where web content management and user experience collide

You need to pivot for your internal customers too

I’m a fully paid-up fan of the lean startup movement, as popularized by Eric Ries. The core idea: iterate fast to discover who your customers are, and pivot to better address their needs. Given the way agile methodologies and modern web frameworks have accelerated the pace (and reduced the cost) of web software development, this approach makes a lot of sense if you’re building a new consumer-facing app.

But are these ideas also applicable in the CMS world? I think so. CMS is a broad church, with many products and very many features bundled into the average product. That diversity is good because (as, eg. Tony Byrne and co never tire of telling us), so are customer needs and use cases. For most CMS projects of any size, there will be a significant amount of implementation and customisation work to get the product tweaked for the particular scenario; often half the budget or more.

One approach would be do to a detailed analysis before you start the implementation; define stories, roles etc. Then configure your product to match that specification.

Or you could go the lean route. Just ship. Install the product, watch what the users do, and tweak the implementation as you go: pivot to meet their needs.

But that suggests some new requirements for your CMS. First, you need to be able to see what users are doing: what kind of analytics does the CMS expose for editorial usage? To some extent you could use surveys or workshops here, but hard stats will certainly help. And then how quickly can you act on your findings? For example, how easily can you reconfigure your CMS UX—and then roll back if you get it wrong?

There are risks with this approach of course: your editorial users need to be involved in the process so that they don’t get frustrated by the ground shifting under their feet: consistency is close to the first law of UX, after all. But on the plus side, you can get started more quickly, and your solution should end up better aligned to editorial needs.

I’d be interested to hear any success (or horror) stories from people who’ve gone down this route.

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