Better UX for Drupal Editors

As of writing Drupal 9 has been released and now offers many content editing innovations built-in. But you may be restricted by it’s compatibility with your existing web server configuration or are not in a position to consider an upgrade just yet. This article presumes you are using Drupal 8.

At the same time more general approaches to good user experience for content editors are universal to any CMS. WordPress for example, out of the box, has a block based system for building pages. This can also be replicated in Drupal with the Paragraphs or Entity API modules.

For Drupal users the content editing experience can be:

  • Designed with the same care and attention given to the public site.
  • Customised for the specific needs of an organisations content style.
  • Be consistent over a longer period of time or until the next major upgrade.

This all allows editors to gain confidence and familiarity with their CMS so they can focus on creativity. Staff will not be not confronted with an unwieldy editing experience.

Basics for a good editing experience

1. Fields for easy publishing

Content creators will more often use their favourite word processing software to draft pages. The processing power of a server based website is far less and so editing tools on the site need to be more simplistic. Plus editors want to quickly publish their content to a website, having already invested time in composition and formatting offline.

Text area fields in your CMS should be limited to basic HTML such as paragraphs, links, headings and lists. Media such as video or images should be a simple upload field that pre-formats or crops the file for you. Other more elaborate details such as pull-out quotes or a call to action are also pre-formatted in the template so an editor only needs to fill in fields.

2. Labelling and help text

The same care and attention given to the public user experience should also be applied to the editing experience. Labelling fields that make sense to the editor and easily describe what the content is. Often labels will be published with the content too, so in this case labelling should also make sense to your website visitors.

Give editors as much assistance as possible with field descriptions. If for example you are embedding video content provide example url formats or any file size restrictions. For any custom field groups provide a clear description of what the field collection is e.g. “Call to Action”.

3. Organising the editing interface

The page editing interface should mirror the hierarchy of the published page as closely as possible. Breaking up the editing area into blocks or fields and reducing image thumbnail sizes also means less scrolling through overly long text areas. Then organise or hide your fields into clearly labelled collapsible groups. A content editor will then not be overwhelmed by a busy interface and can edit quickly at a glance.

Disable any unwanted settings for particular content types. For example a blog post will likely not need any menu settings and the url will be auto-generated when the content is saved.

4. Fixing a broken editing experience

You probably enjoy using your website’s CMS much less than creating the content itself with your favourite word processor. There are quirks in your CMS that you have to keep navigating when publishing pages. It takes ages and you are frustrated that you have to sometimes go into the HTML code and fix things.

The good news is many editing issues can be fixed without disturbing published content. Fields can be grouped, relabelled and tidied up. New fields can be incorporated for embedded media such as images or video. If things really are bad then you can transition smoothly to a new content type and even importing previously published pages into the new version.

Get publishing with ease

So design your backend editing interface with the same care and attention as your frontend. Treat your content creators to a great user experience too. With Drupal, your editing system can also be customised to suit your organisations needs and be consistent for years.

This wonderful illustration is provided by Storyset