My entry in theDecember’s Carnival of journalism, hosted by The Guardian Developer blog. This month’s question: If you are a journalist, what would be the best present from programmers and developers that Santa Claus could leave under your Christmas tree?
My wish for the Christmas elves? Put someone other than IT in charge of all CMS purchases. [There's an argument to be made that IT shouldn't be in charge of IT ... but that's another story.]
I make this wish (a not-very-veiled complaint) for the same reason that Don Norman criticized the design of stoves in The Design of Everyday Things. Landlords and housing developers are major purchasers of stoves. Thus, the person making the buying decision is focused primarily on price and reliability. Usability does not enter into the equation.
And so it goes with most software purchases in a corporate or enterprise system. I’m experiencing one of those purchase decisions in the project I’m working on right now.
It’s a content management system (CMS) called SiteCore. Here are three things that indicate how unusable the tool’s interface is:
- To preview a page, you click publish.
- To publish a page, you click preview.
- To edit a page, you click home.
There is no way in heaven or hell that this software could have been tested with people who create web pages … unless the tests were stictly for functionality. That is, to see if the buttons worked. Not if the interface worked.
There are under-the-hood problems, too. The kind you would think IT would be aware of and care about, if they understood web technology that is. This software is a document model system in an object model world. As a result, redesign takes far more effort than modifying CSS.
The software purchae was supposed to make it easy for non-web staff to update pages. For that purpose, a better tool would be WordPress (which is free but has upfront development costs) or even Adobe Dreamweaver (which would be more expensive because of a per-seat charge). Of the three, WordPress would be the best long-term solution because it separates content from presentation.
I wish I knew who should be in charge of purchase decisions like these. But because moving IT purchases out of IT is one of those “never gonna happen” wishes, I’ll propose a secondary wish: any IT purchases must be vetted by those who will use the software on a daily basis. And ease of use must be factored into the buying decision; it’s more important, in the long run, that the initial outlay.
However, this won’t happen so long as organizations are structured in silos, where a cost saving for one VP is a cost burden for another. And that’s how most “enterprises” are organized.
Prior Carnival of Journalism Posts
- September: Online Video News: 5 tips
- August: Google+
- June: Tips and Tools To Ease The Turbulence In Your Workflow
- May : Failure Is A Not Four-Letter Word