There is a wide array of top-notch content management system (CMS) tools available to marketers and each platform is pushing new and exciting features with each release. Today, marketers can have email, personalization and CRM tools as part of their CMS out of the box. However, at its core, the CMS main function is managing website content and assets in an organized, easy to use way that is catered towards its primary users – marketers.
Over the past couple years in particular, we’ve been seeing marketers demand more of their CMS in regards to its ease of use. This has always been top of mind for marketers when implementing a CMS for a new web site but the game is changing.
Every day marketers are relying more on their internal teams rather than agencies to do everything from populating entire sites from scratch, to building out new sections, to content maintenance after the initial go-live. As a result, the demand for the CMS to be incredibly user friendly and time efficient (for both technical and non-technical users) is more important than ever. If the CMS is not usable or frustrating for content authors to update content, shortcuts tend to introduce themselves.
For example, the seamless persona-driven user experience design that relies on modular, rich content delivery ends up turning into a wall of body content because it’s too hard to work with day to day. Multiply that across key sections of the site and you have a web site that falls short or flat out fails in its function for marketing business objectives.
While CMS platforms of today are pushing the envelope on all fronts, it’s the responsibility of the website implementation partner to create a customer experience as tailored towards the marketers as the user experience is tailored towards website users. We recently had a client tell us the new CMS experience was like putting together a fun puzzle, while the last one was so complicated, rigid and technical that no one wanted to touch it. However, the last implementation and the new implementation shared the same CMS platform. Depending on the CMS the marketers choose, it may do great things out of the box, but chances are the implementation of that CMS can make or break the overall experience.
The CMS training room head counts are growing and the faces present are everyone from the summer interns to the Chief Marketing Officers. All marketing eyes are on the success of your CMS implementation because its features and degree of usability are essential to the success of digital marketing campaigns and business objectives. Now is the time to recognize the rise of the marketing client and content author personas.
Here are some ways in which we’ve found success with these personas in both the user and customer experience design:
Continue to Document the User Experience but Document the CMS Experience as well
Functional specs are great at telling marketers and implementation teams how the site should look and function. However, we need to explicitly document the page builder experience as well. For example, which fields are available for content input vs. a rich text editor, are modules placed on a new page by default, and if so which ones? The list of questions and requirements goes on and the important thing is to shift our thinking and incorporate this type of documentation. It requires much more careful collaboration of technology and user experience with the marketers but the end goal will help the CMS experience immensely.
Prototype It and Test It
Documentation will keep things clear and honest and it will help marketers to start thinking about a CMS experience that works for their needs, but at some point they need to take it for a test drive. Investing in a CMS prototype of even just a handful of page layouts and modules can go a long way. Create a test plan with real CMS user cases and let content authors test it in a controlled environment. Watch users try to build real pages with real content and gather their feedback; see what works, what doesn’t, and what could help them edit or build something new more quickly. Implementing a page builder design and workflow that fits their day-to-day needs earlier in the project will save time and money down the road, as opposed to trying to retroactively rebuild functionality that doesn’t end up working for the marketers.
Release Early and Often
Marketers are anxious to dive into the CMS and roll up their sleeves earlier in the project so let’s figure out a good plan to do so. Often a CMS is held back until everything is complete and fully tested but, when correctly communicated, these things can be caveated and tested more iteratively. Let the marketers in the CMS early and devise a release plan of page layout templates, modules and functionality. Train them on the new features, gather their feedback and improve upon the experience in the next release. By the time the web site moves into official user acceptance testing, marketers will have already seen it all. User acceptance testing becomes less of a big unveiling and more of a final walk through.
Expand the CMS Training Sessions
As noted above, conduct more regular and iterative training sessions on smaller pieces. Rather than instruct, lead a working session. Make sure the content authors use the tools and build content themselves, on their own computer. Build on each training step by step with new CMS tools and ways to think about their content. In the first session, get them to login and setup a basic page with a module or two. Evolve over time in how to think about their content and how to map and migrate it the right way into the new experience. Smaller, more digestible hands on working sessions go a long way in content author acceptance and ability to achieve the intended user experience.
As the CMS platforms available to marketers evolve, so must the thinking behind their implementation. Rather than looking at these powerful tools as simply a place where content lives, we need to consider the experience of users who have been tasked with executing on the vision for a website. Marketing goals rely on the digital experience to drive them and often those tools can only be as successful as the CMS behind it. Why not start with your best foot forward and deliver an easy to use system that helps content authors feel empowered rather than encumbered.