Content Management Interfaces - Less is more

Posted by Richard Johnson on 18 April 2011

I've read a few articles over the years discussing the best ways to design a user interface used in a content management system or any web application. Usability has always been a key factor when designing an interface however this becomes a little more difficult when the application has many features.

Here at GPMD we don't actually build a content management system ourselves, we use the Open Source SilverStripe CMS instead. SilverStripe is a CMS framework, meaning it has the features and additional modules that allow you to tailor it to your exact needs. The majority of websites we create using SilverStripe have slight customisations included. These customisations might be quite small such as: a tab for adding a teaser paragraph to a page or a tab for embedding a Google map or YouTube video.

A lot of content management systems available at the moment tend to add all of their features into the base product. Most CMS users will only ever use 20% of these features. Obviously this leaves 80% of the CMS’ feature set unnecessary in terms of the user interface. Why should you have to look at these additional elements if you never use them.

The best analogy I can think of to illustrate this point is: Imagine your computers desktop has a shortcut icon for every single program installed on that computer. You would obviously use a handful of them but at least 80% would never be clicked on.

Now imagine that someone new joined your team and needs to use your computer. They would find it incredibly time consuming to find the program icon they want to open.

This is where a CMS interface is similar. The person using it should be able you login and be able to easily navigate to the feature they are looking for without being blinded by other sets of functionality.

 I’ve included a few screen grabs from other leading content management systems:

In my opinion the SilverStripe user interface is far easier on the eyes and it doesn’t bombard you with lots of links to other tasks and functions. Although you can still carryout this tasks if you wish.

Extending SilverStripe is easy for us at least, because we use the existing user interface layout and add relevant functionality in the same style and position as the default layout.

Give us a call if you would like to have a look at the CMS in more detail. Tel: 0207 183 1072

Categories: Web Development (29)


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