In Web Design, Easier Doesn’t Always Mean Better

There are a massive number of products and tools aimed at the web design industry. And it seems like something new arrives every day.

They may vary widely in scope, but most have one thing in common: the promise of making our job easier. Whether they’re writing superb code, promising can’t-fail functionality, or adding killer special effects, these solutions aim to do the dirty work for us. How convenient!

I, for one, feel a bit disappointed. Despite the hype, I’m not convinced things are that much easier. It’s not as if artificial intelligence (AI) has replaced my most monotonous tasks. In many respects, web design seems to have become even more complex over time.

Besides, much of what advertises an “easier” process tends to come with some serious tradeoffs. Unfortunately, easier doesn’t always mean better.

With that, here are a few things to consider before you trade the tried-and-true parts of your workflow for a quick fix.

Will You Be Locked Into a Bad Situation?

When it comes to designing and building a website, just about every decision requires some sort of buy-in. This is part of the process.

If you’re creating a layout mockup in Figma, Photoshop, or Sketch – you’re making a commitment. As your project progresses, you’ll need to come back to the chosen app again and again. The same principle applies to everything from DIY website builders to programming frameworks.

The difference is in the required level of commitment. Pick the wrong tool, and you may be stuck with it for longer than you’d like. Becoming locked into a specific path may limit your ability to evolve along with the web. And those new features that everyone else is using? It could be that they’re unavailable to you.

That’s why it’s vital to know what you’re getting into. An untested solution may seem attractive now, but where will it be in five years? If it doesn’t hold up, you could end up starting from scratch again.

In some cases, it may be worth the risk. But there’s also something to be said for having future flexibility.

Easier to Build, Harder to Maintain

The promise of a quicker path to launching a website has always attracted the attention of the design community. Skip over the hard stuff and get paid sooner – who wouldn’t want that?

It certainly sounds wonderful. The problem is that, sometimes, an easier start means more difficult maintenance down the road.

Take, for example, the culture of content management system (CMS) plugins. With a platform such as WordPress, it’s incredibly easy to build a website, piece by piece.

It’s certainly possible to build a site that works well enough with this approach. But there is danger in having bits of related functionality controlled by multiple plugins. It’s akin to using string to keep all of your favorite books together. Take one book out of the stack, and things are going to fall apart.

Likewise, if your functionality needs change, this delicate balance can start to crumble. Some plugins may no longer be suitable or are simply too rigid to achieve your goals. That could mean swapping out critical pieces and trying to patch a gaping hole.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use plugins. But it is worthwhile to think about sustainability. Determine the most sustainable path forward. That may take a little more work up front, but will save you from future difficulties.

An assortment of tools.

Cost vs. Benefit

Quite often, products advertised as making your job easier also tout cost savings as well. But is the easiest way forward really the cheapest?

That depends upon the factors mentioned above. If your website is up and running weeks earlier because of a specific tool, that’s great. But if it makes future maintenance a nightmare, any upfront savings may be short-lived.

Then there’s the ability for future growth. For example, subscribing to a proprietary website platform can get you access to a certain level of looks and functionality. But what happens if that service cannot provide the advanced features you’ll need down the road? And, in the meantime, how much money have you spent to continue using it?

Even if you end up with some savings, you may find that they simply weren’t worth the included hassles and limitations. Trading a few extra dollars in your pocket for a less-than-ideal website is unlikely to make you feel very good.

Before making any decisions, it’s wise to weigh the potential costs, benefits, and pitfalls of a given solution. This ensures that you’re thinking with both the short and long-terms in mind.

A potted plant surrounded by coins.

Beware of Easy Website Solutions

It’s worth remembering that every path to building a website has a cost associated with it. Whether you utilize free or commercial tools, there will always be time and effort required to use them. Beyond that, there’s also the cost of future maintenance.

Sometimes, you can find a solution that makes web design both easier and more cost-effective. However, it takes careful scrutiny to determine if that’s the case.

There are a lot of products out there that make such claims. Don’t take them at their word. Instead, conduct your own research and find the tools that will work best for you.

The post In Web Design, Easier Doesn’t Always Mean Better appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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10 Free Plugins for Customizing the WordPress Dashboard

The WordPress administration area (aka the Dashboard) can be customized in many ways. Menu items can be added, hidden, or rearranged. Access to settings can be set for specific user roles. Custom widgets can be added to help guide or pass important information on to users.

No matter what kind of tweaks you’re looking to make, there is most likely a WordPress plugin available to make it a reality. Let’s explore 10 WordPress plugins you can use to personalize the Dashboard to meet your needs.

White Label CMS

A stock installation of WordPress doesn’t feel very personal. That’s why White Label CMS exists. It allows you to integrate your brand into various areas of the back end.

It starts with a custom login page, then moves on to the admin header and footer areas. But it doesn’t stop there – you can also choose which admin menus to display, and create a completely custom dashboard. As a bonus, it also works with page builders such as Beaver Builder and Elementor.

Remove Dashboard Access

Remove Dashboard Access offers a solution for those who want to keep certain user roles from accessing all or parts of the back end. This is great for membership sites, where users typically have a front-end profile (optional back-end profile access is possible).

In addition, the plugin lets you redirect users to a custom URL and display an optional message on the login screen.

Remove Dashboard Access

Widget Disable

Widget Disable works on both the front and back ends of your WordPress website. It allows administrators to easily turn off access to specific widgets.

With regards to the dashboard, it’s a great way to remove clutter for your site’s users. Too often, plugins litter the screen with widgets that are little more than advertisements. Widget Disable helps to make for a cleaner back-end experience.

Widget Disable

Catch IDs

There are times when you need to access the ID of a particular post, page, category, or user. Catch IDs is a simple plugin that makes this information readily available.

Once installed and activated, the ID number is displayed within the various admin content and user listings. Oh, and it also works for media attachments!

Catch IDs

Admin Columns

Admin Columns is a commercial plugin (with a free version) that enables to you add custom columns to page /post listings and more.

There are over 160 columns to choose from. For example, you can easily add a featured image column to the post listing. Not only can you display various columns, but you can also sort and filter posts by them as well. It works with all content types and can integrate with lots of plugins, including Advanced Custom Fields and WooCommerce.

Simple History

Simple History doesn’t add some major functionality to the WordPress dashboard. But it sure is helpful. A widget is added to the dashboard home page that shows you which users recently added or updated posts when a widget has been added or removed or even uploaded an image to the Media Gallery.

It also tracks things like plugin activations, user profile updates, logins, and more. Very useful for administrators who want to stay on top of whom is doing what.

Simple History

Admin Menu Editor Pro

While somewhat similar to Adminimize, Admin Menu Editor Pro does have some unique features worth checking out. For instance, not only can you hide dashboard menu items in general or by user role, you can create your own items as well.

Those custom menu items can point to any internal or external URL. The plugin also lets you move individual items to different submenus, change titles and even icons. A free version is also available.

Admin Menu Editor Pro

Custom Dashboard Widgets

The WordPress dashboard can get a little cluttered. Custom Dashboard Widgets helps alleviate some of that clutter by allowing you to replace all the standard home page widgets with simpler versions.

Consisting of a label and a FontAwesome icon, each widget can be displayed or hidden based on a user’s role. You can also add your own custom links as well.

Custom Dashboard Widgets

Ultimate Dashboard Pro

Ultimate Dashboard Pro lets you take control of the WordPress dashboard homepage. You can easily disable any and all default widgets, as well as those from third parties.

Create your own simplified widgets with either text-only or icon-based options. The plugin is compatible with WordPress Multisite. A free version is also available.

Nested Pages

A seemingly ignored part of WordPress is the cumbersome approach to managing large amounts of pages or posts. Nested Pages is a plugin that aims to fix this by turning listings into interactive tree-style menus.

It also allows you to add pages in bulk, right from within the page listing. The slick drag-and-drop interface helps to make repositioning content less stressful. A native WordPress menu is also created and updated to match your nested structure.

Nested Pages

Make it Your Dashboard

The main idea behind tweaking the WordPress administration area is to improve your workflow. By adding helpful information and streamlining what gets displayed (and to whom it’s displayed), we’re making site management that much easier.

The plugins above feature creative and practical ideas for lessening the learning curve for new users and saving administrators loads of time.

If these plugins don’t help, you could try these 20 Snippets & Hacks to Help Make WordPress Easier for Your Clients.

The post 10 Free Plugins for Customizing the WordPress Dashboard appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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