Use fewer design customisations

By Ladoo posted on 26 Jun 2012

Matrix Design and Design Customisations offer a great degree of flexibility in how an HTML design can be created and modified. They are so powerful in fact, they tend to be overused and can become real roadblocks for productivity when best practices for using Designs are not followed. The three main problems with Designs and Design Customisations are:

  1. Designs don't scale.
  2. Designs require more user training and more user permissions.
  3. Designs don't support safe edit.
Let's explore each of these issues in detail.

1. Designs don't scale

Designs don't scale well, because there is a limit to the number of Design Customisations a single Design can handle, depending on the resources available to your system. Additionally, Design Customisations are often slower to work with than other assets. A single Design should not be used for a group of sites - or worse - an entire system, because:

  1. If a large group of assets rely on a single Design, that Design file becomes a single point of failure. This means a trivial error when modifying your Design, has the potential to affect an entire website.
  2. You don't have complete control over Design Customisations. If a change is made to a top level Design Customisation or the Design itself, any child Design Customisations could be affected - or worse - removed.
  3. A single Design File will ultimately become more complicated than multiple Design Files would, because of the numerous Design Areas that are required.
The solution to this problem is to use more Designs and fewer Design Customisations. Try and limit the number of Design Customisations to as few as possible. In the rare case where a large number of customisations are required, consider splitting the Design into two.

Body classes

A good way to avoid additional customisations is to assign a class to the <body> tag, which allows small changes in a Design such as different colour schemes, background images, or layouts, to be created using CSS. For example, by applying a class to the <body> tag, we can add different background images to the <h2> element on each page, turning this:


Into this1:

or this2:



If kittens and puppies aren't your thing, consider that any style can be changed using this technique, which could affect anything from the font size and colour of a heading, the border, margin and padding of a paragraph, or even the positioning of any element on the page. If you have sections of your site that need their own identity, this is the way to do it.

In the above two examples, the HTML and CSS used to present these identities were:


  1. Avatar
    07 Jun 2013 12:51pm Scott Hall
    If your a regular user of Squiz Matrix and get your sleeves dirty in Designs, knowledge around this is a must.

    I often get asked the question, why/when to use metadata design controls over using new design customisations, and the answer differs for each client and where they may head with their designs. It's one of those things you eventually understand during your travels as a new implementer, but takes a while to fully get.

    Some supporting information from our own forums over the years, which is great to get your head around:
    -- 'Limit to Number of customisations?'
    -- 'How many Design Customisations is too many?'
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