Umbraco tip of the week: give your editors less choice

Note: this post is over a year old, it's very likely completely outdated and should probably not be used as reference any more. You have been warned. :-)

Choice is good, right? I'm a programmer, I'm a tinkerer, I'm a tweaker, I want as much choice as possible.. Except when it's silly, unneccessary choices. Don't make me think!

One of the Umbraco tips I always like to give people is to really think about how you build out the backoffice for your editors.
The editors are the actual customers to whom you're supposed to deliver value. They will be spending a huge amount of time in the backoffice and will hate you for every frustrating unneccessary choice that you give them.

Luckily, Umbraco gives you a lot of tools to help out with that so that the editors can enter content as easily as possible. 

The one thing that I always hate seeing is the following:

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Can you spot what's wrong here?

How many times does your editor want to make a news area? In a normal site, there's usually only 1, right? Same for a blog, an FAQ area, and a contact page.

And under the news area you would only add content of type news item, correct? And under the blog, only items of type "blog post".

So why do you allow the FAQ Area under home when it's already been created? Here's a little secret: you don't have to!

Once you've created your news area, your blog and your FAQ area you can just disallow them again. Go to your "Home" document type and don't allow anything but the items your editors actually will be using. 

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So now when the editor tries to create something new, they can only make a relevant choice:

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 Notice that the blog overview is still there, the contact page is still there etc. And when you try to create new content under blog you can still only create blog posts.

So now you have full control over the site, you know that there's only one blog overview that you need to query for. The children of that blog overview will only ever contain blog posts. There's only one news area, containing only news items. Rinse and repeat.

On the other hand, your editors don't need to think about which item to pick when they click on "create". Less thinking helps them accomplish their tasks faster. If they have no choice then they don't need to be worried about doing the right thing, you've just helped them do it perfectly every time.

Bonus tip: See how each type of document has it's own icon? That is another way to really add value to your sites, visual queues help your editor read less, thus think less, thus they can work faster and are happier with your wonderful site implementation.

Sebastiaan Janssen

Dutch guy living in (and loving) Copenhagen, working at Umbraco HQ. Lifehacker, skeptic, music lover, cyclist, developer.


6 comments on this article

Avatar for Casey Neehouse Casey Neehouse | January 31 2014 17:22
Great Points. I have been hooking into the create dialog (in v6) and removing things that are already created. Admins still get the full list, but general users get the simple list.

Avatar for Muhammad Muhammad | January 31 2014 18:02
Good tip! Lucky that I already follow it but I can understand the pain of allowing everything under root.

Avatar for Tom Fulton Tom Fulton | January 31 2014 18:13
Awesome points! I love the idea of this, but I always forget to do it in practice (or I'm just lazy). I wonder if there could be a more automatic/integrated way to achieve this, maybe by saying "This document type can only be created x times". Been thinking about a provider model for Structure Extensions to achieve more complex rules like this. Hmm!

Avatar for Sebastiaan Janssen Sebastiaan Janssen | January 31 2014 22:35
@Tom Well, for lazy people that would be nice, but wouldn't you be just as lazy filling in that setting on the document type in the first place? ;)

Avatar for Allan Molsen Larsen Allan Molsen Larsen | February 2 2014 11:20
Great points Sebastiaan. It's great on a single language site where the editors never need to create new FAQ/Blogs/News sections. But on multi language sites where each language is a node below the root node, I think what @Tom describes would be a great functionality. When the editor wants to create a new language site they would only see the option to create a FAQ/Blogs/News section if the section does not already exist below the current language root node. But in most cases I guess the editors want something changed in the structure of the site for each new language, so they need a developer to make changes anyway.
Generally I prefer to build sites without (too much) hacking and with (mostly) pure Umbraco functionality and as few packages as possible to make the site as maintainable as possible.

Avatar for Dan Dan | February 3 2014 13:29
Nice post Seb.

It would be nice in v7 (not so feasible in V6) if the doc-type was automatically selected when creating content if there's only 1 allowed. i.e. Bypass the doc-type selection panel if there's no choice. This would cut out a step and make things even simpler for editors.

Just a thought anyhow...