Sydney-based CMS guru James Robertson, managing director of Step Two Designs, has put together a detailed list of usability principles particular to CMS products. For those in or entering a CMS procurement cycle, come hither, let's have a usability huddle.Robertson precludes his principles by noting the two major factors one should consider before making a CMS purchase are the system's functionality and it's user friendliness. If a CMS is not suitable for the content contributors and managers, sift it out, no second-guessing. It will not work. The purpose of the Robertson piece is to help guide notions about functionality and usability so buyers can gauge these merits in a practical manner. Consider these principles in your decision-making process and you'll be 11 steps ahead of your industry peers. Stability is key, and a lot of it has to do with the usability of the CMS across an increasing number of users. While complexity often yields more functionality, bells and whistles mean little if no one can bear to look at the system in the morning. Note that the majority of your content management users will probably be content creators. According to Robertson a usable, stable CMS will: # Minimize the number of options # Be robust and have error-proof editing functionality # Present a task-oriented interface # Hide the underlying implementation details # Meet basic usability guidelines # Match author mentality # Support both regular and visiting Users # Deliver an efficient user experience # Provide accessible aid # Minimize training requirements # Support self-sufficiency Below are a few we thought to highlight. Minimize the Number of Options With functionality often comes more bells, whistles and distractions. It's easy to overwhelm a user with choices; worse still, it increases learning time and therefore the likelihood of error. If you need a multi-functional CMS, minimize the number of options available to users through restrictive, role-based privileges and simple authoring windows. And since this is kind of a big deal, make sure the content management you select allows for these kinds of simplification options. Match Author Mentality Don't add to content creator frustration by forcing them to learn new jargon in order to work with the content management system intended to make their jobs more efficient. Support Self-Sufficiency To be truly usable, users should be able to complete their tasks without third-party assistance. Ensure they can publish content, restructure what needs changing, add and manage different users and update security settings accordingly. They should not need particular technical knowledge or development skills to do any of these things. Does this sound like a dream? It probably is. The trick is to keep the needs and stresses of your content team at the forefront when making a CM system selection. Adriaan M. Bloem of Netherlands-based Radagio notes, "Discussions about 'Web 2.0 and content management' tend to rehash the wiki, blog, folksonomy hype," leaving little attention for the heart of the matter: "that good usability enables people to use complex technology. Much of what makes Web 2.0 examples work is based on the fact that in one way or another their use is much more intuitive than that of 'classic' content management systems." We never felt more warm and fuzzy about Web 2.0. For the full scoop, read the complete James Robertson article here.