Filed under: Content management
“They need to organise the information better so people can find what they need.”
Websites, especially those produced by sophisticated content management systems, should be functional on a range of platforms and browsers. They should also be clear and consistent in their design and navigation, and easy and inviting to read. Evaluation in this category did not include detailed examination of accessibility to disabled customers, although this is an important consideration in many countries at present.
“Generally quite complicated, so the information one is looking for is not always easy to find.”
Functional design, testing and quality control are crucial to the production of a usable website. While fashions in navigation methods and design may change, a customer should still be able to reliably navigate through a site, easily read the text, and quickly locate the information needed.
“Take notice of the search/information questions of your (segmented) target groups.”
We evaluated sites using three browsers, and many sites were messy or unclear in one or more of these. If the site remained usable in all three, we gave one star, but it is clear that vendors are assuming their customers all use the same browser, and optimise for that. If this assumption extends to their products, it could prove costly for their customers.
“Take a more user-centric approach. CMS still means so many different things to different people.”
Three sites included in the earlier review received no stars in this category, mostly because the site, or very significant aspects of it, did not work in a major browser. On one site, the search did not function, and on another, the major Flash presentation did not work. Usually these faults were accompanied by other usability problems: illogical presentation of material, basic typographical and formatting errors, or the use of extremely small fonts and low-contrast colours.
One site seemed designed for developers rather than customers, and a number of links took the reviewer, without warning, into development sites from which it was difficult to get back.
More than one-third of sites received one star for basic functionality. These sites often had some other usability problems: on one, for example, the fonts used became paler as they got smaller. As a result, the main body font, which the customer had to read most, was extremely low-contrast, and difficult to read. Some multi-language sites had links that unexpectedly took the viewer to pages in other languages. Others were marked down for excessively long scrolling pages, confusing sitemaps or particularly jargon-heavy text.
Almost half of all sites reviewed fell into the two-star category. However, even these sites had navigation that was sometimes confusing, and not entirely consistent. Many sites do not give a clear idea of where the reader is, particularly important when readers are viewing long, scrolling pages with complex information on them.
Such long pages are very common, indicating that more work needs to be done on adapting documents for screen reading, by breaking up information and using links and sub-pages.
Another common problem was quality control for content. A large number of sites included copy that was grammatically incorrect, poorly-proofed, incorrectly formatted, or badly written. This highlights one of the major issues in CMS implementation: the quality of the content being managed.
As the list of issues in the previous section shows, many CMS vendor websites have a long way to go in terms of usability and content. It is a statement of the obvious that these websites should clearly demonstrate the benefits of having a CMS: a well-structured and up-to-date site. If vendors cannot deliver on this promise on their own sites, it reflects poorly on their ability to support their customers.
Vendors should therefore ensure that:
- the whole site site is cross-browser compatible
- content is clearly written for the online medium
- font sizes and colours are suitable
- clear navigation should be provided
- information is targeted at key audience groups
- review and quality control processes are put in place for material published to the site