The goal of The Project is embedded within its name: Improving the Client's User Experience (in managing the website and its content).
We don't believe that there is a silver bullet to solve all CMS-related problems, but we do believe that significant improvement is attainable. The next big gains won't come from "faster horses" (i.e., a better CMS), but rather from a new approach. This new approach includes new tools and a new discipline. The iCue Project is about identifying and evolving both.
First, we identify the real problem, articulate the approach, and then attempt to evolve this new discipline with discussions of principles and best practices. Second, we put these lessons into practice through protoyping and evolving the new tools that support this new discipline.
The real problem
Website management differs from website development in terms of needs, goals, perspectives, workflows, and required knowledge of the CMS. Website managers are are a different type of CMS user than are website developers. If we try to improve the CMS to satisfy both user types, we will never be satisfied. That attempt is like trying to breed faster horses instead of inventing the automobile.
The new approach
We address the problem by giving the content creators and website managers a CMS user experience that is different from that used by web developers. Further, we tailor this new user experience to the needs and capabilities of the content creators and website users. This is similar to designing the front-end, but with more potential. Unlike the front-end users, we know who the backend users are, their motivations, and their capabilities. Each client's needs will be different. Just as front-end development comes with its own set of disciplines, so this new effort of designing for the client begs for its own discipline.
A redesigned CMS or a set of new tools is not enough. Improvement requires that we develop and apply a new discipline.
The new discipline
How do we segment users? How do we assign roles and responsibilities? How do we address the non-technical or disinterested content creator? What is different about the way we design for known users with known tasks and goals? How do we design for workflows? ...and for complex, multi-user workflows? How much expertise do we need to adequately configure access and permissions. What are the qualities of "intuitive" when it comes to an interface to a technical system? Where do we start? How much effort do we need to put into this?
We learn from past experiences, user feedback, and similar disciplines. But we still need something articulated and commonly understood as its own discipline. The Project focuses on articulating and refining principles. And being nascent, this discipline will evolve as we experiment and put it into practice...
using this site
- Pay attention to the principles and discussions presented here. (An RSS feed will be available)
- Study the suggested principles. They will be illustrated with further discussion and videos.
- Consider the tools and how they are applied within this new discipline.
- If you use Joomla, apply these tools in real projects, practice the new discipline, and share your results or suggest further improvements.
- Sign up for the iCue newsletter.
The iCue Project is directed by Randy Carey, web architect and consultant for Careytech Studios. Founded in late 2011, the Project will be experimenting with Joomla! and real projects to better articulate CMS usability through principles and best practices. As needed, new extensions will be developed and shared through this site.
If this topic interests you, or if you would like to be kept informed of case studies and available Joomla! extensions, we encourage you to subscribe (free).
Randy Carey is available for consultation, custom development of products, or to improve the user experience of Joomla! installations.