Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will our current writers and editors “get” the new CMS?

I get this question all the time from others in the process of implementing or selecting a web content management system. Honestly, the answer is maybe half will. The other half will either hate it so much they move on to something else, or just not get the idea at all. When we were rebuilding our big corporate site using the new WCMS, we probably went through 30 or so contract writers and editors. Only about 15 really, really came to understand it.

Until there is a clear winner and standardization for web content management systems (similar to MS Word in the word processing market) training will continue to be a huge problem for those who need occasional content developers to help during crunch time. The learning curve for our complex system is so long that bringing in contractors is often not an option.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Slow Progress for WCMS Systems

Here is a cold look at the WCMS market about 2004 - close to the time when we were actually experiencing many of the problems mentioned in the article - Web Content Management Systems: Find the Appropriate Solution

The author’s final summary mirrors my own experience - a large complicated WCMS can work for big companies and governments, but at very high initial, and ongoing, cost.

“Even the most thoughtful projects may be misguided,” suggests Adaptive Path’s
Jeffrey Veen. “Over and over I’ve heard the same complaint about these projects,
‘Turns out, after all the budget and time we spent, we really didn’t need a
content management system at all. We just needed some editors.’”

They didn't know what to call them, but they really needed a Web Content Strategist or two.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Beauty of Having On-site Developers

Having in-house programmers who can modify our WCMS interface is a luxury that many WCMS users don’t have. It really comes in handy for the small changes that wouldn’t justify a consulting engagement. I had an example this week.

User testing showed that new and infrequent users just didn’t get how we were indicating required fields in our online forms. We had been using bold text to indicate a required field, but most new and inexperienced users were just missing that and entering something in every field. So we tried a few solutions and found the one that tested the best was putting a small gold diamond next to each required field. I know, there must be a standard somewhere that we are violating, but that’s not my sandbox. It tested well and customers seemed to like it.

The problem came in trying to describe the symbol in translated text. Some of our WCMS help popup templates don’t allow for graphics. But they do allow special characters such as TM symbols etc. I was afraid to just write text like, “Required fields are indicated with a small gold diamond.” due to translation issues. Our translation vendor does not have the best record with Asian languages in these matters. I was sure I’d get an angry call from China asking why we were indicating required fields with a “baby glowing crystal” - or something like that.

So, in passing, I asked the WCMS programmers if they could add the gold diamond symbol to our toolbar of special characters. And bam, there it was! I love having these guys here.