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Discovery & User Experience

The Left Behind User

I recently came across an article on the UIE website (or rather, the article came to me from a colleague) by Jared Spool entitled, “The User We’ve Left Out: The Content Governor”. Even as a newbie in the UX realm, I already know a commentary from Jared is worth the read. The opening paragraph immediately rallied my curiosity:

One of the biggest sins an experience designer can commit is to leave an important user out from the design process. If we don’t even recognize the needs of the user, we can’t design great solutions for them. It’s even worse when that user is critical to making the design effective for everyone.

The user to which Jared is referring is the content governor. This is the person who makes sure a website’s information is up-to-date, needs replacing or a good housecleaning. I’m sure many of us have been charged with governing a website that was designed without the content governor’s role in mind.

I run a number of websites in my quest to gain professional experience with information architecture that encourages interaction, writing web content, and working with code. When I work with these sites, my frustration mounts as I deal either with the lack of templates within the page structure or with pages that have strict templates that don’t fit the needs of the content, i.e. a block of text cannot be anything but a block of text. I also become frustrated when I attempt to update a footer, only to find that it is not consistent across all the pages of the site domain. These experiences are challenging because the contexts in which I’m working weren’t created with someone like me, the content governor, in mind.

Jared highlights some important thinking points that have encouraged me to explore how we understand not only the what and why of user experience, but the who. I think this is an important consideration to make: When we design, we must consider the user experience all of the “whos” in our Whoville, whether they are traditional users, those who maintain the website, as well as those who will inherit it.

There are several ways to do this.  For example, Jared points out a need to consider how the design of a CMS interface makes it simple create and manage content. He also suggests a requisite for tools that help content governors, as well as designers and content creators to manage meaningful metadata.

I’d also like to suggest a tool that is often left out and forgotten: commenting in code. Leaving a comment, even as simple as an initialed last updated tag, makes for a streamlined, far less frustrating user experience for the content governor. Leaving comments in code also helps keep communication between multiple users of a site’s content, such as designers, programmers, and content governors, in one place that’s hard to overlook.

Read the article for yourself here, and please leave comments with your suggestions on how to create a better user experience for the content governor.



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