CMS replacement

The problem

The CMS that the Trust uses for its main website reaches end of life by the end of 2021.  This means that there will be no support, updates or security patches once this happens.  As an organisation with a website that attracts tens of millions of visits per year, this is an absolutely critical project with huge financial and logistical risks. As part of the exercise, the website itself will need to be rebuilt and all the content migrated.

The solution

This project is split into 3 phases: Feasibility, Design and Plan, and Deployment.  As at the time of writing, we’ve just finished feasibility.

So far:

Around 90 stakeholder interviews

These were conducted face to face and remotely  and were mainly focused on the strategic needs of various stakeholders and CMS users.  As well as the simple pieces of functionality – can they upload an image easily, can they format test, etc – will it allow them to personalise content, will it give them more control over functional content, etc.


I planned and ran workshops with a cross section of the CMS users that we have, representing all the different user segments.  These were much more focused on the day to day needs of users; what their frustrations are, what bits they like and want to keep, how much time they thought they waste due to inefficiencies with the system, what their goals and desires are.

As part of this I also got them to fill in templates for their personas which I then amalgamated into 3 higher level personas that we could use.


Requirements gathering

One output of all these workshops was a list of features or requirements.  One of the first things I did was to run an online card sort which was sent to every single user.  In this, they were asked to prioritise around 60 different features so that we could see where the most common overlaps were.  These are being used to evaluate and score different CMS products for a shortlist where we’ll go through an RFI process to choose a supplier.

Product evaluation

I’m on a board of people looking at various CMS products through different lenses.  We have people from web-ops looking at the technical/hosting/security aspects, product owners, etc.  At this stage, I’m the lead on UX for the new CMS so I’m acting as the voice of the CMS users.  There is a propensity to sacrifice what users require over technical considerations.  I’m trying to argue a balance between the two things with some senior people within the organisation as my goal is to ensure that we don’t end up with a product that frustrates users like the current system does.

Ongoing user representation

As an organisation, we have around 600 users on the CMS.  We have national users who edit and publish content on a daily basis.  Their whole existence is based around logging in at 9.00 in the morning and using the CMS intensely until 5.00 at night.  In the middle we have regional users who might log in a few times a week to update content relating to one or two properties in their portfolio.  At the other extreme, we might have users who are based on a small property and act as front of house, gardener and content editor, using the CMS once or twice a month to make simple changes. At the top two levels, users are performing many different tasks.

My role here is to ensure that their voices are heard, and that they are kept informed throughout the life of this project.  So I’m having to manage comms with stakeholders at every level in the organisation.

User research – front end

As important as it is to get the CMS right, it’s equally as important to get the UX right for the public facing side of this.  Over 20,000 pages of content to think about, getting millions of visits.  The first things I did for this was to break down the web site into 11 different high level journeys:  Join, renew, donate, booking a holiday, booking to go to an event, finding a volunteering opportunity, etc.  Each of these has been user tested and given an NPS that we’ll use as a benchmark to ensure that we maintain or improve UX when we rebuild the site.

We’ve also used an external agency to perform a large qualitative survey for us to identify a number of different user profiles.  From these, I will be generating a number of personas that will help inform the process of developing user journeys, empathy maps and then the IA for the site.