Sharing CMS Stories

I’ve got this idea of putting together a collection of interviews with users and developers of CMS & other anti-CMS solutions – (h/t @mikenolan) basically just nicking Mike’s Mobile Museum idea and remixing it 🙂

The focus would be on large ‘corporate’ websites in the public sector, higher education and charity sectors I think – mainly as those are the areas I am most interested in and have the most contacts!

However I do wonder if (a) anyone other than me would interested and (b) how honest people would be about the problems they face with their current systems. I don’t think it would work if it was anonymous and it needs to be honest as I think the gap between user expectation and vendor solutions in particular is as wide as ever.

Also I think a re-examination around ‘why?’ we use these tools and whether they actually do provide ‘return on investment’ might be timely.

I’m interested to hear about different publishing processes as well – are people still maintaining small central publishing teams or is a distributed publishing model wide-spread now?

Though to be honest I think the most interesting bits will be hearing about the challenges people face with whatever solution they are using and also their thoughts on what would make a ‘perfect’ solution.

So in the spirit of kicking things off I’ve interviewed myself and my [short] answers are below!

What CMS or web publishing solution do you use?

Stellent 7ish from Oracle

How long have you been using it?

It has been in place for about six years at this point though I have only been using it for a year or so.

Do you have web design/development resource in-house or do you outsource?

We have no in-house technical resource and very minimal access to anything beyond the CMS web interface. There has been very minimal development or design work done to the site since the initial launch and recent innovations have taken place ‘off-platform’.

Approximately how large (pages) is the site and how often does it get updated?

The site is just under 2,000 HTML pages (+ an awful lot of PDFs). It gets updated daily – at least a couple of minor tweaks plus bigger changes.

What publishing process do you use? (i.e. is there a central web team who update the site, distributed publishing or a mix?)

A central team of two publishing about 95% of all content. One or two additional people do have training and access but it is a very limited pool of people and tightly controlled.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced with your current publishing solution?

The lack of flexibility. The system pre-dates the social web and thus even basic things like embedding third-party content is a non starter let alone anything like ‘mobile first’.

It is really difficult to make any significant changes to the site at all (even minor changes take days/weeks) and many of the ‘features’ of the site have become limiting over time rather than the innovations they started out as.

What would say would be the single most important element to a successful solution?

Usability. I have used quite a few CMSs – off the shelf, open source and bespoke – and generally they have all suffered from the same problem. They were designed by engineers who never actually have to add content to a website! They overload the software with features that are barely used (or disabled at the 1st opportunity) and fail to concentrate on the dull but vital element of just adding and updating webpages and making that as simple as possible. My other pet peeve is the labeling – does anyone ever user test these system – i shouldn’t need to learn a whole new vocab for every system 🙂

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