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CMS Horror Stories

We all know some CMS's are more user firendly than others, but sometimes, even the nicest CMS can be scuppered by an abysmal implementation. Usually this is either the developer not being familiar with the CMS, being on drugs of some kind, or possibly just being a bit rubbish :P

I got to thinking on this recently after being involved in some pitches where the client has stated up front that they hated Umbraco. That's quite unusual for us, most of our clients really love the CMS, so we asked what it was they hated, and got shown the CMS systems they were currently using built on Umbraco. What an eye opener! I think I'd hate my CMS if every single page was just one tab, with a single TextArea that says "Paste HTML here" next to it (and yes, I've seen an actual implementation like this).

We showed the clients some Umbraco implementations that were actual sane, and they changed their mind about Umbraco (yay!) once they saw what you could do with a decently thought out site. This isn't just something I've seen with Umbraco though, I've seen some terrfifying examples with other CMS systems and home grown CMSs as well. Without naming any names, here are some examples I've seen over the years:

  • the aforementioned every single page is a text box that you paste HTML into site
  • a site where the developers put a custom caching framework on top of the CMSs quite fast caching framework, slowing it down to the point that it had to be load balanced just to get even crappy performance out of it
  • a 10 page mobile site that had an insane amount of IOC, business logic and interfaces, probbaly the second most over engineered site I've ever seen
  • sites where all the properties are on one page, sometimes 50+ of them, with little information about what they're for, other than not particularly descriptive labels.......
  • Dropdowns to select things with mystery meat names (how are you supposed to know what Offer 1, Offer 2 and Offer 3 actually are?)

It just goes to show how important it is to think about the editor experience when you build your sites with a CMS. The site could look quite pretty, but if the editor experience is shit, the users will hate using the CMS, and they won't get the most out of it!

So, what are some of your worst CMS horror stories that you've come across?


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5 comments for “CMS Horror Stories”

  1. Posted 11 December 2014 at 04:28:28

    Well there was one where I simply couldn't figure out how to link the english and danish translations of a page, until one of the editors told me: "You just put the english page's ID in the alt attribute of the site logo - and vice versa for the danish one".


  2. Gravatar of Richard EyresRichard Eyres
    Posted 11 December 2014 at 04:35:42

    I have worked on a site that we inherited where most of the content pages were actually Templates (this was not an Umbraco site). So if a new page was required, a new template had to be constructed to show the content. This was pure dev build, and the CMS (while not great) was able to work correctly with content and templates.
    We soon sorted them out with a new Umbraco CMS and the client was over the moon that they could actually manage the site without having to raise support tickets.

  3. Posted 11 December 2014 at 08:05:26

    I've inherited a few real horror stories, and share the spreading the Umbraco love feeling - it's amazing when you show (often in front of them in 5 minutes) how quick it is to fix an outrageously hard to maintain thing - and then they love the beautiful U all over again :)

    One that stands out recently had an inexplicable dll containing an xslt extension wrapped around the umbraco library (I'm assuming the original developer didn't know you could call the library from xslt) - so for example you could use this "extension" to do things like look up words in the dictionary! #ftw This was then called in an XSLT (dated 2010) called "TempTransString.xslt" which was called in all templates to look up things in the dictionary using this pointless dll. Apparently then another developer had their hands in this site, and where words weren't found in the dictionary (I would suggest adding them to the dictionary) there was then a 300 line long <xsl:if test="$lang='dk' $word='search'>Søgning</xsl:if> etc. (not even an xsl:choose!).

    If you're first task is changing a single word of the customer's site it was easy to underestimate the time this would have taken.

    Fortunately the customer insisted I allow 5 days for this task (to include 3 days for a documented code review)
    and laughed out loudly at my suggestion that I could do it in 2-3 hours (having taken my first estimate and trebled it!)

    It doesn't stop there no, having discovered this macro named [xslt]TempTransString and changing the code this made no difference. The macro had been changed by another "new" developer to point to a razor view in the /macroscripts/ folder called xsltTempTransString.cshtml (it's easy to miss that) In this razor view the entire pointless XSLT had been repeated including if (l="dk" w="search") {t=soening} and the call to the original developers pointless dll.

    This is only one of many issues like this in this site.

  4. Gravatar of I.HI.H
    Posted 14 December 2014 at 21:02:45

    I worked with some account managers (at a rather large European digital agency) that decided it was a bad CMS because 1 project went massively over budget, and was generally a nightmare. Not that it was their fucking useless client/stakeholder management, and a "just get it done" approach to project management. It was the CMS's fault of course.

  5. Posted 06 January 2015 at 03:46:45

    One site built by contractor who had been working on it for months, it consisted of one doc type with one field with whole page html and content in that one text field!

    Another where all the navs were hardcoded, yes you heard right why use macros etc to build navs when you can hardcode in template then when new sections are published you can modify aload of templates!

    And finally one where some muppet did not like how umbraco does dictionary so he went and wrote his own based on xml files which was clearly ripped from Episerver as he liked the episerver xml way, muppet of the year award for that one.