As the lead designer for the Social Media Today launch, my first project was researching and designing a new CMS. Because the site runs on user-generated content (ie. anyone can make an account and submit a story), the submission and approval process is crucial.


smt old admin
smt old admin


medium menu before


Industry Dive acquired Social Media Today (SMT) in 2015 and for the first year, we were just maintaining the site and keeping the content updated. Recently, we decided to convert this site so it is on the same platform as our other publications.

Part of that conversion is moving the site onto our custom CMS. But, because SMT runs off of user-submitted content (not reviewed by in-house editors like our other publications), there are a few extra functionalities that needed to be added, such as content submission and approval.


First, I interviewed many of the people who worked on the site: writers submitting content, editors and admins approving content, ad operations managers trying to place ads and general users of the site. Their main issue with the CMS was that it was clunky and not intuitive:

1. Filtering user-submitted content: no clear indication of which posts are drafts, submitted for review and approved to publish

2. How users submit content: language on page isn’t clear, no clear difference between drafts and submitted content, hard to preview story

3. How editors/admins submit content: hard to find page where you would add content, selecting images and tags is tedious, hard to schedule posts

Users are either regular users (they can only write and submit stories) or admin users (they can write and submit content as well as approve and publish content). Throughout the interviews, admin users expressed interest in a more rigorous application process to become a contributor due to the high number of stagnant users and bots.

user flows

After interviewing, I looked at a variety of content management systems, specifically Vox Media’s Chorus, and also sites used for storage and document organization, such as Google Drive and Dropbox. These provided not only design inspiration but also ideas for navigation and functionality.

According to the interviews, my overall goal was to unify the CMS dashboard (which was previously hosted on Drupal) and the MySMT page to improve navigation ease and make each process easier to find.

new mock

Regular user - “Posts” page

Because of all the user confusion, I added more notifications that will make the site clearer for both regular and new users.

new mock

Regular user - notification received after their post was submitted

new mock

Regular user - notification received after their post was published

For an admin or editor who is approving and publishing content, I wanted to make it super easy to find the newly submitted posts from users. This content should be separate from what is already published on the site.

new mock

Admin user - list of “submitted” posts from regular users

new mock

Admin user - list of all published posts on the site

SMT has now been migrated over to our platform but implementing all of the above mocks is quite cumbersome so it has not been completed yet. Ideally, the whole CMS (that all sites use) will be redesigned so it visually looks like the above mocks and the SMT concepts will be integrated.

Ryan McKnight was the project manager for this project.