Human-aware content elements as a base for website backend interfaces

Научная статья

Информатика, кибернетика и программирование

This is especilly importnt for hosted CMS services becuse there is no personl trining provided for the user. For exmple to dd vcncy on site user often should perform the following steps: crete pge crete nd formt vcncy description dd links to tht pge from min menu nd dd nnounce to compnys news. So user wstes his time nd even my leve the service. t the beginning of site cretion process user is sked for his compny type: rel estte cr rentl DVD store etc.



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Human-aware content elements as a base for website backend interfaces

Pavel Vasev

Almost any website has two sides: frontend and backend. Frontend is what site’s visitors see: pages, sections, photos, etc. A backend is a place where website owner operates, adding and editing content of the website. Often this backend is called “content management system” (CMS). There are many CMS-s presented on the market. To become successful, CMS must be easy to use. This is especially important for hosted CMS services, because there is no personal training provided for the user.

Nowadays almost any CMS operates in technical terms: pages, forms, layouts. However, real people don’t think in these terms.  They think in terms of their needs: “I need a website with company information, contacts, services and vacancies”. It is difficult for non-technical person to map in mind his needs to technical terms and to perceive steps required to achieve his goals. For example to add vacancy on a site user often should perform the following steps: create a page, create and format vacancy description, add links to that page from main menu, and add announce to company’s news. So user wastes his time and even may leave the service.

We believe that adding non-technical terms into CMS may solve the problem described. Furthermore, we introduce “human-aware content elements” approach, which describes technology and philosophy for building content management systems. First, let us examine current approaches mostly used in backend interfaces.   

“Structure templates” is a fast way to pre-create site structure according to site type. At the beginning of site creation process, user is asked for his company type: real estate, car rental, DVD store, etc. Then, according to his selection, the site structure is generated. For example, a real estate agency website will contain apartment’s catalogue, market assessment articles, and sales contact info. This approach saves user’s time and creates sense of nearly-achieved user’s goals.

“Webpage templates” – these are templates for webpages of various content types, for example calendar of upcoming events, or employee biography. When user chooses template, CMS generates new page with predefined textual and graphical content. Then user may modify this page using WYSIWYG text editor. The greatest advantage of page templates is that user doesn’t start from scratch. Instead, he uses generated content and layout and modifies it according to his needs. The disadvantage is that the user should format new content manually. If a user needs many pages with content of same layout, this approach is not usable.

In addition to page templates, human-aware content elements even may be more useful. For example, to add sales contact page, the system asks user for person name, photo, phone and email. Then, a page aggregating this information is added to website, including. When user wants to change that contact page, he clicks “edit” and the system asks him again for that person’s contacts (showing previously entered information). This simple example illustrates one important idea: we shouldn’t leave user just with WYSIWYG text editor, but give him a chance to modify content in a data-oriented manner. Of course, content elements should vary depending on website type – business, personal, scientific, etc. The actual set of content elements for each website type is the art: service administration should find it accurately, among as the types itself.

The usability approaches stated above, including human-aware content elements, are implemented in the LineAct website hosted CMS service (www.lact.ru). At the moment of writing this article 2168 websites were created using the service by people all over the world.

We believe that hosted CMS service interface should be obvious. At any moment user should know what and how he may do next. We assume that usability is more important than functionality for hosted CMS, because experienced users rare use such services. And inexperienced users don’t need to know a lot of features, they just want to solve technically-simple problems: to publish company info, products and services, and so on. During first stages of site’s life it even can have no meta-tags describing site contents because systems like Google Adwords don’t require them for successful operation.

In feedback emails people say that it is comparably easy to work within the LineAct system. However, there are still some problems waiting for solution. We are looking forward for more simple and clearer ideas of the interface.


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