Improving UX for Content Managers in Drupal: 5 Practical Tips for Success
July 19, 2023
The success of any website is dependent on its ability to meet the needs of its users. The users of government websites are often looking for accurate and up-to-date information and, as a robust content management system (CMS), Drupal is an ideal tool for doing just that.
However, simply having a powerful CMS like Drupal is not enough. It is essential to adopt a human-centered design (HCD) approach that focuses on understanding the needs, motivations and behaviors of the content managers to create a system that aligns with their requirements. Otherwise, your site’s content managers may struggle to keep content current, leading to frustration from both site administrators and users, higher website bounce rates and a loss of credibility for the site owners.
By applying HCD principles to simplify processes, minimize workflows and enhance accessibility, developers can build Drupal websites that prioritize the user experience (UX) of content managers and allow them to work more efficiently and effectively.
Read on for five practical tips for enhancing the UX for content managers in Drupal.
Content Comes First
Human-centered design recognizes that for an end user to have the accurate and up-to-date information they’re looking for, the UX for the people writing and managing the content should be streamlined and aligned to their needs. Starting with the actual content that will go into the CMS, and basing the structure, taxonomy and requirements around that content — rather than trying to build the content to fit the structure of the site — will ensure that the site build is tailored to meet the requirements of the content and its authors.
This approach helps create a human-centered experience for content managers and authors by aligning Drupal's capabilities with their content management workflow. And making the internal users’ experience better will in turn make it more likely that end users have a better experience.
Bring your Drupal site-building expertise and a subject matter expert skilled in structuring content for the web into the conversation to make sure you are not just building WYSIWYG fields straight out of documents or PDFs.
Conduct User Interviews and Live Sessions with Content Managers
To truly understand the pain points and challenges faced by your content managers, it is crucial to watch them walk through their process for creating, publishing and updating content. Make sure you see and understand the whole lifecycle of the process; you’ll often find that content creators have adjusted their content creation process to meet the needs of a tool or technology that is no longer used by the team.
As a Drupal site builder, either you or your UX specialist should conduct user interviews with the content managers and aim to ask the following:
Walk me through the entire life of a typical page on this site:
- Who initially determines the need for the page or site section?
- Who writes the content?
- Who edits the content?
- Who enters the content into Drupal?
- Who approves the content?
- Who publishes the content?
- Who determines when the page has fulfilled its purpose and is no longer needed?
How much of this process happens outside of Drupal?
- Where and how?
Now tell me about any outliers that don’t fit the “typical” workflow.
Let’s talk about the current site:
- What are some things you think your current site handles well?
- What are some things you don’t think the current site handles well?
- What are some things the current site doesn’t handle at all, but should
- What are some (government or non-government) sites that handle that kind of functionality well?
Learn what would make people’s jobs easier and quicker, then determine if there is a way to do that in Drupal: Actively listen to your content managers' suggestions and pain points. Identify opportunities to simplify their tasks, automate repetitive actions and reduce manual effort.
And remember, you don’t have to bring everything from their workflow into Drupal if it doesn’t make sense! Learn from the content managers what part of the workflow can be done in Drupal and what has to remain in a Word document despite your best efforts.
Treat Your Content Managers as a Key Audience for Your Site
Now that we know the processes and needs of our content managers, we need to keep them engaged in the long term. Treating them as a key audience and stakeholder by considering their needs, preferences and constraints will both increase their sense of autonomy and ownership, and make sure that the system we are building evolves with them, not against them. Content managers should be part of any product discussions for how new features or customizations are implemented, so it’s understood how those changes may impact their ability to perform.
When developing or customizing a new tool or feature, make sure you consult your content managers on how they will maintain and use this new tool. They should conduct user acceptance testing (UAT) on the backend content management of any new content types, paragraphs or features built in Drupal. UAT provides real-world testing by the end users to verify everything works as intended before the tool or feature is rolled out.
Don't Overcomplicate Your Content Management Workflow in Drupal
How many of us have worked on a site with an overly complex approval workflow that hasn’t been used in years and the content managers are forced to click their way through “acting” as every role in the process?
We experienced that with a system Bixal worked on for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). When the system was built, authors were entering content into Drupal, where it would be approved by the site owners. But two years later, only one author was going into Drupal themselves and the site owners were entering the content. Every page edited or created required the user to “send for review” and scroll all the way to the bottom again to finally “publish.” It may have only taken a few extra seconds every time, but when you are editing 50+ pages a day, that process gets tiresome and time-consuming!
Avoid overcomplicating workflows and processes within Drupal by starting with the simplest possible workflow and building from there, gradually adding complexity only when needed. Also, have a conversation with your content managers to identify which fields should be required for each content type and don’t make every field required.
Improve the Accessibility of the Content Management Backend
While accessibility is often associated with the front-end design, it is equally important to consider backend accessibility. Here are some small changes that can significantly improve the accessibility for content managers in Drupal:
Help text: Provide clear and concise instructions, tooltips and help text within the CMS. This helps content managers understand the purpose and usage of various fields and options. It also keeps the documentation within Drupal, which should keep it more accurate and up to date.
Consistency: Maintain consistency in the layout and structure of content types as much as possible. Align field placement, naming conventions and functionality to create a cohesive and intuitive editing experience.
Drop-downs and search features: Implementing drop-down menus and search functionality, wherever relevant, allows content managers to quickly find and select options, saving time and effort. Also, consider how many options will appear for a search field, because it is really difficult to tell the difference between Example-Node (543) and Example-Node (8543) when building a page.
The impact of using human-centered practices to improve UX for content managers extends beyond the internal operations of a website. The quality of the content produced and managed directly affects the end users who visit the site. When content managers are empowered with user-friendly tools, they can deliver a more consistent, engaging and personalized experience to the site's visitors and this, in turn, enhances the experience for the user, encourages user retention and increases user satisfaction.
HCD approaches also foster a culture of continuous improvement. By involving content managers in the design process, actively seeking their feedback and conducting user testing, developers can iterate and enhance the CMS based on their insights. This iterative approach ensures that the CMS evolves to meet the changing needs of both content manager and, ultimately, the site visitors.