What are the preferred qualities of the system by which website staff manage their site and content? The iCue Project is working to articulate what these are, to illustrate with examples, and to build tools and products that leverage these principles.
Here are the principles as the Project currently articulates them. We categorize them under Simplify, Tailor, User-Centric, and Insulate.
Provide the user only what he/she needs and is capable/willing to use
Replace technical terms with those that are commonly understood by user.
simplify: lean and effective workflows
As much as possible...
- model the workflow after the business decisions and options a user needs to make
- automate/hide the mechanics and steps that implement the workflow
tailor: segment users
Segment users to deliver tailored user experiences, base upon...
- the user's capabilities,
- the user's level of responsibilities, and
- the resources to be managed
This can affect what menu items or options we show the user, what fields they see in the form fields, what images or other resources they can access, and what tools are available in their editor's toolbar.
simplify: single path per task
Provide a single, clear path to accomplish each given task. Don't confuse the user with multiple options for doing the exact same thing.
(Reasoning: We introduce complexity when we introduce alternative workflows - the user has to remember which steps are alternative instead of required, and the user has to make a decision about an option that is not important to the task at hand.) (Exception: some power users may prefer multiple options.)
User-Centric: task-based interface
Users typically log in to a CMS to perform a partculart task - so provide a clear starting point and successive steps for performing a task.
Avoid generic solutions in favor of a task-specific interface.
user-centric: leverage the user's mental model of the site
Tie into the user's mental model: the visual front-end. This is the natural and intuitive way of how a nontechnical person percieves a website. Website assets that can be identified and understood from viewing a page and its layout will probably benefit from front-end, in-line editing.
(Caution: Many details of a website do not map well to a page or its layout, and these details are not served well with in-line editing.)
user-centric: standard interface features
When a task can be accomplished through common web mechanisms and metaphors (such as a menu, quicklinks, buttons, and dropdowns), use these. Do not invent new and clever ways as these will not be obvious or intuitive to casual users. (Most website managers use the CMS as a tool and want it to be as intuitive as posible so they can complete their task.)
insulate: from mistakes
Reduce the likelihood (and consequences) of the user making a mistake (that causes harm or must be undone, or distracts from the objective).
insulate: from formatting and needless decisions
Insulate the user from
- all formatting and structural details that he should not change
- and from decisions he does not need to consider.
insulate: from admin roles
If a user has significantly differing types of roles (in particular: admin vs content management), give that user a unique login for each role type. Typically, disjointed roles are performed at different frequencies and in significantly different contexts/needs.