Should a Total Stranger Be Able to Impose Restrictions on Your Creativity?

Aug 30, 2012

Do you design or build websites? If so, would you like someone you've never met to impose limitations on your design? I don't mean your client, I mean a faceless entity that knows nothing about you nor your client's business - should they have control over your creativity?

If you're like me, you answered "No!", feeling a bit cheezed just at the thought of it. 

However, chances are good that someone's doing just that to your work. More and more site owners want their website on a Content Mangement System (CMS) and you're likely designing, or have designed, a website deployed on a CMS, correct?

What happens when you spark up a CMS install? The vast majority of the time you start with a pre-configured template, or "theme". So your design process begins with a search for themes that are compatible with your vision. Or worse, you actually fit your design within the confines of your ability to modify an existing theme.

Do you see what's happening here? Who built that theme? Who made that CMS? Whomever they are - they don't know you, and they don't know your client. And yet they've imposed restrictions your creative design. You have to design something that works with their theme. Even if you can hack a theme and make it do what you want, the very fact that you have to consider the theme in your design, imposes that theme's structure on your vision - taints your inspiration. And that, my friend, is LAME.

A Blank Canvas

When you design a flyer or business card, do you start with one made by someone you don't know, for a business you've never heard of, and modify it for your client? No! Well don't do it for your web designs!

Start with a blank slate. Because the initial act of creativity is putting that first brushstroke on the canvas, dropping that first pixel on a blank PSD file. That belongs to you and no one else! There is no reason why you shouldn't have Total Creative Freedom - the freedom to create the best design for your client's needs without restriction, without limitation. 

When you install MODX CMS, do you know what you start with? A blank page. No themes. No pre-configured templates. Only an HTML container, and even that can be overwritten by just pasting in your markup.

If you've never used MODX, this can be hard to grasp. You wouldn't be alone if you didn't believe me. People have responded with outright suspicion at the idea that they can actually design whatever they want and have it easily transformed into a dynamic, database driven site. If this is you, contact me and I'll setup a screenshare and show you, or just go and watch these nifty vids.

You can use whichever version of HTML you want. If there was an HTML7 you could put that into MODX and it will serve it up like hot apple pie. You can use CSS1,3 or 19. If you're old-school and wanna use table layouts, it would be painful to watch, but you could do that in MODX. Wanna write a page entirely in Javascript? Wanna use some obscure JS library that no CMS on earth has a plugin for? You can do all these things and more in MODX.

You know why? Because MODX was built on the principle of Creative Freedom. There's a joke inside MODX LLC that their CMS is an "infinite configuration engine". They did that so that you could be Free, my friend. Sure, it means you have the Freedom to make mistakes, to screw things up, to create things so far outside the box that they're hazardous to your health even. 

But wouldn't you rather make your own mistakes than be forced to live with someone else's?