By Natalie Burns, UX Consultant at Felinesoft
The old adage goes, beauty is only skin deep. It’s also true of websites.
I spent today at the first Umbraco Show & Tell addressing UI & UX in London. The event was booked to capacity pretty quickly due to some great speakers (Andy Butland, Head of .Net Development and Ben Pilgrim, Senior Account Manager at Zone Digital, Holland Risley, Managing Director, and Hannah Snell, Head of Client Services. Mentor Digital), finishing up with a talk from Neil Hartvig, the infectiously energetic founder of Umbraco.
Unsurprisingly, all attendees left feeling fairly confident that Umbraco was the fairest CMS of them all. However, the talks centred around a topic I’ve been expounding the benefits of since I started in digital. The importance of content, and the way it is often overlooked in the whole web design process - including UX.
These days I happily work as a UX consultant for the lovely team Felinesoft, but I cut my teeth in the world of the web as an SEO copywriter & content editor. And trust me, I know the pain of a CMS back office that doesn’t consider UX. I also know the frustration of having to master numerous CMS systems with limited information or training available.
The reason for this is often that CTOs and marketing managers are endlessly wowed by apparently all signing, all dancing, shiny & new solutions for their company. So many CMS solutions promise the earth, but unless implemented properly – around the client’s actual requirements - they frequently fail to deliver.
This can be expensive, and is often based on little or no knowledge about what this new platform can do that is genuinely applicable to your company. Often digital agencies don’t know how to set the new system up in a way that fits client needs. Also, there are often similar features available in the system they already have that have been left unexplored in favour of the next big thing.
Most importantly, when purchasing the next platform, there is often little to no consideration given to how the content editors, marketers, web managers or the general in-house team will use it.
This is the great divide – developers build, designers design, and it all looks fab. In theory, it all works beautifully. But content, and the reality of regularly adding, editing, updating and displaying the actual content that users have come to the site to see is often overlooked.
That’s what the Umbraco Show & Tell did very well – and about time.
UX, content and development must learn how to be comfortable bedfellows if you are to design a digital solution that works both for those users interacting with the beautifully designed front end, and for users who have to interact with the back office day-to-day. It’s the problem we constantly strive to address at Felinesoft, by ensuring our dev team, UX team, design team & CRM team work together to build a user friendly, end-to-end solution that works for all users.
The first talk by Zone Digital focussed on transforming the conversation by bringing web build and content together, customising back office controls, and providing a tailored interface that fits around the way clients actually create & use their content.
The second talk by Mentor Digital concentrated around membership sites with complex CRM requirements – an area in which the Felinesoft team are very well versed - centring on content personalisation, tracking out of date content on large websites and simplifying journeys for content editors.
The closing speaker, Neil Hartvig is founder of the Umbraco platform, and gave a very lively presentation about (shockingly) the wonder of Umbraco as the best CMS. However, this was more than a sales pitch.
This is a man who seems genuinely to have UX at his heart. He criticised earlier versions in all their foibles, explained fixes (there are some great small revisions planned on the road to version 8. Iteratively. As it should be) and explained why back office customisation, the flexibility to integrate well with existing CMS & marketing platforms is so important. He also spoke very well about the necessity to provide a user journey as well presented and well considered to your admin & content team as you do to your end users. And we agree.
Without a doubt, some companies benefit hugely from high-end, paid licence solutions like Sitecore with it’s incredibly sophisticated DMS. However, others could benefit just as well from a free, open source and incredibly customisable solution like Umbraco. All companies are individual, and there are some great platforms available. Make sure you really do your research (we are here to help with the UX discovery if you need a hand) before spending your hard earned digital budget. Then, repeat after me.
This is my CMS. There are many others like it, but this one is mine*
Once you have found the right platform - with the right levels of customisation based around you content and the way you need to use it - own it.
Develop it in the way that works for you best, from the back office to the design & UI, considering UX at every step. Make sure those people who will be using it day-to-day (the people who write the content that is the real purpose of your site) can use it with ease. If we make their lives easy, you, your content team, and your users will be happy.
*Apologies for the Full Metal Jacket/Riflemans Creed reference. Choosing or customising a CMS needn’t feel like a battle. Especially if you have good UX advice from an experienced team on your side ;)