Won't somebody please think of the
(almost Helen Lovejoy)
Have you seen the component for multi-variate testing (MVT, aka A/B testing) in the upcoming CQ5.3 release? I saw it demoed by David at Ignite and was completely blown away: CMS users (authors) can simply drag a couple of alternative banners onto the component right from within their regular editing interface (the CMS will then show the different versions to different users and count the click-through rates so that eventually the best performing banner is determined).
The MVT feature reminded me of two other CQ5 features: personalisation and analytics. All three are truly and seamlessly integrated into the user interface of the authors and they all provide less functionality than full-blown standalone solutions. To give you a concrete example: for each page the editors see right in the site admin (i.e. in their daily user interface) how many views each page got in the last 30 days. Clearly, this is no match for the kinds of reports you get on, say, Google Analytics, not even the same ballpark. Yet, I still think the authors get something that is valuable for them: they see it right away what is of interest to their audience.
(there is screencast available that demonstrates personalisation features from an author's perspective, registration needed)
When I compare this author-centric evaluation of functionality with my usual point of view as a system architect the business value of a feature for an author might be determined by:
- ease of use rather than feature richness and
- seamless integration into the UI
This is probably true for most systems that have non-technical users, but I believe the effect is amplified in CMSs because many CMS users use the system only once in a while rather than regularly.
Of course, this author-centric view on features should not necessarily dictate the underlaying systems architecture especially when you look at a complete content management solution encompassing analytics, personalization etc. The architecture might still be full-stack or best-of-breed and I do not want to postulate one being better than the other. However, I believe that one way of knowing that you got the author's user experience right is when you cannot see the system architecture reflected in the UI anymore. Or to put it the other way round: the UI should not enable you to guess which box which feature is running on.(*)
Thanks to Lars for providing discussions and ideas on this post.
(*) This idea is adjacent to a pet subject of mine: the user interface for basic content management (CRUD stuff) should not enable you to guess the underlying content/data schema. Sadly, up to today not few CMSs UIs resemble ERP-style data entry masks.