m a PageLines noob, but I have actually worked quite a lot with it.

      • soulhuntre It’s just that excessive “launch hype” can sometimes lead to a backlash. Open is the way forward, in my opinion. But that’s a generalization, I know.
        I’m not here to discuss or fight.

  3. Now I have a clear explanation of what is and what is the difference. Thanks for the explanation. Maybe this should be the first information that I have needed. I congratulate you all and I wish you great success with the DMS.

    • batmanmac ya good point, having the DMS definition out there is important, that’s why we pushed this out before launch.

  4. I’m trying to understand where this DMS fits in the web development process and who it’s targeted to.   Would DMS be more for entry level developers?  What’s the difference between the current PL setup with drag n drop and DMS?

    • webmktgco we’re keeping some surprises for launch on wednesday. HOWEVER, DMS is designed to be something like the Mac, better for beginners and professionals alike. 
      The Store is what brings things together in that regard

      • arpowers “Like Mac?” OMG Yay! So DMS comes with a sticker at the bottom of box that I can slap on the back window of my Prius just before I jet down to Starbucks for bland coffee creamed with free wifi that I can use to upload a revised chapter 4 of my novel that I have been working on for the last 8 years to my website that will be running DMS?

    • mrcatman it’s going to be open source, and more information on pricing for pro level is coming wednesday

      • arpowers jancaynes I have quite a few sites on Framework (and still a few on Platform Pro) and I’m happy with them how they are. I don’t really want to go down the upgrade/migration route to DMS (or, the theme you create with DMS). I’m not expecting Framework to be working after WordPress 4, but I would appreciate it if my site were still running smoothly for another year :)

      • MintPrintsarpowersjancaynes – You mean you don’t expect ANY Framework to be working after WP4? If frameworks were were to one day suddenly “stop working” in WP that would turn a lot of websites up-side down.
        That’s the sort of “expecting” you need to do with source references. Otherwise it’s just flying saucer babble.

    • masteryoshi yes, there may be some initial issues as we haven’t specifically worked on RTL yet, but definitely soon.

  5. Since we’re talking about design, how about using more of it in your “press release”, like as far as typography is concerned…

  6. Too good to be real? It’s exactly what I was dreaming for: for those of you who knows the html/css Mac app Flux, you just drag and drop text, image and it will create menus, div, etc automatically. Move a title  or change a font and all other divs will adapt to it. 
    It’s like creating your page in WordPress directly in fronted.
    If Pagelines live up to the promises, that will be an earthquake the themes market. Truly, DMS would be explained with just one feature: take total control of your site.

    • Iamak Ya DMS is gonna be something completely different. I’d classify both the above in the ‘builder’ category.

  7. Well let’s see what surprise I will receive, for me it is important to interactively change my page layouts, no difficult coding, just drag an drop, change colours or whatever, i have used pagelines before, but for eventual customers that would be to difficult, for me a good solution would mean that I could setup a basic theme for my customer, but that a customer has the freedom to easily add their own ideas to the theme. Well let’s see and wait

  8. Has anyone else noticed the Pagelines site is not rendering correctly in Google Chrome? I am seeing all kinds of issues with the nav bar showing up in weird places and behind content. See http://screencast.com/t/k2jXnnGTa

  9. Found this and it also looks very interesting, seems as if they are going down the DMS path also, no mention on when it will be released though. http://ultimatumx.com they are also claiming it to be the ultimate design suite???

    • CaseyGraffix I played with that in the past and like so many of these plug ins it is seriously hampered by the context it lives in. It is constrained, and there is almost no third party ecosystem. 
      Play with the free version of DMS< you will see what I mean when I say there is no comparison.

    • CaseyGraffix  While i like Ultimatum to a point they are very scattered when it comes to support and overpromising.

      • Crispee CaseyGraffix I’ve been reading reviews on the current version in blogs and they rated it really well at the time of writing but many articles have messages telling people to avoid it due to the lack of developer response and bugs. Glad I went with my gut feeling and purchased DMS.

      • DaveBlewitt Crispee CaseyGraffix Did you purchase DMS? I am not seeing any thing about the product purchase. Can you provide a link for me and tell me where did you purchase  it :)  ?

      • Iamak DaveBlewitt Crispee CaseyGraffix http://www.pagelines.com/shop/membership/dms-developer/

  10. x3mgroup Where did you find those. @88 a year for a developer is really good pricing. I was expecting it to be a lot more expensive. :)

  11. x3mgroupWill Plus users get it for free at least for a year since it was already stated that they would be upgraded for free? It seems pointless if they have to continue paying for a developer account.

  12. @arpowers if I buy a personal or business license now, and use the 10% launch code, will I be able to later uprade to business/developer, and still have the 10% applied to the new amount?

  13. Where can I read about the difference between the open source version of DMS and the PRO features (what is it that you can’t do with the free version)?

    • bfrye26 Crispee yes – they did a livestream demo to several of us.  hopefully that’s ok to say.  Very impressive stuff that I think everyone will be happy about.

      • Iamak Crispee bfrye26 The demos are complete to my knowledge and I don’t believe they were recorded. DMS should be live and ready by morning of the 24th. As far as I know.

      • Lucas Garvin JohnnyAlexander Would I be correct in assuming that because this is going to be open source, I will be able to offer it to my multisite users?

  14. So excited for DMS! The team over at Visify is looking forward to making our development projects exclusively in DMS.

  15. Hello,
    Can you tell me if there is any kind of eligibility criteria to get invitations. Whom would you send the earlier invitations? Only for top contributors or something?

    • Iamak Do you mean beta invitations? If so, there aren’t any. The full product will be released tomorrow. I’m not exactly sure what time, it could be in 45 minutes for all I know, but I do know that it will be tomorrow.

  16. Looking forward to the release of the DMS, have followed all the discussion on your site but i have a number of questions for you which might be answered when this finally goes live. 
    One of my concerns is the new DMS store which shows various monthly charges for difference licenses, it seems pagelines is heading down the road of  a cashcow, i have the developer license and its your pattern that you charge more for every “new” stuff you roll out and during your last roll out of PL i had no choice than to buy it because i build a prominent site with PL

    Will current pagelines still be supported and for how long? I guess within a year or two, you will come up with another inspiration which will mean we have to pay.

    Definitely this DMS might be the break or make it for me with PL…
    I hope this new 3 layered tool ( i called it ) will live up to the hype and ultimately will be easy to use, and well supported.

    • knowtheoffers That’s the problem I have, too. I also have the developer’s license for Pagelines, which was supposed to include everything, but at this point seems to include nothing. So though this looks good, I guess I’m out.

  17. 44 years ago today July 24th 1969 Apollo 11 splashed down after landing on The Moon on July 20th – This date July 24th 2013 – will be just as important to the world of building and developing websites -Thumbs up to DMS and PageLines for thinking outside the box…. oh and today July 24th is also my sister Donna’s 53rd birthday ;) –
    Carpe Diem – Robert

  18. When I looked at the intro video I thought brilliant….but
    …..Extremely concerned that this is following the Adobe CC Cash Cow  – pay or loose access to your software route. 
    Once tied into this method of operation users are at the mercy of the company to change costs at a whim. Going back to your clients and saying  – sorry the cost has gone up today, like it or loose access to your website control is truly unprofessional. Having been an Adobe customer for well over a decade we decided not to be held to ransom over access to our creative work and not follow the CC route – sticking with current CS6 as so many of our colleagues in print and design and across a number of charities we work for have decided to do. Its not the ideal solution, but to have your work and reputation under the control of another company isn’t either.
    Putting a credit link on a site that no longer has an active license is appalling  – you might as well stick a big advert or a flashing light on the front end. No client is going to swallow that and it is totally unnecessary.
    We bought into Pagelines because it had a lifetime license – what happened? –  happily pay a high initial fixed fee for DMS to know that use of the software was not going to change cost or suddenly become an issue between us and the client. And DMS is really expensive – comparable to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud subscription giving you access to thousands $ of software.
    Lastly – there doesn’t appear to be price for current Pagelines users? – i.e. those who provided the revenue for PL to grow?

  19. Two questions:
    1) When you buy one of the plugins or styles from the store can you use it on multiple sites, or do you have to buy a copy for each site?
    2) The free version hardly had any options. How many styling options does DMS have? I like to get into very fine positioning and head sizes etc

  20. I had the purchased version of Pagelines and I’m very concerned that the monies spent on that is gone and now I’m going to have to purchase monthly.
    How is this DMS overlaying the existing PL installations?
    Purchased store plugins that were purchased are no longer available?
    I love pagelines and understand you need to be paid for development.  I’m hoping that those who supported you in the past are not forgotten in this roll out…

  21. I’m with Invisioning in that I’m very concerned. I very recently purchased a Pagelines Pro license and several add ons. It’s not clear to me at all if these are even usable under DMS. Could somebody at Pagelines give us an explanation on that? Do I throw out what I’ve already bought and start over again? Do I get a discount on DMS? ??

    • aliceerickson Don’t worry about the add-ons, we’ve (third party devs) been working very hard to update them all. I updated all 30 of my store extensions and work perfect with DMS.

      • nphaskins aliceerickson I tried DMS last night on a subdirectory of a multisite.  Got a fatal error on the entire site and had to delete DMS and the sections plugin in order to get my site back up.  That’s aside from not being able to access the cool plugins Nick made and I already purchased.  I  was being forced back into repurchase.  Looks like I’m out for DMS.

  22. Im a bit confused on the  upgrade path of a site. If I purchase a license for the DMS is it then applied to an existing site and the site becomes manageable under DMS? Or do you have to begin with one of the themes from the DMS store?
    I got confused when I went to purchase a license and the first thing the site wanted me to do is purchase ad-ons (such as themes).
    If anyone can point me to a link where I can better understand this upgrade path for existing sites I would appreciate it.

  23. So, this only works in Chrome? I have font issues with it (seems like its Mac, only). I am psyched, otherwise, to see something like this come to fruition. I’ve been looking for something like this for years …

  24. So many questions.. I hope these will be addresses-
    1. How are child themes handled?
    2. Still can edit style.css, other files?
    3. Real time editor seems VERY slow.  Will this improve?
    4. Are we able to set template width numerically?

    Lots more, but these are the most pressing.


  25. Would it be possible to download the demo content and import it to play around with all the cool features ?

  26. I’ve played with a few of the “builders” and I’ve even used some of the themes that have “frameworks” and child themes… all of them are either messy to use or restricted in their abilities. If this is as good as it sounds it could revolutionize the way we build sites. If I could save 1 day for every site I have built in the past 2 yrs I would have saved up almost 2 months worth of relaxing time… whoohoo!!

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