Users, visitors and audience types

In a recent discussion / interview with a member of the Eduserv research group (previously known as (Eduserv foundation) which focused on a study soon to be proposed into CSM and HEI, I was asked to define the ‘user requirements’ for content management system project.

Users.., what are ‘users’ when discussing CMS requirements, and are they the same as website users?

In a traditional sense users are often regarded as the ‘users’ of a website, UX professionals talk about user testing and user centered design processes, but when it comes to CMS the user can be seen as the ‘site; user or the CMS user, each with very different needs and thus differing impacts on your requirements exercise. It’s important therefore to make sure that you are talking about the same ‘audience’ and that you accurately address their needs.

Site users, (visitors) need to be able to find information quickly and need navigation accessible content, they may ‘use’ the functions of the site in the process of finding content but referring to them as users (in the CMS context) clutters the message. Navigation, clarity, language findability structure and design make for the site visitors experience.

The needs of the CMS user however is concerned with editing interfaces, categorization and linking, they need workflow and accessibility checkers, they need to know who did what when and how, the kind of stuff that CMS (WCMS) should do well.

Most of the time the description of the feature needed will be itself explanatory. However you should never allow ambiguity and assumption into your requirements study. (Similarly words such as ‘solution’ ‘system’ and ‘service’ should also be avoided in this context.

For example

“The solution should be accessible to users with disability”…means what exactly?

Then we get to audiences, now these are different again. An audience, in this instance, could be defined as category or group of users (or visitors) who share characteristics, interests or experience levels.

Parents, teaches and students are all audience types, as a parent I am a visitor to my boys school website. The teacher’s who create the site with their CMS is a CMS User,

Users, visitors and Audiences are therefore interlinked, but have differing views of the solution you are defining, if you are going to meet these needs you need to make sure that you and your project sponsor / customer have a shared understanding of these differences and needs to avoid the ambiguities and, even worse assumptions that add risk to your project.

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