Contextual Inquiry for Internal Tools


The Problem

The Django CMS has many good qualities, but the usability of the interface is not one of them (at least in 2014 — I believe that this has improved in intervening years). Our editors expressed frustration over the general clunkiness of the system

Methods and Roles

Contextual interview, sketching, code prototyping

The Solution

By watching editors, reporters and business roles while they worked, I was able to pinpoint the least efficient points in the workflow:  uploading images, setting up front page stories, finding related content, and setting up ads in our newsletters.

To address these problems, we implemented buttons or links to get around the multi-click problem where possible, and added a mobile preview so that users did not have to laboriously open and resize a browser to see what the store would look like. We also prototyped a new front-page system for the new opinion site we were building, and eventually implemented something similar on the main site. We added a UI that integrated newsletter ad functionality with the main ad interface. Finally, in 2016 we implemented an API, which allowed editors to find individual items more efficiently than using the main interface.


Between the new UI implementations and the API, we saved our users as much at 20 hours a week.