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The 7 principles of excellent CLM user experience

Nov 28, 2023 | Admin, Latest News

The benefits of a great CLM system are many: streamlined processes, increased standardization, better transparency, and an ability to unlock the data in your contracts for data-driven business decisions. But, according to Gartner, approximately 50 percent of first-time CLM implementations will fail to deliver expected benefits. Why is this? 

There is one big reason that organizations don’t achieve what they’d expect from their CLM investment—poor user experience (UX). 

Poor user experience is often the result of choosing the wrong CLM platform and not adhering to the principles of excellent user experience during implementation. The combination of a great CLM vendor and adherence to UX principles leads to CLM systems that drive adoption and maximize the return on your CLM investment.

The following are the seven principles you can use to achieve CLM excellence.


Principle #1: User-Centricity

Put the user first in everything you do.

Put simply, the principle of User-Centricity states that every system design decision and implementation detail must be done in service to the users of that system. Without adhering to the principle of user-centricity, you cannot possibly hope to achieve a good CLM user experience. While configuring your CLM you may have adhered to the other six principles and built a highly functional CLM system, but if it was built for the wrong users or without their needs in mind it is doomed to fail.

Who are your users and what do they want from CLM? Speed? Ease of use? Transparency? Standardization? Business intelligence? You must know this because if, for example, you have optimized for standardization when your users are looking for speed you will have reduced your chances of success.

Also keep in mind your users’ expectations and dispositions. Have they used a CLM system before? Are they typically open to change or are they obstinate? Do they easily pick up new technologies and processes or will they need some help? 

Whenever you are faced with a design or build decision ask yourself “What will please my users the most?” The answer to that question will put you in the right direction. 


Principle #2: Clarity

Minimize the effort and knowledge it takes to learn how to use your CLM system properly.

You can understand the importance of the principle of Clarity when you encounter a system that was designed without clarity in mind. Imagine the worst websites, TV remotes, and vehicle infotainment systems you’ve encountered. Likely nothing was where you expected it to be, the button labels hardly made sense, and you quickly became lost and frustrated. A lack of clarity in these experiences almost certainly led to your frustration.

When you adhere to the principle of Clarity, you design and build a CLM system that becomes intuitive and easy to use, even for those who have received little training or enablement. On every page, task screen, document preview, and report screen it is abundantly clear to the user how to navigate the system and achieve their intended results. The experience becomes so easy that your users may forget it was designed at all – it seems to just flow from their thoughts and expectations.

When designing and building your CLM for clarity, empathy is key. Imagine one of your users – ideally one that is resistant to change and slow to learn new technologies. If they were dropped into the middle of your CLM process with no training or instructions could they navigate through and perform tasks successfully? If they can, then you have likely created a system that adheres to the principle of Clarity very well.


Principle #3: Consistency

Keep designs consistent in how they look and function across different parts of the system.

Consistency in user experience is paramount. Imagine trying to use a website where each page was organized a little bit differently, where buttons and labels changed wording, and where to achieve the same result you had to do something slightly different depending on external factors. Even if you could eventually figure it all out, it would be a pain to do so and would be mentally draining. 

Designing and building in adherence to the principle of Consistency means your system is just that—consistent. Users will never have to relearn aspects or guess how the system will behave because it behaves so consistently.

With CLM, consistency means that document generation looks and feels the same irrespective of the document type. Tasks should look and feel the same for all users across the entire process—deviating only where absolutely necessary to account for user access permissions and other considerations. Metadata labels and reports should be consistent not just within CLM, but also consistent across your business and other IT tools. 


Principle #4: Familiarity

Use your user’s past experiences and expectations to your advantage.

You’re driving in your car and you come to a red octagonal sign. What do you do? You’re looking to turn on or off your TV via your TV remote. What button do you look for? You’re writing a document in a word processor and see an icon of a floppy disk along the top of the user interface. What will happen when you click that? 

Chances are you know the answer to all of these questions. The reason you know is because you’ve encountered these pieces of user experience in the past. You are familiar with them. When you design with the principle of Familiarity in mind you take advantage of the learned experiences your users bring with them. There’s no need to design and build from scratch. In fact, doing so will be a disservice to your users.

Your CLM system will have to compete against word processors and email – two technologies that have existed for decades and with which most people are very familiar. When designing and building your CLM, ask yourself where users may be unfamiliar with the functions, processes, and expectations of CLM – especially when compared to word processors and email. Wherever possible, draw on their familiarity with other technologies to make their user experience in CLM an excellent one. 


Principle #5: User Control

Make sure that your users always feel a sense of control over their CLM experience.

Life in the modern business world is stressful in part because there are so many things out of our control: deadlines, regulations, office dynamics, coworkers, and more. We have a desire to be in control of as many things as we possibly can, and we especially expect our tools and systems to give us as much control as possible; they wouldn’t be of much use if they didn’t. When we lose that control in our tools (encounter an error we can’t get around, need to create an IT ticket to resolve an issue, or have to wait for someone else to take some action) we can get very frustrated very quickly.

Designing and building while adhering to the principle of User Control means you create a system dedicated to making sure the user feels in control as much as possible. They can easily achieve tasks, get around errors, and move things forward at the pace they—not a computer or someone else—set. 

In CLM, make sure that your users have as much agency as possible. They should be able to complete tasks quickly. They should be able to get around setbacks and your CLM should be able to handle errors gracefully, in a way that doesn’t frustrate your users. The very nature of CLM requires multiple users to interact with a single document; make sure that when one user is waiting on another they know who they are waiting for and that the other users have been given a sense of urgency by your CLM system.

Keep your users in control and you’ll have an excellent user experience.


Principle #6: Organization

Implement a highly organized system that is easy to navigate and intuitive to use.

The best systems and online tools are highly organized. There is an incredibly clear and structured sense of hierarchy—with important information at the forefront and additional information following logically from there. Flows and processes just “make sense,” everything is easy to find, and it is abundantly clear where you are within the system.

Research shows that it can take over three weeks on average to get a contract approved, but using CLM software reduces that time by 82 percent

One common and highly configurable piece of CLM functionality is the intake screen—an interface that allows users to enter information about a document before it’s generated or uploaded to the system. Organization is very important here. Items should be grouped sensibly. Titles and labels should be clear. Important information should be at the top of the screen with less-important information following. And only items that are relevant to the task at hand should be visible. We may, for example, hide fields related to term dates and renewals if we know we’re working on a perpetual contract. 

Once again, empathy is key to adhering to the principle of Organization. Imagine one of your users trying to navigate your CLM system for the first time. Would they be able to easily find the most relevant information? Could they navigate the interface with ease? Or would they be struggling? Make sure you keep things organized so that your users stay pleased.


Principle #7: Flexibility

Do not punish your users for going off the beaten path or pigeonhole them into a restrictive process.

Users have a funny way of behaving in ways you don’t expect. You could spend weeks or months designing, building, testing, and deploying your CLM system. You could offer world-class training courses and enablement sessions with forced attendance. You could do absolutely everything right and still, your users will immediately find a way to do something you’d never expect them to do. A CLM system adhering to the principle of flexibility will respond to unexpected user behavior gracefully. It will guide the user back on track without causing frustration. 

Flexibility can be a challenge because many organizations look to CLM to increase standardization—a concept often at odds with flexibility. When designing and building your CLM system you must strike a balance between flexibility and standardization. This is no easy feat. The key is to guide users down the right path: allow for minor deviations and the ability to backtrack and make mistakes, but ultimately get your users to where they need to be. 

The principle of flexibility is one of the most challenging but most important principles to achieve. Do so and you will have an excellent CLM user experience.



Although a CLM system can help organizations with their contracting processes and business intelligence, about half of the organizations who implement CLM won’t get what they expect from their CLM system. This is often the result of not adhering to the seven principles of user experience when selecting, designing, and implementing a CLM system. Those seven principles are:

  • User-Centricity
  • Clarity
  • Consistency
  • Familiarity
  • User Control
  • Organization
  • Flexibility

Design and build with these principles in mind and you will create a streamlined, efficient, and easy-to-use CLM with high user adoption that maximizes your CLM ROI.