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An interview with Felipe Skroski: Designing SilverStripe 3, UI development and the future of content managementTweet
4 March 2011 | |
This year looks like it's going to be an important milestone for SilverStripe. For not only does it mark the 10th anniversary of the company that brought us the CMS, SilverStripe Limited, but it's also the year in which work has begun on the first major release of the system since it's launch in 2007. SilverStripe 3.0 is still very early in its development but it's already looking very promising, potentially offering huge improvements such as versioned assets, a reworked templating system and better separation between the CMS and the underlying framework Sapphire among other things. However probably the most exciting improvement will be a completely new HTML5/jQueryUI admin interface.
The man in charge of designing the new UI is Felipe Skroski, creative director at SilverStripe Limited. With nearly 15 years of experience designing, marketing and project managing for the web, Felipe is well placed to lead the process, so I caught up with him to talk about SilverStripe 3, UI design and the future of content management.
When did you join the SilverStripe team? Had you heard of SilverStripe before you joined?
I started here two years ago. I've heard about SS before that, but I hadn’t used the CMS before I started.
What aspect of UI design excites you the most? Where do find inspiration?
The UI design aspect that excites me the most is thinking of it as a whole experience package, it's how we balance performance, content, visuals, and interaction to create the desired results. As a visual designer I appreciate all forms of design and art, be it architecture, dance, circus, painting, fashion, product design, and so on. When it comes to user experience that's no better inspiration than having real life experiences with real people. I find inspiration traveling, trying new activities, learning new languages, listening to different music, talking to people who think, or are, totally different than me, trying different food, being open-minded as much as I can, and enjoying life.
What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the current SilverStripe UI? Which CMS do you think currently has the strongest UI?
The main strength would be the site tree, users really love it and it's easy to manage the site structure with it. The weaknesses are the excess of actions/information per screen (eg: site tree + content edit + asset management) that makes hard to keep focus on specific tasks, the lack of visual hierarchy that makes hard to identify the most important actions, and the look & feel is a bit outdated. The strongest CMS UIs in my opinion are squarespace.com for the inline editing and wordpress.org for a great backend UI, one of the strongest in the open source world. I also like the simplicity of virb.com.
The current design visuals for SS3 look absolutely stunning. What sort of methodology have you followed to get to this point and what were the primary goals of the redesign?
We're using a version of user/human centered design (Wikipedia, ideo Toolkit). We start our process by understanding user needs. I've spent several hours myself interviewing and observing users on their environment, based on that we create personas, scenarios and use cases. We keep the focus on the user all the way through the design process. Another important component is collaboration, we are four designers working together on it, plus the community participation is being absolutely awesome, we're constantly releasing new concepts on github at github.com/silverstripe/silverstripe-design and discussing them on our dev list groups.google.com/group/silverstripe-dev/. I invite everyone reading this post to be part of it we really want to hear from you all :).
Do you think a complex system like SS can ever be completely intuitive to a user, or is training an inevitability?
‘User’ is a very generic term. For confident internet users who do their banking online, use Facebook and buy tickets and products, it can be very intuitive, but if the user in question is struggling with email, training will be difficult to avoid.
How do you imagine CMS systems will evolve over the next 10 years?
In 10 years, a lot of the internet as we know today will change, like:
- Death of desktop computing for personal users - everything including software will be in the cloud, accessed by a single pocket device that you can dock into large screen workstations.
- The first generation born with the internet will become consumers and key decision makers.
- Wireless fast internet will become as common as electric power.
- There will be new ways to interact with computers beyond mouse and keyboard.
- Death of websites as we know it - If you use the literal definition of CMS as being a content management system, Facebook is the biggest CMS by volume of data and users in the world and it doesn't create websites. The same can be said for Google Docs and Twitter.
So in this scenario I think CMS will evolve to hosted solutions like virb.com and squarespace.com or to solid frameworks and UI kits to create the new web applications and that's the beauty of SilverStripe 3 - we call it CMS, some people refer to it as CMF, but it should be called something else like a web app SDK. Regardless of the name it's going to be a full-on development framework with a UI.
One UI design rule to rule them all: what would it be?
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Felipe, I am sure I speak on behalf of the whole community when I say we are thrilled that you are part of the SS3 team. One last question, what do you do when you want to escape the 'virtual' world and reacquaint yourself with reality?
I spend a lot of time staring at a screen, so in my free time escaping the virtual world is the rule. I like outdoor sports, now it’s summer here so I've been surfing and kite-surfing a lot. In the winter I like to snowboard, and when the weather doesn't help I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the gym. If I'm not on sports, I'll be reading, cooking, photographing, or having a beer with friends, and when I have larger chunks of free time I'll be travelling or writing about it at noplacelikehere.com.
So what do you think about the plans for SilverStripe 3? Leave your comments or join the mailing list now!