Recent projects have forced me to look critically at how business users interact with their web content management systems, and the significance that the ethereal term “user experience” (which I will use interchangeably with the older term UI or user interface) can have both to their job satisfaction and their productivity. In my opinion, the single most important piece of a web content management solution is the interface used by the editorial team. If the user interface is poor or lacking, your editorial team will not work as quickly, content won’t be as fresh, and traffic to your site will usually drop.

A recent client came to me with evidence of a significant drop in the rate at which content was being updated, which translated to a similar drop in site traffic. Ultimately for this client, less traffic meant less ad revenue and that’s a bad thing. I can’t say that in other companies the relationship between web content and revenue is quite so linear, but it seems worth talking about the things that make web CMS easy to use.

There are web CMS features that your editorial team will find intuitive and those that they will find obtuse. Usually, the latter functions result in content editors saying, “I don’t get this; I’m not a developer.” Advanced functions are definitely important, and any organization will have the occasional savvy editor that will get (and use) the advanced features, but the focus of this short essay is in looking at the day-to-day activities. A system that embraces even the most casual content editor will ultimately be the most appreciated by the editorial team.

The Evolving Zeitgeist of Digital Interfaces

Zeitgeist is a German word, which literally translates as the spirit of the time. It’s usually used in conjunction with ethics or culture and describes how ethical and cultural norms change over time. What might have been perfectly acceptable textbook material in the 1900s may come across as offensive today. Much of what we read today may come across as offensive a hundred years from now.

There’s a similar shared experience when it comes to digital interfaces, especially since technology is an increasingly fundamental part of our lives. As our digital aesthetic evolves over time, interfaces across all media and channels need to stay up to date if they are to see fast adoption. Thankfully, these changes generally happen slowly and over a time (the iPhone is a prime exception to this rule). Start up an old Mac OS 2 and see how antiquated it seems. The most striking thing will be the lack of rounded edges. The shift from hard edges to rounded corners has been happening both online and in our operating systems for quite some time.