The user experience for content authors is critical to the successful adoption of a content management system.

Word count: about 600 words
Reading time: approximately 5 minutes

A CMS platform helps companies create, manage, and scale their digital content for a website or intranet. The content authoring experience in CMS involves how writers, editors, and content reviewers use a CMS platform to write, edit, and review content.

This could be writing a page, writing a post, taking content through workflow, editing content, uploading assets such as images, videos, and PDFs. It can include tagging content with taxonomy terms and adding pages to the navigation structure. While CMS platforms can be very flexible, especially open-source platforms, it can also lead to a disjointed authoring experience that lacks cohesion.

How do add-ins affect the authoring experience? How do content types and templates work together?

Here are a few items to think about to improve the content authoring experience.

CMSs often used to drive process change

Sometimes implementing a new CMS is used as a way to drive process change. An organization may want to wrestle control away from a decentralized authoring or they may want to establish better brand presence with better templates.

While a CMS can help with limiting access or improving templates, it’s also a challenging way to introduce needed process change. Often the changes dictated by the CMS can leave authors feeling out-of-control and unable to contribute to an organization (which slows down the change management process that everyone must go through).

During the process, authors and stakeholders may bring up their objections. At this point, a change management technique, such as in the form of a facilitated workshop, can help uncover concerns and requirements.

Ensure the layout is the same across content types

When using multiple content types, ensure the fields in the different content types laid out in the same order and use the same look-and-feel. For example, in one implementation, one content type had tag picker fields that were different heights and widths.

Another content type had the taxonomies merged into one field instead of separated out. Another content type listed the taxonomy fields in different orders.

Ensure that interactions with fields or features are implemented consistently across different forms.

User testing for input

When in doubt, test the CMS by having authors go through the content creation and publication process. Have editors and reviewers go through their processes, too.

Doing a few tests can catch some low-hanging fruit that can easily improve the back-end authoring experience. It can also give you a chance to hear the concerns of the content authors and make adjustments as needed.

We hope these ideas get you started thinking not just about the end user visiting a website, but also about the people using the website backend to do their work.

Some definitions…

In this article, we talked about content types and templates. What’s the difference?

Content types are about the metadata and on-page content, separated from the way that content looks on the page. A content type lists the different fields needed for that type of content.

For example, you can have an event content type or a news content type. An event has a start time, start date, end time, and end date. A news content type doesn’t need these start and end fields.

By separating these bits of information out into their own fields, you can change the way content is displayed based on templates and website style sheets and you don’t have to go back into every event page and change the layout.

It’s an extraordinarily powerful step toward creating scalable content.

Templates define the layout of content on your site, both where the content is placed as well as the colours, fonts, images, etc.