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What Skillsets are Needed to Maintain a CMS Website?

Marla Krause Marla Krause  |  
Apr 24, 2018
 
Most people realize they need to understand SEO. But what most don't realize is that they need to understand, to some degree, how a webpage is built to be able to maintain their website.
 
If you're working with a CMS (Content Management System), like Kentico, Sitecore or even WordPress, the CMS will do most of the heavy-lifting for you. However, these systems aren't quite as easy as working with a word processing program.
 
There will be times when you will need to look at the code to understand why something is happening. This is when some knowledge of the languages used to build a webpage will come in handy.
 

HTML & CSS

HTML and CSS are the basic building blocks of a webpage. HTML is the language that is used to create and format web pages, and CSS is the language that is used to style those pages. 
 

How much HTML & CSS do I need to know?

You don't need to know all the little nuances of the languages to be successful. Learning the basics can take you a long way since the CMS will build out 99% of the HTML for you, and the CSS should be in place when the design is applied.
 
You can probably get by without knowing these languages, but it will make your life a lot easier if you understand them, even a little. The more you know, the less time and money you will have to spend on maintaining your website, because you will be able to do more of it yourself.
 
When you first look at HTML, it can seem overwhelming. There are hundreds of different elements that are available. However, most of the time, only a handful are frequently used. There is also a pattern that each of them follows. Once you know that pattern, you'll be able to understand, at a high-level, what's going on. And that's all you need! High-level understanding is what we're going for.
 

Why do I need to know HTML & CSS at all?

Like I said earlier, the CMS will be generating 99% of the HTML needed to create your web pages. So why do you need to know it at all? Well, because the HTML editors are not 100% foolproof. Think of when you have a large Word document with lots of bullets and you go to add one more level of nesting and now things are all messed up. The next set of bullets is nested an extra level and the color is wrong and…you get the picture. Well, HTML editors are like that too. The editor is trying to figure out what you "mean" to do and isn't always on the same page. So now you've got a mess. If you don't know any HTML, the only thing you can do is scrap that section of the web page you were working on and start over, or you call your website development company and pay them to fix it. However, if you learn some basic HTML, you may be able to salvage it. Even if you can only salvage some of it, you're still better off!
 
And as for CSS, it will have been created while your website development company implemented your design. However, if you know how to use those classes, you will be able utilize more of them to create a nicer looking site. Even with an HTML editor you won't be able to use all the classes created for your design with the editor alone. When we build sites for our clients, we typically give them some additional classes that they can add to elements in their site. We try to give them a lot of flexibility built right into the editor, but it's just not possible to cram it all in there. So, without some knowledge of how to use the CSS classes, you have a lot of classes that have been created for you that you may not be able to fully utilize.
 

What do you mean by “the basics”?

Here's the things I would concentrate on:
 
  • You should know how to read HTML
    • By this I mean being able to understand the elements and what they're used for. So, when you see an <h1> tag you know it's a heading tag and that it should have an ending tag.
  • Get familiar with the basic elements
    • img – image element
    • h1-h6 – heading elements
    • div – container element
    • a – link element
    • ul and li – bulleted lists
  • Understand that tags can be nested
    • Tags contain other tags between their opening and closing tags. You may need to find a heading you just placed on the page and move it into another element. You need to be able to find the opening and closing tag and move that whole element.
  • Understand how styles are applied to elements
    • You may want to add a class to an element to give it a different look and feel. You won't be able to add every style available in your website design with the HTML editor. Knowing how to do this will give you a lot more freedom and flexibility.
 

Front-end Framework

Front-end frameworks refer to a collection of standardized HTML code, JavaScript, and styles that can be used to build out webpages. These frameworks can be used to easily build the structure of a webpage (like columns) and build out functionality (like pop-ups). Some of the most popular front-end frameworks are Bootstrap and Foundation.
 

What's the benefit?

If a front-end framework was used to develop the design of your website, then it would benefit you to get to know some of the capabilities of that framework. The benefit of knowing the framework your site is built upon will be the additional design elements and functionality pieces you'd have access to.
 
There are hundreds of styles, elements and even functionality, that you could use when creating your webpages that would not be built into the HTML text editor. However, if you're not even aware of what's available, you'll never be able to use them. I recommend looking through the documentation just to even know what's available. You might find some things you can use right away.
 

Recap

If you're looking to use a CMS to maintain your website, you will greatly benefit from learning some of the basics of how a webpage is built using HTML and CSS, and possibly the front-end framework. You don't need to become an expert coder in any of these languages, but just learning some of the structure of the languages (and how they are used) will go a long way in helping you to maintain your site.
 
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