I'm trying (desperately) to collect good ideas for a backend form to manually map various types of content to navigation items.

The problem is apparently very common, but since there are gazillion types of content, and as many content management systems, no common approach appears to even exist.

To the point. Can anyone recommend an example of simple yet functional form that would allow an inexperienced user to quickly attach various content to navigation? The supported behavior should cover thoughts like "this menu item should contain articles with tag 'foo', 10 items per page", or "this menu item will contain feedback form and an image gallery named 'bar'" (no pun intended :).

The best approximation to combining very different things in one visual form I've seen so far is the advanced search form in Mac OS X Finder (attached, in Russian, but you get the idea), but since it is meant for a totally different application, it's a bit off.


Any input would be appreciated.


It seems that a bit of technical detail wouldn't hurt. The system in question uses 100% code-design separation, meaning that upon user request a dom document with dynamic data is built and passed to the templating engine to produce xhtml.

Dynamic data is prepared by php methods, the engine allows for URL-to-method(s) mapping.

There is a need for a backend-configurable controller that would link certain URLs, essentially navigation item identifiers, to a set of method calls that fetch the data.

So, in theory I need a form that allows to translate URL like


into a method call, say:

cms::listArticles('about', 10, 0); 
//                 ^^ tag, ^^^^ limit/offset 

in a user-friendly way.

Hope this didn't make things any more confusing :-|

  • For those of us who dont speak russian (my guess) can you translate the parts you are talking about in the image above?
    – jonshariat
    May 25, 2011 at 18:12
  • Sure, but this is not really relevant. Search: [This Mac] "Downloads" | [Content] File name (Save) (-), / (Type) - (PDF) / (Creation date) - (in the past) - [1] (days) / (Name) (matches) [z]
    – etranger
    May 25, 2011 at 18:21
  • 1
    I guess I am confused about your question as a whole then. Are you asking for an example of a form that would create items in a navigation? If so, what does the screenshot suppose to show?
    – jonshariat
    May 25, 2011 at 20:13
  • To be more clear: navigation is used to split website into parts that supposedly deliver different kinds of data. The means of visual configuration what kind of data (articles, polls, feedback forms, catalog items etc), and what subset of that data each section will deliver is what needs to be designed.
    – etranger
    May 25, 2011 at 21:30

2 Answers 2


Your screenshot looks more like a content query building tool. Like you said, display items of type x, limit to 10, sort by date ascending... yadda yadda yadda. That's a specific tool for building a type of page, you would need a separate tool for associating that page with a specific navigation item in a navigation structure.

Combining it all into one interface seems nice, but might result in confusion and a lack of flexibility later on. Not sure if that helps. Perhaps users follows this abstract path:

  1. Create a new page that contains dynamic data.
  2. Set up query parameters to pull that data into the page.
  3. Assign this page to an existing or brand new navigation link in a menu.

Seems like this would naturally lead to a question of how closely should a content management system mirror the navigational structure of the live website.

Here are some screenshots of tools I could think of that allow for the creation of queries and rules. These might be too powerful and complex for your purposes.

Apple Mail Rules Dialog

Outlook Mac Rules Dialog

Visual Studio 2010 Edit TFS Query

Addendum: Also, the idea of building it as a custom URL is pretty cool. Something like this might work.

URL builder interface mockup

  • The CMS in question combines the concepts of navigation and a page. Navigation item, called section, has its own URL, and has to be configured to pull the data to be displayed, like you said. Designing the form that would allow for such a configuration is my current problem. Technically, this data comes in form of XML from various sources, technically php methods with parameters. So, no query language here.
    – etranger
    May 25, 2011 at 21:26
  • OK, so your question is how to express this content query creation visually. I think you are on the right path with your screenshot. I'll update my answer with some other sample query or rule builders.
    – sirtimbly
    May 25, 2011 at 21:58

Why are we talking about a 'CMS in question' - is there a reason why the CMS cannot be named? I cam here looking for help on a Joomla related enquiry.

  • 2
    This User Experience site is platform agnostic - it relates to user experience issues and what the solutions should involve. If you are after technical questions about how to implement different solutions you should refer to the other StackExchange sites, such as StackOverflow, Programmers, Drupal or various other SE sites. There is even a Joomla StackExchange site in proposal at the moment on Area 51
    – JonW
    Mar 23, 2012 at 15:57

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