CMS intuition

This week on the Boagworld web design podcast, testing vs intuition and why only web professionals should use your CMS.

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Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld web design podcast, testing versus intuition and why only web professionals should use your CMS.

Paul Boag:
Hello and welcome to boagworld.com. The podcast for those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul Boag: and I am excited to announce that this is the first podcast from our new offices, except it’s not, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
No, it’s not. Hello, everyone. It’s Marcus here too as usual. Yes.

Paul Boag:
Why aren’t we recording this in our spangling new office?

Marcus Lillington:
Well I am slightly disconcerted in a general kind of way at the moment, it’s because we moved. It’s this sort of I don’t like change thing, even though I make – even though I think I do. I am feeling slightly worried about things. And yes, well – not so really affecting me in any way but it is affecting me in the fact that I keep forgetting things. And one of the things I forgot was to bring my little digital audio analog thing along which enables us to record podcasts when we’re in the office. And it was sat on my desk home all day, yesterday when we were supposed to record it.

Paul Boag:
So this unfortunately we’re… at the moment we’re in limbo. We are neither at the barn, nor at Headscape house but floating in the middle somewhere.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I am recording over the phone which I always hate, it’s never very good is it.

Marcus Lillington:
I hate it as well but probably for different reasons. I think it works, it works okay. We’ve done a few now, I did one with Anna and it sounded alright but it’s a real pain to edit them.

Paul Boag:
Oh is it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Because I have to get your files in, I have to sync them all up so that they make sense, and all that kind of thing. And obviously if there’s any kind of time lag it’s sort of like, okay, well I have to start cutting bits out.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s my own fault. It’s my penance if you like.

Paul Boag:
So is there any way that I can make this easier. If we avoid talking over each other or stuff like that or is it just you know, there is nothing that makes it worse for example.

Marcus Lillington:
Not really. You just have to kind of line them up.

Paul Boag:
There is nothing I can do to make it more painful for you is what I’m getting at. No way that I can maybe talk like this or something.

Marcus Lillington:
You can make me think there is a problem on the line. Yes, you could do that I suppose. Anyway the other problem is we haven’t got a meeting room table yet, so it would have been…

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
It would have been quite tricky to record it yesterday anyway so.

Paul Boag:
We would have been sitting on the astroturf.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Which I confess was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had. Hey, I know what’s a good idea. Let’s look like a trendy kind of San Francisco startup and put astroturf on the floor of the meeting room. I am such a pillock. I really am.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t hate it. I just think it could have been better. And everything else looks fantastic so hey.

Paul Boag:
Yes, actually I’ll put a link in the show notes to all the photographs I’ve taken.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I’ll put online. We’ve definitely got a green theme going on.

Marcus Lillington:
Just a bit. Yes.

Paul Boag:
But if we hadn’t have had the astroturf, we wouldn’t have come up with the great replacement for the pool table. We used to have the pool table at the barn which we all absolutely loved. And we couldn’t fit it in or at least we thought we couldn’t. I think we probably couldn’t in hindsight but anyway that’s another thing. We thought we couldn’t put it in, so we’re now lacking that team event to do until we realized the astroturf is going to be perfect for pitch and putt.

Marcus Lillington:
We’re not playing pitch and putt, Paul. We will break everything, just putt.

Paul Boag:
Yes, no just no! Pitch. I think there needs to pitch in there too.

Marcus Lillington:
No pitch, no pitch otherwise broken windows.

Paul Boag:
You’re such a spoilsport. We’ll have to work around the office table but I think it should be fun even I might have a go at that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, so if had brought in today, but obviously me not being there because I had to stay home because I had to record this over the phone anyway whatever. Well, yes, so I am slightly a bit kind of I keep thinking I’ve forgotten to do something and there’s something bothering me but there isn’t anything that should be bothering me and I am sure it’s this blooming office move.

Paul Boag:
I know what you mean, because I am kicking off this major agile project next week.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And I feel – I probably shouldn’t say this because the client might listen but I feel totally unprepared right now. I have got the rest of the week to sort my act out but yes, you’re right, it’s been very disconcerting, although I will endure that for the pleasure of being able to wander into Winchester town centre as I did yesterday.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it’s great.

Paul Boag:
I am very worried mind because as you pointed out, we are going to be several pounds lighter in the fact that we will spend a fortune in that town center and then also simultaneously some several pounds heavier because we’ll stuff our face every lunch time with all the various goodies that they have.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s quite good. I brought some lunch in yesterday but then realized I have to kind of ram stuff into my bag cause we’ve got the walk from the car park or the train station.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So it’s all completely different now. Everything has changed.

Paul Boag:
What amused so much is I’ve obviously been the most weak-willed out of Headscape. I was the first to succumb to going to McDonalds, came back with some lunch from McDonalds. And everybody else took one look at it and then the whole lot of them went to buy McDonalds too. It’s not good for us, is it? But it’s so exciting. I am very excited about it.

Marcus Lillington:
McDonalds is very exciting, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
If you’re a country bumpkin like me then yes it is. I have to drive half an hour to my nearest McDonalds, can you imagine such a thing.

Marcus Lillington:
It must be cold by the time you get it back.

Paul Boag:
I eat it there, Marcus. It’s even further to the nearest Starbucks which is remarkable. If you live in a city, you know the idea is you kind of fall out of your house and there is a Starbucks there but not for me.

Marcus Lillington:
You must have one – they are everywhere, you must have one in Bamford or a Costa anyway.

Paul Boag:
No. We have a Costa.

Marcus Lillington:
Same thing.

Paul Boag:
Yes, we have a Costa.

Marcus Lillington:
Hartley Wintney has got a Costa Coffee. Yes. Wooo.

Paul Boag:
So you’re just – you’re really cutting edge there.

Marcus Lillington:
And a pub.

Paul Boag:
Yes. That was the nice thing, wasn’t it? Nobody else is interested in this in the slightest, but it made me realise how our location previously stopped us socializing together because it was – just going out, Monday after we’d set up, going down to the pub afterwards was just so nice. It was such a nice thing to do. So I am really looking forward to that. I am actually going to write a blog post about, lots of people are asking about the move and why we did it and you know what’s kind of been associated with it. So I am going to write blog post all around that kind of thing, because I think it’s actually I think it’s had… not the move, I can’t work out whether the move is a cause or a symptom of something that’s going on in Headscape at the moment in terms of, almost like a new beginning for us which is all very exciting.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it’s obviously what the 11 year itch or something like that.

Paul Boag:
Yes, something like that. Anyway, we talked far too much about all our boring internal stuff and just basically getting excited about you know kind of 21st century life and things like internet access.

Marcus Lillington:
Not that we’ve got that yet.

Paul Boag:
Mobile phone signal. We’ve got mobile phone signals.

Marcus Lillington:
Our phones ring. It’s quite impressive because everyone goes woah and it’s their phone ringing on their desk but yes.

Paul Boag:
But what is even more amazing is actually I think the speed that we were getting through 3G dongles because we’re waiting for Virgin to connect us was faster than the speed we used to have down at the barn so.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s lovely. I love it. I feel like – I feel proper cosmopolitan now.

Marcus Lillington:
In the oldy worldy town of Winchester.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s not really the kind of beating heart is it.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s very nice. It’s very pretty. It’s actually full of tourists.

Paul Boag:
But it’s so funny. So funny walking through towers there. Basically it’s full of tourists, posh people and graduates in their robes and stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, which is alright. I can deal with that.

Paul Boag:
Well I think it suits our social class.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I fit in with posh people very well indeed unlike you, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yes, exactly. So… I am deeply offended by that. Right, I want to talk about some web design stuff if all you’re going to do is insult me. Let’s move onto our first debate.

Marcus Lillington:
We could do but I just need to point out that, it’s only two months and it will be Christmas because.

Paul Boag:
Why are you pointing that out? What?!

Marcus Lillington:
Somebody pointed that out to me earlier and I was like ‘what?’ And it is.

Paul Boag:
I don’t care about Christmas this year because I am going away to the Maldives.

Marcus Lillington:
You are posh aren’t you, you go on posh holidays. Yes?

Paul Boag:
I am posh. Yes. I am spending my child’s university money, that we’re saving for his university and going to the Maldives instead.

Marcus Lillington:
So you’ve made the decision for him early. It’s positive.

Paul Boag:
It’s positive. Yes, he doesn’t want to go to university. It is, I am helping shape his life. If he wants to get – I am a great believer that children should, you know should stand on their own two feet, so he should pay for himself to go through university. Yes. Now I’ll go to the Maldives instead.

Marcus Lillington:
All right, okay.

Paul Boag:
But I am taking him, so that’s positive. It’s not like I am leaving him behind.

Marcus Lillington:
There is nothing I can say to that.

Paul Boag:
Right, come on, we’ve really got to do…. Now there is nothing. There is nowhere to go. Let’s talk web design.

Testing design vs. designer’s intuition

This house proposes that content management systems should only be used by web professionals.

Have your say

Paul Boag:
Okay, Marcus so what’s our first debate topic like you know. Have you actually even got your notes in front of you?

Marcus Lillington:
I have now. It’s about testing and stuff.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
What’s it about? I don’t know

Paul Boag:
It’s about this kind of principle that – there is kind of two camps. It’s interesting: an interesting thing has happened in the web design community, right? So for the longest time you know web designers, if you go back far enough, web designers were basically, you know they would design a website and then if you know if a client came along and said, well why have you done it that way. People would turn around and go, I went to art college, don’t you know. And you know they would kind of justify I am the designer. And then you know as these things do the pendulum swang or swung and…

Marcus Lillington:
I like swang, it’s not a word but I really like that.

Paul Boag:
We need to use it more in conversation. So the pendulum swang.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And then it all became about testing, we’re going to do user testing and you know a great example of that is projects like gov.uk that you know, everything they do is based on testing and analytics and you know all of this kind of stuff and so it becomes very, very testy. And I am kind of in that place, that’s kind of where my mindset is, it’s much easy to justify things to clients if you test them, but that said there is now another swang towards kind of intuition again and that there is a feeling that our heavy reliance on user data isn’t always helpful because it maybe stifling the innovation and preventing designers from making intuitive leaps. And they’ve got this habit of quoting certain people like Henry Ford for example famously said and ‘if I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses’ or Steve Jobs echoed the sentiment when he said, ‘it’s really hard to design products by focus group, a lot of the time people don’t know what they want until you show it to them’. So there is a kind of rebellion in going on against you know this principle of you know we should be testing everything. It should all be about data and what the user wants because the user doesn’t always know what they want.

So it’s quite an interesting argument and I can see both sides of the coin so to speak. So what we’ve gone for is our topic is this house proposes that results of testing cannot always be allowed to dictate the direction of a sites design, okay?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I’ll read that again, just so that everyone is one the same page here. This house proposes that the results of testing cannot always be allowed to dictate the direction of a site’s design. So it’s basically saying that it’s not enough just to test. You know, sometimes you have to go, well I know the testing says this but I am going to do this anyway.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I read that as it’s okay to ignore it sometimes.

Paul Boag:
Well yes, absolutely. That’s what it is saying, but the question is you know that’s a dangerous line maybe, you know on one hand you could read it as in our desire to add scientific credibility to our work we’ve kind of abandoned our own intuition and experience but on the other you know but you could also go is this is a slippery slope, you know if you’re saying you’re going to throw out design ideas, does that make it okay for a client to come along and say I want to do this really stupid thing and I don’t care what their results say. You know are we – is this kind of data actually taking the guess work out of design and we need to kind of accept that, you know where is the balance in it all basically. You know it’s quite interesting. I have to say I think I agree with the house personally.

Marcus Lillington:
So do I.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
You know I feel that testing is great, but it’s ultimately just a tool that helps you gather information but you’ve got some interesting responses back that’s good. I’m going to read David’s first because he is neither kind of for or against. He says data and testing helps optimize a specific solution for a specific problem. Innovation redefines the problem. Innovation should lead to strategic thinking and data and testing should lead to implementation. And I actually really like that. Do you get what he is getting at?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, definitely. If you innovate then you’ve changed the ballpark or whatever. The goalposts move, to mix my metaphor.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
All right, that’s a good way of saying it, that you know innovation is great for those going in new directions redefining the problem that kind of thing and then you use data to kind of how you’re going to implement that because they are all different types of. You know it’s all well and good quoting Steve Jobs and Henry Ford there but if you actually look at what they are saying, they are actually saying you know if people wanted – if you asked people what they wanted, they would ask for faster horse, right? What that’s saying is if you ask people what they wanted. Now that’s different from the kind of testing that we’re talking about. The kind of testing I do as a web designer isn’t asking people what they want, it’s not going out to the focus group and saying you know what functionality do you want on this site or you know what this or what that. It’s rather saying, here is something that I am proposing doing you know can you use that, can you understand that, is that useful. And that’s a subtly different thing I think, because you’re presenting them with a solution rather than just asking them what they want.

Marcus Lillington:
But we do still offer choices to testers, you know I don’t know, we’ll be testing a kind of moody design over a happy design to use a crass example.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And you know we will often take numbers on that, 60% said they liked the moody one.

Paul Boag:
But that’s – but again that’s not you know, what Henry Ford was saying is that people wouldn’t have conceptualized or imagined a scenario where a thing called a car could exist.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, and I agree with that.

Paul Boag:
Right. So on that basis, that’s not – if he presented someone with a faster horse and a car, they may well go with the car and that’s what we do is we give – you know we show them the options to help them imagine the capabilities that there are.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And I think that is the key. And sorry you can say something.

Marcus Lillington:
Trying to relate this to what we actually do. I think the – when you are doing a bunch of testing, you’re testing 10 different things about whatever the work is and…

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
What you’re really testing is probably one or two things that you really want to get some user feedback on. And it may be that something that you and the client are all perfectly agreed upon, they’ve done testing previously that would be different to the results that come out for example and something will crop up that will be against what everybody in the – who is working on the project thinks that it’s the right things to be doing, maybe only by a little bit of a percentage. In that case, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to turn around say, well you know that doesn’t fit with… we’re obviously going to discuss it but it doesn’t fit – it’s not wrong to say well hang on a minute that doesn’t fit with the brand or whatever or previous testing so we’re going to ignore that part of you know that part of the results.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s why I agree with the house in this one because I don’t think you have to just go with well this thing 51% of people say that this was the right way to go, 49% of people disagree. Well if you got that for example, I would argue that there is probably neither option is the right option and you shouldn’t just.

Paul Boag:
Or they’re both equally good.

Marcus Lillington:
And that you don’t just automatically take the 51%. It’s like having a chairman. You know the chairman has the final decision if you like and it shouldn’t necessarily be just down to numbers, maybe I am old fashioned.

Paul Boag:
Yes, no I agree and I think because there are other elements in here, you know let’s go back to the Apple example you know for example actually this has been somewhat undermined now but for the longest time, certainly in Steve Jobs reign, you know people desperately wanted him to produce a cheaper iPhone or a cheaper Mac or whatever else to go for the lower end of the market. And there was a real demand for that, but he made a decision that he didn’t want to do that, that that wasn’t what he as a company represented. So it’s not always just about giving people what they want or even what they need, you know you might choose that your company isn’t going to provide a certain thing that some – somebody really wants.

And also relying too heavily on data does lead you down the road of kind of Microsoft Word where you’re just adding more and more functionality because people say they want that and because they desire that and all the numbers will tell you that they want that. And you know sometimes you have to make a call and go, no, I’m not going to include that, that’s not what we are about.

But I mean there are some people that disagree. Sam says something quite interesting. He says Apple relies on a reputation as a taste maker and therefore cannot rely solely on what users already like but even for such a company in such a position, one must believe that the broad strokes of a new design are and should be imagined by designers and the details are filled in by rigorous testing. I wonder whether – yes, and actually I agree with that but I don’t think. He says – he kind of gives this reputation – you know gives this feeling in what Sam is writing that he is against the house but actually I think he is agreeing with it, that there is a role for both isn’t there.

Especially what Matt says, see if Matt disagrees more. He says the work I see is optimizing around a lot of patterns that are already known and established. So there are existing patterns in web design, totally agree with that. In those areas, using data to help optimize effectiveness is really useful, yes, agree with that as well. How will doing something new and different help customers if you’re building a marketing, communication or support website, how will it help, keep in mind things like technology adoption curve.

So he is saying you got the – yes, he is saying that there is a slippery slope here isn’t there with over-innovating, you know well perhaps you shouldn’t be innovating. You shouldn’t be moving the search box just for the hell of it from where people expect it to be. You shouldn’t be you know messing with left hand navigation or top navigation because expect it to be there. What are the benefits you are getting back from doing that and how does that weigh against the adoption curve of people trying to get their head around the new thing you will say. You know and again you could look at something like iOS 7 as an example of that where was the trade-off in ‘we’re making something new and innovative’ worth the pain that it cause quite a lot of people in being able to get that new idea and get on board with it and understand it. So that’s a kind of judgment call. So I guess like.

Marcus Lillington:
I was going to say, and I was thinking about iOS 7 when you were talking. Why does it do you know why they changed the swipe for deleting to the other way round to the way it used to be?

Paul Boag:
Did they really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I didn’t know that.

Marcus Lillington:
You don’t use Apple mail do you, but it’s the same with messages.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
You basically sweep, let me actually just do it. If you go here now, sweep to the left whereas you used to go to the right. You get more options but I just wondered why did they do that. Because I can remember when they changed, changed… where this is coming from, my thinking on this is when they changed…it’s about being brave basically, changed scrolling, up and down scrolling on a mouse to go the other way around.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Which was just like ‘you can’t do that’ and then after a day for me, it was like well that’s so much better isn’t it. And I find it really hard to use a PC now from that point of view.

Paul Boag:
But that’s something that’s a really good example the scrolling one.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I mean that must have tested horrendously.

Marcus Lillington:
You think so. And somebody just said no, we think this is right, people are pushing – people are used to, they’ve learnt to use the wrong way. We’re saying its right and now is the time to change it and I am assuming the delete thing is for the same reason. Although being a leftie you know certainly for writing and using a phone, I am just interested. I am not interested enough to have looked it up, but I am guessing there is some sort of scientific thinking behind it. The way we as professional designers with Apple think that it’s more intuitive to you know to sweep to the left rather than the right, so we’re going to do it, because again it would have tested horrendously, you know everyone would have said 99% people of will say what do you think that for, that’s an idiotic thing to do but they just did it.

Paul Boag:
I mean that might be I guess the reason for that might be, because they added in these extra swipe options.

Marcus Lillington:
I think you could’ve done it the other way round.

Paul Boag:
Yes but, I see yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Easily.

Paul Boag:
I would really like to – we must know someone. I know people that work at Apple because Apple is the big one, isn’t it, for just going screw it, I don’t care what users say we’re going to do this anyway. And I would really like to know how much testing does go on in Apple. You know do they do usability testing. And if so to what extent and how much do they ignore it – because it’s very. And also you know is Apple an exception here. You know is it that that because of the audience they are trapped they can make bold changes knowing that their audience will adapt or is it that you know Apple designers are so much better than the average blog designer on the street that you know needs use a testing as a crutch. But that kind of talk worries me because then it leads to you know arrogant people ignoring data because they think they know better.

Marcus Lillington:
Paul, based on what I just said that’s exactly what Apple have done on two occasions.

Paul Boag:
Yes, they have.

Marcus Lillington:
And certainly for the first one, I think the second one, I am used to it now, I don’t know this any better or worse but the first one, it was the right decision, I think.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And I think most people will say that, would agree with it. It’s the same as you’re basically pushing the paper away from you rather than having to kind of weirdly do it in reverse, anyway.

Paul Boag:
But that just freaks me, you know I like the idea in principle. It sounds great but it freaks me because it’s an excuse for bad practice. So it kind of makes me nervous even though I agree with the house over this one.

Marcus Lillington:
Or alternatively we should be hiring designers for their expertise and their professionalism and trusting them like you hire your lawyer, you don’t test and take opinion on what your lawyer suggests to do your particular thing. Or doctor, I suppose sometimes you would get a second opinion I suppose, but it’s certainly not the norm.

Paul Boag:
And that leads onto the kind of follow-up question of you know how much of the time and I think I am certainly guilty of this, how much of the time do I run testing not so much to test what I know will work out as fine but I only test to reassure the client. I mean you know how often do we go, this sounds really arrogant and I apologize for this, but how often do we do usability testing at Headscape when we know damn well that it will test just fine. But we do the testing anyway because it makes the client happy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, but it’s not just – yes, making the client happy sounds…

Paul Boag:
Reassures the client.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly. It’s like we’re doing the right thing, we’re spending a lot of money, yes, good. We’ve got some positive feedback from users let’s move on, yes, absolutely. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. I don’t think. I think what we’re talking about here is if there is conflict, if the data shows that the designer or the client is wrong, do we ignore it or not. And I think generally we shouldn’t ignore it but I think there are cases when yes, it makes sense to.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I mean I come back to what David said right at the beginning which is that innovation is just strategic thinking, big changes and data is for implementation. I think when you get down to that kind of nitty-gritty level, there is no harm whatsoever in you know in testing things, testing the hell out of things but you’ve got to have the freedom to occasionally override it I think if there’s a damn good reason for it. That’s what it comes back to, isn’t it? You need to be able to justify, your decision to overrule your testing. Okay, that’s someone sorted, I am happy now. I agree with the house. The house is right. It is decided; stamp, let’s move on.

Hands off the content management system

This house proposes that content management systems should only be used by web professionals.

Have your say

Paul Boag:
So this one is entirely your fault, Marcus, and I am divorcing myself from it entirely. This was you that suggested this topic a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about content management systems. This house proposes that content management system should only be used by web professionals.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s not what I said but hey

Paul Boag:
Isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
It makes more of a show.

Paul Boag:
What would your one have been if you had written it?

Marcus Lillington:
I would replace web professionals by people who know what they are doing.

Paul Boag:
Well that’s what professional is, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Not necessarily.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s why I guess that could be taken too literally.

Paul Boag:
Okay. But how – they haven’t actually taken it too literally. I don’t think judging by what I’ve read of the comment, but how would you define somebody who knows that they are doing and we’re talking about somebody that’s had training and knows how to operate the content management system.

Marcus Lillington:
That is one thing.

Paul Boag:
Well that’s kind of obvious. They are not going to be able to use the content management system unless they know how to use the content management system.

Marcus Lillington:
I said that was one thing, Paul

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
One thing.

Paul Boag:
One thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Another one is owning what they are looking after, if that makes sense rather than just being can you change the dates on that and not really caring. You need someone who cares about what they are looking after with their CMS.

Paul Boag:
Okay, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Remember we talked, we had a debate whenever it all three or four shows ago, about whether people who work within web design should be able to code, remember that one we discussed?

Paul Boag:
Yes, I remember that, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And I generally don’t agree with that but I do agree that if you’re going to write copy it’s worthwhile knowing some really basic HTML, like [indiscernible] and I think…

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That somebody that uses a CMS could do with knowing some really basic HTML because they expect it to work – they expect most editors most wysiwyg type editors to operate like Word and it doesn’t, they can’t.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And understanding why it can’t is a really good thing to know if you’re a manager of the CMS. That kind of thing is what I mean. But I think a lot of people who look after – who are editors on CMSs don’t have that level of knowledge, that’s what I mean. So it’s about caring and a bit of skill.

Paul Boag:
Would you include in skill the ability to write for the web?

Marcus Lillington:
Generally yes.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
Actually, that’s an – somebody needs to be able to write for the web but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the person who is the person who is using the CMS. So I guess this simplest way is no, actually. On reflection no. I think the people who are the producers of web pages are not necessarily the people who are coming up with the articles, you know as part of the blog or whatever, that doesn’t necessarily have to be this person who is publishing it. You know if it’s your job to publish content on a website, you should know what you’re doing a bit at least.

Paul Boag:
I am struggling to understand your definition of this, right? Because I mean we’ve now gone off because apparently I misrepresented you which I love doing and it’s my goal in life to misrepresent you. But you know I thought you meant that – God I’ve got totally distracted. I’ve just been looking at my iPhone 5S, I was looking down and you can so see my fingerprint on the fingerprint reader. It’d be easy to get that off, I’ve got to smudge it now so somebody else can’t use it. That would be terrible. Somebody would have been able to get my fingerprint, and I would be doomed. Anyway sorry we were talking about…

Marcus Lillington:
The whole world would be doomed. I know I am squirming a bit here.

Paul Boag:
You are.

Marcus Lillington:
But I think I do feel – I’ve been saying for about two years now to write a blog post but – this normally takes me about two years to write a blog post because I haven’t nailed down what I really think here, so you can keep asking me questions and I’ll still sound a bit sqirmy but I think it’s a genuine point. Going back to what I was just saying people who are – sorry, I am sort of trying to think out loud. If you remember the early days of when we started working together, we had people called producers.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And I think they – we have worked with clients who have producers; I’m thinking of EDF in the States, the big environmental charity, they have producers. And these guys are not the writers, they are not the content producers. They are the people that basically ensure that the content that is delivered to them by the writers is basically published online in the best possible way it can be. And they use a content management system to do that but they are also quite skillful in HTML, that kind of thing.

Paul Boag:
So these are people that are editors that can edit content that can you know do some basic HTML, work with CMS regularly rather than once every six months or whatever.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, understand manipulating imagery, what goes well with what, that kind of thing. So a bit of a design eye, a producer, the old fashioned producer is exactly what I mean.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Well a lot of people think you’re talking bollocks, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, but I am not. I am right always.

Paul Boag:
Always right. Azum says, do you seriously think that the idea of the web was only to have web professionals publish to the web. Who will judge who is a professional or not, who is good enough or not. I know that at least a handful of people who call themselves web professionals but are in fact complete amateurs. How do you make that judgment?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, well you’ve picked the one comment here that is picking up on the first thing that I ditched in the bin, which is the web professionals bit.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but you’ve replaced it with nothing. There is still this thing of how do we define who is allowed to use the content management system or not. You are coming along and saying that only certain people should be allowed to use content management system and then you’ve been super woolly about it, Marcus, come on mate, you know pick up your game.

Marcus Lillington:
I told you, it’s the old producer type person and that isn’t someone that’s necessarily spent years coding or whatever or you know is a great designer. It’s actually somebody who is a bit of jack of all trades, probably does a bit of project management as well.

Paul Boag:
Okay. So I mean what is your reason behind this. Why shouldn’t somebody, I am really picking on you, Marcus, because it’s fun. And I know you’re not as black and white as I am painting you but I am going to carry on painting you in that way. Isn’t the whole point of a content management system that anybody can use it. And I mean Sam said for example if ordinary users can’t quickly use and acclimate to a content management system then it’s a bad content management system. There is something wrong with it. So what’s your motivation for saying certain people should or should not use the content management system?

Marcus Lillington:
Continuing good UX, well designed websites etcetera, etcetera, that kind of thing.

Paul Boag:
But is that again not a sign that the content management system is wrong. Invert-partner said the problem is with the CMS and not actually with the users using it. It’s this whole idea of a wysiwyg and this free text area where you can start making horrible design decisions and that kind of stuff, is that the problem?

Marcus Lillington:
Partially yes, but it’s also about producing good quality content because say for example if you are given an article written by you know a copywriter, high quality content but you’ve got to come up with – you’ve got to basically publish that online and you’ve got to put appropriate imagery with it, say. You’ve got to know to a certain extent what are you doing, otherwise, it’s going to end up looking fairly poor. My argument is basically about keeping quality high, that’s what it’s about.

Paul Boag:
I mean Cindy from Dickstein actually came in on your side. She says I like the everyday role as in if you need to be posting web updates daily then sure you know you should have a CMS logon and the right to play, but if you’re only doing it now and again you probably not the kind of person that should be using a CMS. And I quite like that, everyday might be too literal but you know that kind of principal. It’s really about – it’s those people that are just messing with it once a while that you seem to have a problem with.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it’s also about – and I’m seeing some comments on here about the same, well it’s just about content, don’t give people the ability to do anything else. Well, I get…

Paul Boag:
You could still…

Marcus Lillington:
Sorry?

Paul Boag:
I was going to say you can still very much screw up a website by just messing with the content.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
In fact, it’s probably the best way to screw up a website because it’s the content that decides –you know makes or breaks a website. It’s the most valuable asset on the website.

Marcus Lillington:
To give an actual example here rather than being a bit fuzzy about it, I’ve just been because we’ve got two new sites that are Drupal based, so I’ve been getting used to using Drupal, and you have to make design decisions all the time about what is the right heading here. Should I be breaking this paragraph up, all that kind of thing. It’s just – sorry this is a fuzzy definition but I am going to go back to it. You just need to know what you’re doing to a certain extent. You don’t need to be the best designer in the world or superb copywriter, you just – it mustn’t be something that’s just thrust on you that you look at every three months say and you just copy straight out of Word into that box that somebody told you about once.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes?

Paul Boag:
Yes, because I am actually in agreement with you, Marcus, you know I’ve just been reading all the negative ones so far and I actually think you’ve got a good point which is that Nick says the same thing that your content needs to be policed in some way. You know however you choose to do that, either you know you let all and sundry at the content management system but there is a producer as you put it that then edit before it goes live, because you get into scenarios like people use acronyms for no apparent reason that you don’t need or their headings don’t make sense, so they are not engagingly written or they’ve put in far too much content or they go list crazy and make everything list and every paragraph is a list that is five lines long or whatever.

You know so there are – I think what annoys me is that kind of that we – with content management systems, we’ve kind of got our head around that we need to lock down the design, right? Because the design is precious. And so we need to stop users messing with the design and we all agree on that now, right? So what do you now saying, are now you saying that content is less important that we shouldn’t lock down the content and make sure that that’s of a sufficiently high quality, you know of course we should, we should be doing that too. We should be setting rules about the quality of content.

Now whether the way is to say only certain people can use the content management system or whether actually you want to use it a different technique where it is kind of workflows and permissions to get round that I think is more for debate. But there should be as much care and protection over the content as there is to the design in my opinion.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. So do I. We agree.

Paul Boag:
Yes. But there are some legitimate points and I think this is where things started to fall apart is when you start talking about the size of the company. So there were several people that were coming back and saying well, Claire for example said, small startups and small businesses can’t keep going back you know to a web professional. Now they are talking about an external person but you can equally say can’t afford to have someone that does this a lot of the time, every time they want to change the side, you know that the great thing about the CMS is that they can make the occasional, once in a blue moon updates to their content if they need to.

So I think it’s true maybe for the kind of size of clients that we normally were with at Headscape but I do think things maybe getting a little bit complicated when it’s a smaller client. Would you think that’s fair?

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe, I mean it depends. Say if it’s a small company that relies on its website for business and somebody makes an update to I don’t know, something that appears in the home page and they’ve put the whole thing in heading two style. And it breaks it and it looks rubbish but they don’t check it and it goes out. You could argue that that could damage the business. Maybe I am being a bit melodramatic there.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I mean yes it would look shit, absolutely. They’ve put it in that H2 because.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
They want it to be big, because. Whatever it is.

Marcus Lillington:
They can’t make it orange like they used to do it in the old CMS. I am sounding very snobby

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
But you know what I am saying. It’s – well you agree with me. The design – the layout of the content is as important as the colors we chose for the palette.

Paul Boag:
And I mean you know there are other people that agree with you. Not everyone was negative. I mean Dave for example said at a previous agency he used to spend a good hour or day fielding CMS support calls from people that you know are asking how do I do this or my content looks awful fix it for me, because the people that he was dealing with weren’t using the content management system enough you know enough to become proficient today. And that’s what you’re getting at, isn’t it. A certain degree of proficiency is involved.

I mean another example is you were talking about clients real world examples, you know we were looking at yesterday, when we had the client that just suddenly decided to dump in a massive big you know page worth of content into their site, you know of a load of waffle, that was really quite unnecessary and it destroyed the effectiveness of the page that we’d originally designed. And then because they didn’t really understand about how users read on the web and all of the rest of it so.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
We’re right, all those people that disagree with us are wrong. Let’s have a see if we’ve got any other negative ones that we could. Yes, a lot of people got hung up with it’s a content management problem, but I really don’t think it is. You know it’s not about

Marcus Lillington:
No, I don’t think it is. You can’t take away every choice.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
You have to give people the choice to be able to lay out content using headings.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
For example. So if you give people headings then I’ll go back to my previous example, they might make the whole thing a heading.

Paul Boag:
They do. There are some people that talk about CMSs that – Perch is a good example of this, which have a structured content thing so that you enter different content in different fields, you can’t go in and set an H1 or whatever, instead you know here is an area for your title, here is an area for your body and you’ve got very, very limited control in terms of the layout and stuff, but I think that sometimes could be overly restrictive.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
There is a line, isn’t there?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, there is and in that particular example I am betting you aren’t limited to a particular number of characters so you could go for the – what looks good on the page is I don’t know two paragraphs and some people could put in 20 paragraphs.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Of copy and ruin it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, there is always a way for someone to ruin it if there isn’t some skill. The content management system can’t save you at the end of the day, neither should it be expected. I mean it would be like expecting you know Word to automatically create wonderful documents for you and then what we end up with is Clippy saying “you look like you’re creating a letter, can I help you with that?” Is that where we are saying we should be going with the content management system, where basically someone holds your hand through the entire thing. And we know that that doesn’t work and we know it falls down and you know ultimately if you give someone a tool they will abuse it, no matter how good the tool is.

Marcus Lillington:
Unless they know what they are doing.

Paul Boag:
Unless they know what they are doing a bit but yes, absolutely. I think we’ve come to an agreement and screw everybody else’s opinion. If you want to read other people’s opinions you’re more than welcome to. You could go to the show notes and then there will be a link through to the comments associated with this. I also – it’s worth saying that we want to carry on the conversations. So if you feel you’ve got opinion on either of the things that we talked about today, then go along to the show notes which are boagworld.com/season/7 that will take you through to the season page and you can find this episode or alternatively you can add episodes/0707 to the end of that URL and that will take you through to these show notes and you can then from there you can get to all these topics we’re discussing, read all the comments that are related to them etcetera.

So yes, join in the conversation, explain to us why Marcus are myself are wrong because obviously we have no doubt we are.

There is one more thing that I wanted to briefly say on this subject which is that somebody who agreed with us Mark said context management systems are common source of frustration not because the context management system is a fault but because the client doesn’t understand what it means to be a web professional. Exactly what you’re saying basically, Marcus, but he goes on to say we can’t expect anyone to just pick up and use the CMS, that are occasional users. It’s simpler for them to create content and place with something they are familiar with for example Google Docs or Word than it is for them to learn new technologies and then basically someone moves it across into the content management system for them.

And he also talks about some of the tools that are out there for pre CMSs. So do you remember we talked about, I don’t know if you remember seeing it. I showed it to you ages ago gathercontent.com. Do you remember that?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it rings a bell, yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s a really good, simple tool where you can gather content from a large number of content providers and then you can then import that into your CMS or you can edit it or do what you want with it, which I actually think is a really good idea. So basically content providers provide the content then you have what Nick described as a curator, someone that kind of brings up to get source out and puts it online, and I quite like that approach.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that’s what I mean really.

Paul Boag:
Yes, and I am going to try gathercontent probably on this project that I am working on next week because I think it could potentially be a really good way of collecting content. So there we go, I think that’s more than enough for this show except for Marcus’s joke obviously we have to do that.

Marcus Lillington:
Thank you so much for the people sending me so many jokes. It’s brilliant. This one from Joe Vessel who I don’t think we’ve heard from before on the joke front.

Paul Boag:
No, I don’t think we have.

Marcus Lillington:
I particularly like this one. He has obviously got me down to a T, knows the kind of high level of joke that I like.

Paul Boag:
The intellectual, cerebral kind of joke.

Marcus Lillington:
This one might take you a little while to get it because it’s quite complicated.

Paul Boag:
It’s above my intellectual level

Marcus Lillington:
There are different theories going through it that kind of thing.

Paul Boag:
Yes, different themes, sub plots, yes, okay.

Marcus Lillington:
How many beans do you need to make soup? 239. One more and it will be too farty.

Paul Boag:
Oh that’s terrible.

Marcus Lillington:
I absolutely love that. So yes, just keep them coming. I’ve got enough for the rest of series, hurray.

Paul Boag:
Well perhaps we need to do one at the beginning of the show and then one at the end as well. Double your jokage.

Marcus Lillington:
I could double my jokes. You know maybe I will just do a whole load on the Christmas one. I’ll save them up for Christmas.

Paul Boag:
We’re trying to set-up the Christmas episode with the unfinished business people aren’t we.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But I don’t know whether it will happen or not.

Marcus Lillington:
Well if it doesn’t I’ll just do lots of jokes anyway.

Paul Boag:
Hundreds of jokes to keep us entertained. But then you know I don’t know whether I am going to have time to do that because I am going to the Maldives. So I just felt I needed to drop that in again.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And on that bombshell! Ha ha, As Jeremy Clarkson would say, I think it’s time for us to go

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, definitely. Bye.

Paul Boag:
Bye. I’m going to the Maldives.

Headscape

Boagworld