Four Kitchens

The Future of Content episode 47: Crafting better content through CMS design with Greg Dunlap

4 Min. ReadDigital strategy

The Future of Content episode 47 with Greg Dunlap

Key takeaways

  • Shift toward user-centric design: Content authors often face frustration and dread when dealing with traditional content management systems (CMSs). The focus should shift toward designing systems with the author’s experience in mind rather than solely concentrating on the audience’s experience.
  • Involvement of authors in the design process: Including authors in the early stages of CMS development is crucial. Greg Dunlap’s approach involves using techniques like paper prototyping to incorporate authors’ needs and preferences into the design process, leading to more user-friendly CMSs.
  • Reducing cognitive load: Acknowledging and reducing the cognitive load that current CMS designs impose on authors is essential. Simplifying processes and streamlining workflows can help authors focus on creating quality content rather than struggling with complex systems.
  • Investing in author experiences: Despite challenges in acquiring backend resources and support, improving author experiences is crucial. Better-designed systems lead to better content creation, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing author-centric design, even within tight budgets.

Our guest

Content authors are met with a sense of dread when logging into a content management system (CMS). With content demands greater than ever, it is becoming clear that these systems are built for complexities, not interaction. Greg Dunlap, the Director of Strategy at Lullabot, joins the podcast to dive into CMS design from an author’s perspective and the needed shift toward user-centric design. We spend so much time thinking about the audiences’ experience. Isn’t it time to finally shift our focus towards the actual users’ experience?

Our conversation begins with Greg’s work, which revolves around the idea that systems should be designed with the author in mind. His book, Designing Content Authoring Experiences, culminates his decades of experience with CMS design and Drupal, alongside the insights he gained from working with the state of Georgia. The book aims to share best practices and examples for creating a better experience for the author, allowing them to create better content for their audience.

Placing authors at the helm of the design process begins in the early stages of development. In traditional website design, paper prototyping is often used to curate the audience’s experience. Greg’s approach includes authors in the conversation. The strategic use of paper prototyping in CMS design allows teams to physically manipulate content components, making it easier to adapt designs to authors’ requirements. While often overlooked, such techniques are crucial in developing user-friendly CMSs that prioritize the author’s ease and efficiency.

Greg also highlights the importance of acknowledging the cognitive load that a design brings. A common frustration is that current CMSs are tedious and teeming with complicated processes. Reducing the mental workload on authors allows them to focus on creating quality content. What author would want to continue to improve and update content on a system that wasn’t designed with them in mind?

For current designers, strategists, and developers, it is no secret that acquiring backend resources and support is difficult. At Lullabot, Greg shares how they improve their authors’ experience daily. By building a hierarchy into a website’s design, they cut out much of the arduous chain of command that plagues authors. In an environment where budgets are tight, Greg highlights the importance of investing in author experiences to the extent you can. Better systems mean better content.

There is no one-size-fits-all website design for every client. Designers must consider various perspectives when finding the best solution for the user and the author. When looking at the author’s experience, the complexity of the content cannot outweigh the utility. If authors cannot see their work outside the concept of their page, designers are wasting their resources, creating complexities that are never used. Clients are often over-marketed, giving them skewed expectations of what they need. Paired with a proclivity to understaff author positions, it creates a pattern of dissatisfaction.

Looking toward the future, the episode delves into the relationship between CMS strategies and artificial intelligence (AI). The art of prompt engineering in AI can revolutionize content creation by providing more effective and nuanced responses. As AI becomes more integrated into content management, it’s essential to consider its role as an aid rather than a replacement for human creativity.

This episode invites listeners to rethink CMSs from the ground up, ensuring they meet the needs of those they serve. Greg Dunlap’s book, Designing Content Authoring Experiences, ends its Kickstarter campaign on March 14. For designers, strategists, and developers looking to aid content authors, please consider supporting the campaign for the opportunity to engage with this resource.

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