When working with a content management system users might encounter a situation where they are not happy with a set of content. For example, a webpage in a CMS (Wordpress, Joomla) does not show text the way they want it to show. Users can either edit the content or start from scratch until they are happy with the result.


Which of the two is easier (cognitive load wise) for users?

A user case

I'm wondering about this in a general sense but also in a specific situation I'm working on. I'm designing a large portal (CMS). When a user logs in for the first time we generate a website for them. This website has a placeholder home page until the user creates his own homepage. Would it be easier for the user to edit this placeholder homepage in the CMS or let him create a new one that overwrites the placeholder when the users saves.

In the latter case the user would not see the placeholder as content in the portal. I can imagine it would be quite a load for users to edit a page when they first create something. Creating a new one might be easier to start with.

1 Answer 1


"Avoid Blank Slates"

Alan Cooper says you should avoid blank slates:

Timid applications are reluctant to carry out any forward motion without someone directing them in advance. But most people would rather see the application take a "good enough" first step and then manually tweak it to what is desired. This way, the application moves the person closer to their goal.

And to directly address your question Which is easier cognitive load wise?, Cooper says:

For most users, a blank slate is a difficult starting point. It's much easier to begin where someone else has left off. They can easily fine tune an approximation provided by the application into precisely what he wants with less risk of exposure and mental effort than he would have by drafting it from nothing.

This follows on from Don Norman's idea of putting knowledge in the world, rather than relying on the user to keep it in their head.

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