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We’ve got Experience Debt in our sights

Experience debt is the accumulation of friction points that users experience when performing common tasks. Our Product Development Team have set their sights on it in SilverStripe CMS.

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Technical debt is something that Product Development Teams are acutely aware of. It could be a //TODO comment in the code that was never actioned or a new UI component that was created, only to be replaced by a completely new user interface in a subsequent project. 

Whether the ‘debt’ relates to a shortcut in the technical implementation or something closer to the product’s design, it’s the accumulation of these that may appear hidden, but will ultimately have a major impact on the value that users perceive in our product. And for all the great experiences that our users might have, one negative experience can tip the scales and initiate the hunt for an alternative solution.  

We’re fortunate to be close to the customers, users, and digital agencies who are hands-on with SilverStripe each day. Their feedback helps us steer product decisions and prioritise focus areas from a user’s perspective.

Recently, the Product Development Team who oversee the maintenance of SilverStripe’s commercially supported modules tasked themselves with a challenge: Reduce the experience debt currently present in the SilverStripe CMS. 

What is experience debt?

‘Experience debt’ refers to the experience provided through the CMS which is not intentional, or which is inadequate for its intended purpose. It’s the accumulation of the friction points that users experience when performing common tasks in the CMS.

This kind of debt is caused by a lack of attention in high use and important areas, or through a  gradual deterioration of how products features work together (or don’t) as they’re continuously modified and improved. It simultaneously hampers our user’s experience and slows down our ability to improve our products.

The experience debt initiative marks a shift in focus from ‘technical debt’, which instead, prioritises resolving issues arising from development practices, evidenced in the product’s code base. It’s an opportunity to focus a concerted effort on issues that in isolation, may appear relatively minor, but which we believe will ultimately build on the hidden value of the product and meet the expectations of our users.

Key focus areas

Understanding the source of our experience debt has come through user research and journey mapping, feedback from our DevOps teams, and issues captured by digital agencies and developers in GitHub. Based on these insights, we‘ve created key focus areas that will define our work for the coming months, including:

  • Content editing
  • File management
  • Publish workflow and versioning
  • Forms and UI components

Within each of those focus areas, we’ll be looking at:

  • Insufficient self-service features, or features that users expect after upgrading from SilverStripe 3
  • Regressions or upgrade difficulties
  • Bugs or oddities that customers trip over

The sum total of this work will be a marked improvement in our overall user experience. But, we’re also conscious that users care about the little fixes, inconveniences, and general oddities, so we’re aiming to keep you up-to-date as we progress through the work. You can get updates on the SilverStripe Slack community workspace in #news-and-updates and also on Twitter.

We recommend that you keep an eye on any issues you raise in GitHub, our team is active on these issues. They’ll let you know if an issue is being worked on as part of the experience debt initiative and whether you can help with feedback on designs, or a peer review on the pull request.

Have you got feedback on SilverStripe CMS?

We’d love to hear from you. Head to our feedback form and tell us about your experience.

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About the author
Bryn Whyman

Bryn is one of SilverStripe's Product Owners. He's here to make sure our users are given a megaphone to have their ideas heard and ensure our products allow them to excel and enrich their communities.

Technology in business was his focus straight out of school so after attending Victoria University in Wellington he headed to the public sector where he worked with a couple of government agencies to help the mighty civil service cog turn. Since then he's dabbled in e-commerce and web development but the idea of a code review makes him think he'll leave it to his talented peers.

His current home obsessions include fermenting anything that fits into a jar or brewing anything that fits into a bottle (or flagon).

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