Internal CMS users matter (a lot)

I’m not sure what rock I’ve been hiding under, but it took a @McBoof retweet for me to discover Michael Kowalski’s blog on CMS and User Experience called CMSISH. I clearly need to get across the pond more often in my blog reading.

Michael has some solid takes, including his most recent post, Hey, agile developers: the CMS is a different product from the website.

Agile programming aside, CMS implementations that struggle usually fail to address the unique needs of the internal CMS users themselves. Michael hits squarely on this challenge.

But really, the CMS is a distinct product (in the agile sense). It has a different set of customers, ie. the staff who will be updating the site content. They have different goals from your site visitors.

As far as the discipline of user experience strategy has progressed, most digital projects still focus on the external users. This of course matters, but the success of your CMS to enable those experiences depends on how well your internal users can manage and publish content. You rarely see research, personas and plans put in place for internal groups.

Michael advocates for a strong internal owner

Most importantly, CMS development (or, more likely, customisation) must have its own customer representative, who represents the product stakeholders (the staff), and who drives development priorities

But internal owner aside, what this really means is that CMS is not purely a technical exercise. Success will depend on the user experience, content, and business owners of digital initiatives to really understand how CMS intersects their world. Having rock star CMS developers are the table stakes, not the end game.

As Michael says, it’s a recipe for a bad product.

If you treat it just as a component, then chances are your developers will be implicitly be taking this role on themselves… making decisions on behalf of stakeholders who they simply don’t represent….This is a recipe for bad product.

About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

More articles from Jeff Cram


2 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. Don’t worry, everyone else has been hiding under a rock too. This is only just starting to get noticed by people, though I blogged about it on a client’s site almost 6 months ago: The experience alphabet.

  2. Make mine a boulder… This idea is far from novel. We’ve been discussing the content contributor experience as one part of a three-dimensional “Web Effectiveness” model with clients for several years. Though websites create value through the site visitor experience, unless site owners address the needs of content contributors AND have an effective technology platform (enabling integration, security, performance, etc.) the site visitor experience, and value creation, goes by the wayside.

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