Time for a CMS ‘remix’

For better or worse Content Management Systems have been a big part of my professional life these last 10 or so years. I am convinced that they are directly responsible for at least 25% of my grey hair and I have never been involved in a CMS project that didn’t cause me headaches of some kind. I never get hung up the technical aspects – I have always been lucky enough to hire smarter people than myself to deal with that – and to be fair the enterprise scale CMSs offer an enormous amount of features these days that allow you to achieve pretty much anything you want (admittedly with more development days than you ever expect!) but the problem I always come up against is just how, for want of a better word, wrong the back ends to these systems are! Built by developers for developers (plus maybe the occasional sys admin) the backends are constantly an unintuitive muddle, poorly labeled and with ‘helpful’ features that confuse rather than help. Options are constantly added to improve the usability but they seem to be after thoughts at best and rarely actually seem to fit in with a genuine workflow.

What I would like to see if a big CMS taking inspiration from two of the big online success stories of the last few years; Ubuntu and WordPress.

The way Ubuntu offers remixes that are genuinely aimed at particular users while always maintaining the core offering is a lesson to all software providers. They have been successful in recent times because unlike alot of open source projects they take UX seriously and work hard to move away the worthy but ugly stereotype of many open source projects.

WordPress also realised that they needed to make changes; the 2.5 release made radical changes to the backend of WP and was driven not by the amazing developer community but by a leading web design company, Happy Cog, (in consultation with the developer community and users!) who completely re-worked the user-interface for the tool based on research about how people actually used the software and made it into something that was easy to use from people without a technical background while still retaining the flexibility that the geeks (myself included) always loved about it.

A CMS that genuinely spent time and resources working with users to create a ‘remix’ where the day-to-day activities of its users became the focus in a simple and usable way would create huge tremors in the marketplace. I know every CMS vendor out there is going to say they already do this but I’m sorry that is either not true or you need to hire new people.

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