What Makes A Great Content Editor Experience?

Stefan Schinkel

In the early days of content management, you needed a rocket scientist and an editor to crank out web pages. Those days are long gone, and today’s business users are much less reliant upon developers to manage their content.

However, we still see CMS implementations where the content editing experience is underwhelming and the product capabilities are not leveraged to the full extent. That is a huge missed opportunity, so we have some pro tips for development teams who embark on their subsequent CMS implementation. 

The Basics

Let’s start with some basics. By now, every CMS vendor has a 100% web-based back-end interface for content editing where the content editors can log in to do their day-to-day jobs.

  • Login Experience. Like any enterprise-grade business application, making the CMS part of your corporate Single Sign On (SSO) solution is always a good start. No hassle. 

  • Native language. Not everybody is comfortable with the English language. It helps the internal adoption of new technology if end-users can select their native language as the default for the user interface. Managing multilingual content is one thing. Having the authoring environment in multiple languages is another thing. 

  • Branding. Modern CMS products allow you to brand the back-end UI with your corporate identity. A strong brand identity empowers your employees to do great things. 

NoCode Where Possible

As mentioned, business users can do more than ever in a CMS without reliance on developers, as modern CMS solutions have integrated more and more NoCode capabilities into their products. This can allow technology teams to offload mundane tasks and focus on innovation, provided they properly implement and configure the CMS’s NoCode capabilities to benefit the users. As a business user, I would expect to see the following NoCode tools at a minimum:

Block Editing 

A new kid on the block (pun intended) in content management is block editing, which allows content editors to create content blocks in a heartbeat (NoCode, of course). Nesting or alternating different content types in a content block is a powerful concept for content editors composing digital experiences.

The block editor doesn’t necessarily replace a WYSIWYG editor; it’s just an additional tool in the belt for content editors to create compelling content quickly and without the help of a developer. At the same time, a block editor should be extensible for the development teams to expand the ways business teams can use it. 

Go Edit Mode Anywhere Or Go Home

With the rise of headless CMS, it’s unfortunate that many pure headless CMS vendors still offer an early 2000s editor experience: form-based, no preview (device type, language, and persona), no drag & drop page composition, no personalization, and no inline editing. It’s no wonder many experienced content editors feel that switching to a pure headless CMS is like returning to the stone age of content management. Enter Edit Mode Anywhere.

You can appreciate vendors like Shopstory, who bridge the gap between the tools that are table stakes and the pure headless CMS vendors. However, visual editing of content is a quintessential content management capability and should be part of the core of any CMS. This is why dotCMS introduced Edit Mode Anywhere in 2019 for headless applications.

Regardless of the CMS deployment (headless or hybrid headless), content editors should have access to previewing content, drag & drop, inline editing, personalization, and page template editing. If your current CMS doesn’t support this, it might be time to re-platform. If you’re thinking about re-platforming to a pure headless CMS, you might want to think again. There’s a reason your content teams are fighting the move from WordPress, despite the serious security concerns.

Back-end Integrations

In the current age of composability, content editors expect to have seamless access to data and assets while working in the CMS authoring interface, regardless of where the assets reside. Modern CMS solutions allow seamless integrations between the CMS authoring environment and external content/asset stores. The key use case (“as a content editor, I want to access/browse/search in external asset sources while I’m composing a page/experience in the CMS”) should be trivial to implement for your content editors.

Managing Business Logic

Hard-coding business logic was never a good idea. It creates rigidness in upstream business processes. In a content management system, this practice is no different. An agile CMS solution provides a widget framework that allows development teams to create NoCode tools for business teams that drive efficiency in content creation, time-to-value, and time-to-market. Widgets bring content and business logic together, are reusable across all websites/applications, and can even make the content editing experience fun. 

Take the example of a content editor creating a banner. As a content editor, you want to:

  • Select the main asset (image, GIF, or video) as your banner.

  • Add multiple overlay items (Call To Action, etc.)

  • Change text (actual text, font, color) on overlay items

  • Determine the exact positioning of the overlay items

  • Select from a library of styling options matching the corporate identity

Widgets listing content typically offer the option to control what to list: “most recent 5”, or “last three articles by author John Doe.” It’s crucial to discuss these types of control with the business users to ensure they have the flexibility they need, which significantly impacts their experience. In terms of possibilities, the sky is the limit.  

Streamlined Content Governance

Large enterprises with hundreds or thousands of content editors often work under strict governance and compliance protocols. These have ramifications for the content editing process. There shouldn’t be a trade-off between content governance and time-to-market / time-to-value if your CMS can streamline your content management process. Creating complex multi-step content approval workflows, multiple workflows on a content type, or a dedicated approval workflow for specific content are all table stakes for any modern CMS.

Not every content type requires legal & compliance review or review by a committee. Personalized notifications via multiple channels (email, Slack, Teams, etc.) should only go where and when it makes sense. Your content governance processes should lead, and the CMS will follow, supporting a streamlined operation yielding the highest possible content velocity.


Modern and enterprise-grade content management systems are great tools to use when the implementation is done correctly and with a keen eye on the business user. Maximizing the CMS product’s capabilities for content editors substantially increases the enterprise-wide adoption of the CMS and the success of the digital transformation it was part of.

As a development team, you have one chance to make a first impression on the business team. Nothing is more frustrating for a business user than facing a content black swan– an unexpected content creation experience that stops you in your tracks and prevents you from completing your task without developer assistance. You then have to wait, or worse– start all over again.

If you’re a dotCMS customer facing a black swan, contact your Customer Success Manager. If you’re interested in what dotCMS can do for your content editors, contact us

Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema
Stefan Schinkel
Chief Revenue Officer
March 27, 2023

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