Coming soon: major interface and branding improvements

Today, we’re giving you a heads up about some major improvements coming soon to the LightCMS interface. We believe you are going to love these changes, so we’re excited to tell you about them. But first, a disclaimer:

These plans are not 100% finalized

Since these changes will impact what your clients see when they log into their websites, we want to give you as much lead time as possible to prepare. As a result, we’re telling you about these improvements while things are still being finalized, so I just want to make a general disclaimer that the specifics of what we say here could change somewhat as we near the launch. There may be some differences between the screen shots we display here and what actually ends up in the final interface. And, while we do feel confident about the specific features mentioned below, there is always a possibility that some things could get delayed or changed. It’s also possible that we’ll add even more features!

We’ll be following up with more communication as we near the time of launch to fill you in on how things are progressing. But now, on to the details.

No more admin templates

Perhaps the most significant change we’re implementing is that we’re moving away from utilizing custom admin templates for admin screens. Currently, LightCMS utilizes a template from the design of your website when displaying admin controls such as the WYSIWYG editor or other settings screens. You are able to customize this template currently by providing an admin.html file with your design that the system will use in these admin screens. Once the changes go into effect, LightCMS will no longer use the admin.html template. Instead, it will use its own admin layouts to display all admin content. As a result, it will no longer be necessary to include an admin.html template in your designs.

Why are we moving away from custom admin templates?

There are many reasons we are making this change. I have outlined a few of them below.

  1. Avoiding conflicts. The use of a custom template on admin screens leaves open the possibility for conflicts between your custom admin designs and our system admin controls. Though we have worked to harden our admin layouts to protect against conflicts with custom designs, there is no way to completely avoid situations in which custom designs don’t work right with the admin layout. Moving to system layouts on these screens will eliminate these potential conflicts.
  2. Setting up for much better user interfaces. Currently, the user interfaces on our admin screens are intentionally very barebones in order to avoid, as much as possible, the conflicts mentioned above. By moving these screens into system layouts, we will then be able to move forward with huge improvements to the design and usability of these screens. This will benefit you and your clients greatly as the system controls will become more polished and accessible.
  3. Making things consistent. Currently, some of the admin interfaces exist on system screens while others exist on custom admin templates. This is a confusing inconsistency that we are moving to correct. After this launch, all admin interfaces on the system will have a consistent look and feel.
  4. Removing design hassles. LightCMS has a primary goal of remaining the friendliest and most hassle-free CMS for designers. Requiring designers to create an admin template for every website is an extra hassle that really doesn't offer you much benefit. With this change, we'll be providing the admin layouts so you don't have to, saving you time on every design. Creating sites for LightCMS is about to become even easier!

As you can see, this change to a unified system layout for admin screens will greatly improve the user experience for you and your clients when using LightCMS. Additionally, it will allow us to continue development on further improvements to the interface in the future.

Your brand is our priority

You can rest assured that throughout these changes, we have kept your ability to private-label the system with your brand at the heart of our decisions. The new admin interfaces your clients experience will be neutral in their designs and free of any LightCMS branding (see image). This will be consistent with every other part of the LightCMS system.

WYSIWYG_admin

But we’re not stopping there. We’re also rolling out some major improvements to the admin toolbar and your ability to customize that toolbar to match your own brand. Read on to see what else we have in store with these updates.

Redesigned admin toolbar with full color customization

We’re redesigning the top admin toolbar that you see when you are logged into a LightCMS website.  You can read more about the new admin bar below, but first I want to introduce a new level of private-label branding that will be immediately available.

Customize the color scheme of your admin bar

Currently, you can upload your own logo to appear on the admin bar for your clients. In this new release, we’ll be adding the ability for you to customize all of the colors of the admin bar as well. This will allow you to tightly integrate the admin bar with your logo for a completely branded look.

These customizations will be available through a screen in your account area where you can set all of the admin bar colors and even view a preview of your admin bar before taking it live. We’ll be making this preview screen available to you ahead of our launch date so that you’ll be able to set up your new admin bar before we take these changes live to your clients. We’ll have a fairly small window of time for this advanced customization, though, so you’ll want to be watching our blog and Twitter feeds over the next few weeks for details on when that is available.

Quicker access to all our tools

The new admin bar removes the drop-down-style menus used currently in favor of simple buttons that let you access the controls you need. The admin bar will contain the same controls and option that exist currently, but the layout and look of these buttons will change. See the image below for an idea of what the new admin bar will look like. Remember, the colors will all be customizable by you.

Toolbar

Easily view and change your page templates

One added feature of the new admin bar will be a handy tool that allows you to more easily see what template the page you are viewing is using. Clicking the “You are currently viewing” area will display the design template information and provide a quick link to change the page’s template. Here’s a shot of what that may look like.

Template

Stay tuned for future updates

As mentioned above, things are still being finalized and we don’t have a solid launch date at this time. We’re giving you this heads up so that you can start preparing yourself and your own clients for what is coming. At this point, it looks like the launch will be no earlier than the week of June 1st, 2010, so that gives you about three weeks to prepare for this transition. Of course, the launch may end up being a little later than that giving you even more time. Be sure to stay tuned to our blog and Twitter feed for more details as the time approaches.

As always, thank you for your support and your business. We are constantly hard at work at updating and improving the LightCMS system. We look forward to bringing you these updates and many more in the months to come.

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