The good doctor‘s brilliant piece on the tyranny of content management systems has spurred me on to write this post I’ve been contemplating for a while, about my own frustrations with WCMS software and what an ideal platform for government websites might be capable of right out of the box.
Having been close to the requirements spec, procurement, implementation and testing of a couple of CMS-based websites in government in recent years, and used a dozen or so CMSs before that, I am consistently astonished by the (to my mind) fundamental things some of the big name platforms struggle to do, and the lack of features to help organisations manage website content as opposed to just publish it. And I feel that if any industry needs to innovate, it’s this one.
The best of breed tools have considerable strengths, of course, and it’s not fair to expect them to be all things to all men nor automate everything. But if the amount of bespoke modding by customers with common needs can be kept to a minimum that’s got to be good, right? There’s a lively discussion over on David’s post about ways to do just that through consistent schemas for government content, better interoperability, clearer client specification and even open sourcing a government-ready platform. So in that vein, what would a perfect gov CMS need to do?
I’ve started this list on uservoice of the stuff I’d like to see any platform capable of doing from the off. It’s a mix of crushed hopes of yesterday and starry-eyed dreams for tomorrow. (There’s prizes if you can tell them apart).
Here’s my personal top five as a taster:
- Government-ready template pack
Preset vanilla templates based on COI usability wireframes, for common government content types, with standard fields, eGMS metadata and semantic markup. To contain: Minister’s profiles, speeches, statements, news stories, publications, consultations… (more)
- Write and publish everything on the fly
Set up all the bits you need for your page (metadata, images, downloads, widgets) there and then, not in some other part of the CMS. And when you publish the page, publish all the things it contains too. Is that so much to ask?
- Embeddable code snippets
- Review schedules and alerts
Preset tools for reminding authors (not CMS users) to check content, and escalation options for when they don’t. Hook it up to analytics and SEO insight tools to give authors tough love about how well or badly their pages are performing… (more)
- Quality assurance tools
Information for admins about contributors’ past performance (this user has had 40% of their pages rejected in the past). Diff tools, dip sampling, quality assurance checklists and scorecards built in. Automatic feedback to contributors when their pages are corrected. Promotion and demotion of user roles based on QA activity… (more)
See the full starter list of 35 ideas here and please do comment, vote and add your own.
The stakes are pretty high, if you ask me, with the reputations of individual digital teams and the profession as a whole at the mercy of what their chosen system will let them do. (“That cool thing you saw on that website you like? Sorry boss, we can’t do that with our CMS.”) Vendors should be mindful of the power they yield, for as long as they still yield it.
Image credit: zaveqna