CMS Website

Does everybody hate their CMS?

We’ve recently run a survey to find out levels of user satisfaction with our web content management system (CMS). I guessed the answer before we started – everyone hates it! Levels of dissatisfaction are very high, with slow performance, poor usability and inflexibility the major gripes. Much of this is justified and there are some specific and significant issues with our current software that need rectifying.

But this is a general issue too. Everyone seems to hate their CMS. We hated our previous CMS. Colleagues who have worked in other organisations hated the CMS’s they used there. I’ve heard people at web conferences moaning about their CMS’s.

CMS’s seem to occupy a compromised middle ground that pleases no one. Web novices find them confusing both in concept and use; experts are frustrated by their inflexibility and the reigns they put on individual creativity; and admins spend a lot of their time servicing the CMS itself (upgrades, bugs, user support etc.) rather than concentrating on the websites produced by the software. Many are off-the-shelf products with fairly standard features that require significant customisation to do anything innovative or really useful. Expectations of different types of users are high, varied and conflicting. The software will almost certainly fail to deliver.

Even if CMSs are fatally flawed, the one thing they could all improve on is usability which, in my experience, is often poor. Typically, the UI is designed by coders and it may make perfect sense from an object-orientated point of view but to the lay user it is baffling and clunky. And yet they are supposedly designed for the lay user to be able to work with websites without understanding any of the underlying technicalities. Vendors and developers across the board need to invest significantly more money and effort in UX and understanding user needs.

Is my hunch wrong – does anyone love their CMS? Is it easy, quick and flexible to use? Do all your user groups smile when talking about it? If so, what are you using?!

By Ben Whitehouse

I'm head of web at Jisc. My team manages and other web services. I'm responsible for ensuring the overall user experience of the Jisc web estate is simple, clear and consistent

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