CMS Usability: 10 Tips to Consider (Part 1)

Content Management System (CMS) roll outs frequently present many challenges, one of the biggest being usability. Some of the commonly heard customer feedback and queries include:

  • “My business users are not able to understand this new technical tool. What they need is a very simple way to add/edit some text, add images, videos, submit for approvals and publish new stories. We do not need all the technical bells and whistles!”
  • “What is the use of this button on this screen? I do not need this. Please remove it!”
  • “Why do I need to perform extra 3 clicks to do this task? Why can it not it happen in a single click?”
  • “Have you configured this right? I would like to validate it with a product vendor or some external CMS experts to ensure it is correctly configured.”

CMS Usability: 10 Tips to Consider

CMS usability is one of the primary concerns among business users. While rolling out a new CMS platform, it is important to consider CMS usability from the project initiation phase. It should be well integrated into the CMS design process. Below are a few tips and techniques from a CMS usability standpoint to consider while planning and preparing for a CMS rollout.

1) CMS Dashboard view: The CMS dashboard should act as a one stop shop for users to perform their Business-As-Usual (BAU) content operations. Dashboard provides a handy toolkit packaged in a structured manner which helps users to launch content operations in an easy and intuitive manner. Some  tools which users generally like  to have on their dashboard include:

  • Recently edited content items
  • Favourite content items
  • Favourite folders
  • Content waiting for approval
  • Ability to launch site in preview or edit mode
  • Expired content notifications
  • Training videos for easy reference
  • Content Analytics

Many CMS tools offer dashboard functionalities and we strongly advise companies to make use of it to create a better content authoring experience.

2) Site Wide Preview: Users want to have complete site visualization in the CMS itself as it would appear on the site. The inability to visualize the complete site in an easy and intuitive manner can be a real pain for business users. While selecting your CMS tool, you must confirm the site wide preview capabilities for various different scenarios.

3) Surf and Edit: Users are usually well aware of the website, however, it is hard for them to comprehend content structures inside the CMS, which is managed using different folders. Business users usually appreciate the concept of surfing and editing the website. Although this approach sometimes leads to more number of clicks, the usage experience is somewhat like an Apple product where you don’t mind the extra clicks because your experience is pleasant.

4) Search: Search in the CMS is very important in terms of finding content. A search widget on the user dashboard can help users to locate hidden content which is not easily accessible by surfing the site.

5) Content Authoring Forms: After locating content, content authors require content authoring forms to make changes to the content. The forms should be well designed, with logical structure, meaningful labels, proper validations and a clear call to action. It is important to bear in mind that business users need to understand the use of different fields in the forms and if there are too many fields in the form then it will be difficult for them to comprehend.

This is the first of the two part blog series on usability issues to consider while rolling out a Content Management System. Check out the second part of the blog, where we delve on other usability issues.

Amar Surjit

Senior Architect, Virtusa. Amar brings with him over 11 years of experience in IT consulting. He has worked with a variety of clients from different industry verticals. Over the years, Amar has architected large-scale solutions ranging from Enterprise Portals, Web Content and Document management systems, complex integrations and bespoke J2EE, and Microsoft .Net based solutions. Amar’s core competencies include Solution Architecture, Agile delivery, IT consulting & Strategy, Public, Telecom and Transport sector, Major software design & development. Amar is a graduate in Electronics and Communication Engineering.

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