Over in CIM we are working on a major CMS overhaul based on Alfresco. Alfresco gives me the solid foundation of what I need in terms of content APIs, scalability and workflow. Unfortunately the UI leaves something to be desired.

I’ve decided to focus my teams efforts on the Editorial interface of the CMS and really want to get it right. CMS projects in general are prone to dissatisfaction and most people using ‘enterprise’ CMSs don’t really like them.

In order to give us the best chance of success we have a dedicated team working collaboratively from the outset.

I locked the team in a room today and presented them with one question.

How do users FIND content.

Finding content is a critical part of any tool and something that our current CMS does pretty well. It was really interesting to listen to the widely different perspectives. Some of the editors wanted more of a ‘structured’ tree based navigation while the more business users were looking to a search. Ops like a faceted search.

Interestingly the operations folk didn’t think that they could contribute originally but part of the concept behind this exercise was team building so I encouraged them to stay. I asked them how do they locate a specific hard drive in all the servers in all the racks in the 5 data centers that they manage? How do they locate a specific Zone file in the hundred’s of DNS records they maintain? Turns out our operational folk know a bit about using a UI to locate things.

By getting everyone involved we did weeks worth of ‘requirements gathering’ and documentation in half a day.

Full credit to Todd Warfel for the RefreshPhilly talk that opened my eyes to the simplicity and power of this direct approach