I'm redesigning a CMS and I wanted to gather some opinions on what makes the best user experience for my particular dilemma. Here it is:
The CMS controls a marketing-focused website for large companies. It has sections for professional bios, organizational structures, news items, publications, events, case studies, job openings, and various content pages. We basically have a library of field types and build an object by throwing a whole bunch of fields into a form. Each field maps to a segment of information that appears on the front end of the site, or is a control that affects how the object interacts with other objects within the site.
Within this CMS, the edit screen for a particular item tends to have a tremendous amount of fields of various types. The most involved edit screen we have can have anywhere between 60-80 fields on it, each varying in size, functionality, purpose, and complexity. Currently, when editing a particular page, all of these fields for that page are arranged vertically in a single screen, which results in a long scrolling form. We do have ways to visually break up this list into groups of fields, but the sheer volume of fields in some cases makes it a bit cumbersome still.
On one hand, this currentlayout is very straight-forward and convenient because it's all right there and you don't need to do much more than scroll to find what you're looking for. This is a no-brainer for edit screens with only a handful of fields. On the other hand, on the edit screens with a large number of fields, it starts to feel a bit unwieldy.
My limitations: this is a CMS that is extremely configurable and dynamic, but that means that I need to find a paradigm that works for every possible situation - edit screens with lots of fields and screens with only a few fields. I am also limited to a vertical arrangement of the fields. I cannot place them in columns of two, for instance. Each field is essentially a stand-alone element and single edit screens consist of just a list of elements.
One option I am entertaining is to split up the layout into tabs. The user must click on a tab to edit the content within it. While this is neat and tidy from an aesthetic perspective, I wonder about the user experience of needing to engage a secondary navigation to get to the specific field that you want to access.
To sum up the question: If you had to configure an object with 60 different options/parameters/values to control (all with different types of form elements), how would you lay out the form to do so?