Every TV show on each of NBCU’s channels generates a significant amount of content that is published to each channel’s website: episode guides, character bios, promotions, blogs, etc.
Editors and art directors are responsible for publishing this content in real time via each channel’s CMS.
One platform, diverging instances
NBCU’s channel websites ran on a shared Drupal CMS, but each channel had heavily customized their instances of the CMS. That meant they were no longer compatible and could not be maintained centrally.
Furthermore, the separate CMS instances had grown unruly and less usable to the content editors.
Management wanted to reduce operational costs by bringing all the sites back together on a single shared platform. I was brought in to design the UX for a new shared CMS.
No shared content model between channels
Each channel had its own implementation of common content types. For example, these three screens represent three different interpretations of a TV Show object.
Aligning all these sites on a single CMS meant that all the channels would have to agree on a shared content model. That meant highly disparate types of content – episodes of “Saturday Night Live,” news shows on MSNBC, scripted dramas on USA, and reality TV series on Bravo – would have to work off the same model.
At the time I joined the project, development of the content model had been outsourced to an agency. I expressed my skepticism that an outside agency could accomplish the complex and delicate task of identifying the commonalities and differences between the channels’ implementations.
Communicating the system architecture
Additonally, there was considerable debate internally about the right technical architecture for the project. I created a series of diagrams outlining the various options for non-technical stakeholders.
Elevating users’ needs
I began by interviewing site editors at several channels in order to understand their workflows and problems they encountered with the existing system. I proposed a simplified navigation that elevated the major content types and deprecated many obscure site settings.
An action-oriented homepage
Working in Axure, I began building a responsive and highly interactive prototype that could be demonstrated and tested to solicit feedback.
On the homepage, my goal was to surface the most immediate priorities for each site. I also introduced the concept of assignments, a simple workflow management system that would enable users to pass off tasks to each other: for example, a writer could assign an article to a photo editor for image selection, reducing the need for email or messaging.
Rethinking the content model
Next, I began modeling a content type: the TV show. Without a complete content model, I made some assumptions as a starting point. The biggest challenge was streamlining the large number of fields typically required for this content type. My solution was to show required fields by default, and section off optional fields and metadata behind separate tabs. I expanded the publishing UI by adding version history and a scheduling component.
I also designed specialized views for images and video that made it easier to browse this type of content visually.
When the agency finally delivered a shared content model, the results were confusing and not immediately usable. At that time, design was put on hold in order to work through the content model. Unfortunately I had other commitments and could not stay on in the interim, but I believe I addressed a number of important issues in my designs and my understanding is that many of my recommendations were incorporated in later versions.