There has been some discussion recently concerning content management and the role of HTML in that process. First of all Brian Donovan states that
you need to avoid poisoning your content with HTML, the points mase make quite a lot of sense in certain contexts. In fact while reading “The Content Management Bible” I came across some similar thinking. The basic proposition is that by keeping HTML out of the content you can reuse the content in many other areas. This is an interesting viewpoint and one I tend to generally agree with, the importance however is in the context.
What do I mean when I talk about all this context malarky? Well, as observed elsewhere its a lot of effort to organise your content using databases and content management systems, they can help to automate a lot of work but they are not a trivial enterprise, the context of a situation helps to determine the solution employed in that situation, a weblogger is not generally in need of a fully blown CMS whereas a news organisation is almost certainly in need of one.
The context I am working in, with respect to this weblog, is strictly smaller scale. Can XHTML be used as the CMS language? What benefits, for the small scale webite, does a CMS provide that cannot be provided using XHTML? The seperation of content from presentation, an often heard mantra among netheads, can be achieved using XHTML. How can this be done? well drop all the depreceated, presentational aspects of HTML and embrace CSS and strict DOCTYPES. Yaddayaddayadda…
Whats that dozed off? Lets get back on track then, I said I was talking benefits, not features. The benefit is that your content doesn’t have to change everytime you change your design, this isn’t always as simple as it sounds for large scale changes, but simple site wide changes can be made very easily. Proper use of the semantic elements of XHTML can help to tie together your site, you just need to know what the semantics are. [abbreviations] [definitions]
Thining about all this has reminded me of an experience at a company I worked for where we were changing over from Lotus applications, such as 123 and AmiPro, to the Microsoft Office suite. At the time I worked in accounts and I am sure you can imagine the amount of spreadsheets and documents that needed to be converted within the department, if you can’t the number was around 20,000. I was given the job. What it taught me was that if you need to make the wholesale conversion from one format to another then use good tools to do it. How does this relate to website design? Well content has been passed on from one generation of program to another for a while now, don’t worry too much about it but when you need to do it organise yourself and use good tools.