SDL Tridion 2011 Interface Eyes User Experience

In the past few years, it seemed like more and more software companies focused on the user experience element of their products. We have seen popular office suites move from drop-down menus and toolbars to ribbons showing in-context options. SDL has not missed this trend and has improved their Tridion 2011 Content Manger Explorer (CME) interface in much the same way.


This article will highlight two of the many new Tridion GUI features that improves user experience and increases productivity.

To start this process, the SDL User Experience team interviewed multiple customers to find out how they were using Tridion. They looked at the various steps people took to complete a task and used their research to improve usability in their latest release of Tridion.

The Ribbon

When is the last time you started learning a new software application by reading the manual from start to finish before opening up the program for the first time? I don't think I have ever done that and most users I've seen haven't either. Because of this, an application that gives you as many visual clues as possible to help you navigate your way around will make you more productive right away.

To help users like me, SDL introduced a new concept to their product line called the  ribbon. If you are familiar with Microsoft Office 2007, then you should be familiar with a ribbon bar. The new ribbon bar provides the user with the options they have with the context they're in.

To best understand this concept, let's look at a couple examples of the new Tridion 2011 Ribbon.

When you select a Folder in the CME, the options to create a new component or new folder come into focus. All of the other options that you cannot select in this context are greyed out.

ribbon bar 01

If instead I selected a Structure Group, the option to create a "New Page" comes into focus. Since you cannot create a new Folder or New Page within a Structure Group, those options are greyed out along with all of the other options that do not apply.

ribbon bar 02

This context sensitive area is even more useful when creating components. Here is a sample component I created to show what happens when you create a new component and
select a rich text field. The ribbon you see when first creating a component looks like this.

component view

After selecting a Rich Text field, the ribbon changes automatically and shows you the formatting options you have in this field.

component view 02 

Resizable Rich Text Areas

Allowing users to resize their Rich Text area is a simple way to increase productivity. How important can a resizable Rich Text areas be? Well if you have ever worked with Tridion more than a few times, you would have run into many scenarios where a resizable Rich Text area would have been useful.

Lets do some quick level setting to understand how useful this feature is. In case you are unfamiliar with the concept, a Rich Text field in Tridion is an area where you can format text with many of the same features you have in Microsoft Word. If you have one Rich Text field in a component, it typically contains the main content for the element you are creating. A simple article component may contain one large Rich Text field where you would have all the formatting elements needed to create a nice looking article.

The other concept you need to be familiar with is a Schema. A Schema defines the fields that you will need to create a component. It is typically where someone in the IT department determines that you need a Rich Text field. When creating schemas with Rich Text fields, a person needs to decide how many lines of text the entry box will be for the field. Since you never know all of the ways a component will be used, you have to estimate this size. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all and you end up with content editors having too much or too little space to fill in this field.

In Tridion 2011, the Rich Text field is resizable by the content author. The text field that you thought would only need to be seen in 2 lines can be resized to the 10 or 20 lines now needed. This feature is especially useful for large components containing multi-value Rich Text fields. Instead of having users scroll down a huge list of 20 fields that are each the height of your screen, you can provide small Rich Text fields that allow users to quickly find the one they need and then expand it to a size they can work in.

Here is an example of one Rich Text field starting at two lines tall and then being expanded to more than ten lines tall.

description field small

description field tall


These two GUI improvements will improve the productivity of everyone using Tridion. With a more intuitive user interface, Developers can spend less time estimating Rich Text sizes and more time creating new templates. Content Managers can spend less time training users and more time improving the system. Content Editors can spend less time learning Tridion and more time producing content. SDL's focus on more than just their back-end technology will increase product satisfaction throughout the enterprise.

About the Author
Jonathan Holt
Assistant Vice President eCommerce

Jonathan is Assistant Vice President eCommerce at Union Bank, with specialities in Program Management, Web Technology and Project Management. He has over 12 years experience working on technology projects.

Union Bank