Making Content Contribution Easier for CMS Users
One of my favorite blog posts is Paul Boag’s “Everybody hates their content management system.” As a product manager of a content management system, this article serves as a challenge and an inspiration. His criticism mirrors what we hear repeatedly when we ask marketers about their experience with content management systems, and helped inspired the recent update to our content contributor interface in Percussion CMS 4.4.
As marketers look to develop more content as a means of drawing people to their sites, they are turning to a greater number of users within the organization to contribute content. People who are the experts in their domain can contribute valuable content, but the CMS can become a barrier to those contributors wanting to participate in the content creation process.
In Paul’s words:
“The majority of content management systems are not easy to use. They contain far more functionality and complexity than the average user needs … Most CMS users only update the website occasionally. This means they are not becoming familiar with how these systems work and forget any training they have received.”
There is a clear divide between the power users of the system who are responsible for defining page design, information architecture, and navigation and those who are simply responsible for adding content such as blog posts, news, events or page updates. In a system that is optimized for the power user and their need for flexibility and robust functionality, the content contributor is easily overwhelmed.
To compound the problem, most organizations when looking to expand content contributors need to persuade these users to participate. While some contributors volunteer, many are persuaded by the marketing team to participate. In this environment, any friction in the process will cause these individuals to disengage.
It was with this in mind that we developed our new home page for content contributors. We had a few basic principles when we developed the new page.
Actions must be obvious—contributors perform only two basic actions: add content and edit content. As such we put those actions directly in front of them with a wizard to add content, and search and browse capabilities to find and edit content.
A casual contributor typically adds the same kind of content repeatedly—The system learns the locations and content types the user creates and on subsequent visits to the CMS presents those as preferred types. The default view for these users is also a “recent items” list to make it easy to return to content that is in development or to use recent content as a model.
Be aware of configuration—to make the the UI as simple as possible, we ensure that the user is not presented unnecessary fields. This level of configuration awareness often requires implementation effort in a development platform but happens automatically in Percussion CMS product.
One of the solutions that Paul Boag presents in his article was to develop “custom interfaces for common tasks.” It was the spirit of this recommendation that we developed our new contributor home page. However, a “custom interface” is not something that most organizations can afford to develop.
Custom interfaces are typically brittle since designs and roles can evolve and it can be costly to need to evolve the custom CMS interface to keep pace. Rather than custom, this is a targeted interface that will continue to be valuable as an organization’s website evolves.
One of the success metrics for a content management system is the rate of adoption within an organization, and whether trained one-time users will keep coming back. By making the content contributor experience simpler and more focused, I hope marketers will have an easier time getting their contributors to keep coming back and creating more great content.
Dan is a product management specialist with over 15 years of experience building new enterprise products and launching them successfully to market. He has extensive customer and sales facing experience, outlining product solutions that have been successful for customers from 300 to 300,000 employees. Well over 3 million users are using products he has launched. In his spare time, Dan spends his disposable income on Apple products and dreams of seeing his name in TechCrunch.