Top 5 questions for the ultimate CMS in ServiceNow

ServiceNow’s Content Management System (CMS) is a powerful tool to customize web pages and extend the look and feel of the standard ServiceNow’s Employee Self-Service (ESS) Portal. In most cases, you may personalize it to comply with your company brand identity. You can go really far from the customization of a simple web page to a more sophisticated portal. That said, asking yourself the right questions will help you build your new CMS website to provide a great experience to your end-users and gain time in the development phase.

Based on the numerous ServiceNow CMS projects Fruition Partners has delivered, here are our top 5 questions when starting a new project:

#1. Overall architecture: What is the scope?

By default, end users are presented with a portal that includes an access to the service catalog, their incidents and the knowledge base. But what if they need to access their pending approvals? Or change requests? Should they be informed about ongoing outages? The first step is to define the types of users, their role and what they can see and do. This will help to define what additional content and information need to be added to the standard ESS portal. Addressing this question will drive the required global structure and information hierarchy and help you establish the appropriate CMS architecture. In most cases, one CMS website can address all security and access requirements. But it might happen that a multi-CMS-website architecture is the way to go for complex audiences.

#2. Look and feel: Are the layouts, colors and style guides already defined?

When corporate brand guidelines are available and graphic design is already well defined, HTML and CSS become your best friends. As any other CMS tool, a good web development knowledge is indeed required when using ServiceNow’s CMS, especially if you want to let your creativity express with no limit. But in case the global graphic design is not yet ready, adding your company logo and adapt the color scheme will do the trick and enhance the default look and feel of your portal. In any case, we recommend to follow the style guide provided by ServiceNow to build your CMS website. It allows your development team to work faster and build a more consistent interface by using standard components. Beside the style, colors, and branding, the key is to make sure that the whole interface is consistent from an ergonomic point of view. It’s important that users feel comfortable and are efficient when browsing the CMS portal.

#3. Functionality: are there any special features needed?

Are there any specific features required? Like a carousel displaying the latest news? Or a custom search engine? If yes, don’t worry, no need to spend weeks to develop some features commonly used in the web industry. Without heavy development, you can enrich the UI by taking advantage of jQuery and Prototype libraries which are included by default in ServiceNow. But you can also add any other web libraries or framework that would help you gain time in the development. For example, have you thought about using AngularJS? Not only it allows having a more fluid and interactive interface, but it also makes the code more structured and simplifies the front-end templating, letting the development team be more productive. As the framework is developed and maintained by Google, it is easy to get support and answers from its active community.

#4. Browsers and devices support: what should be supported?

While the regular interface of ServiceNow supports all major browsers, you’ll need to know what browsers and versions will be required to be supported before using the CMS. Testing must be performed thoroughly with all identified browsers all along the development cycle. Otherwise, after weeks of configuration and development, you could end up with a really neat CMS when browsing in Chrome and Firefox, but face unexpected bugs when using Internet Explorer. Talking about the latter, not only the version needs to be known, but also the compatibility mode: is it enabled?

What about the devices? Should mobile phones be supported? And tablets? If yes, consider developing the CMS using Responsive design and leverage the power of Bootstrap. Your CMS will be adapted automatically to any screens. Check out this thread to know where to start.

#5. Login and redirection: should the end users see the regular interface?

Is there a reason for end users to access to the regular interface? If not, anytime they access to the instance, they should be redirected to the CMS. It should happen when they log in but also when they click on a link contained in email notifications.

Another important information to know is if the SSO or LDAP authentication is used. If yes, it has to be tested thoroughly with the CMS as it can cause some unexpected behaviors at the login. Usually a small fix in the “Login Script” solve those unexpected behaviors.

Even if it may not address 100% of the challenges you could face, answering the five questions above will get you off to a good start with your ServiceNow CMS experience and make sure you go in the right direction. On top of using the right methodology and if you’re willing to gain even more time, you can as well use a pre-configured and customizable CMS such as the one developed by Fruition Partners to cut off the development time.

To go further

Have a look at Fruition Partners CMS showcase, featuring some of the self-service portals we’ve implemented

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Ximizu Huynh is a Senior Consultant at Fruition Partners Europe (ex-Aspediens) in Paris. With 12+ experience in IT, he enjoys sharing ServiceNow tips and tricks that make our lives easier.
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