The pace of change within the Content Management System (CMS) market is staggering. As devices get more varied, users more discerning and accessibility a necessity, content needs to be structured so it can go anywhere, do anything and yet keep its meaning and message intact.
To achieve that goal, your CMS needs to efficiently manage your content.
Interfaces now sit between us and all kinds of critical tasks and the memorable moments of our lives. Those interfaces are filled with words that need to be written, edited and structured in flexible ways. So how, without having to make different content for every new device, platform or channel, can that be done?
How do you do more with the content you make?
Once you define your goals, plan your processes and use the right tools, it’s easier to build content in flexible ways, so that it better copes with our changing future.
Firstly, what’s content?
Content is an investment. How’s that? It can be consumed (on- and off-line) both immediately and for years to come, as well as being able to be repurposed, rearranged, reformatted and republished.
However, its ultimate goal is to be consumed and evaluated by another human being.
In his seminal book, “The Content Management Bible”, author Bob Boiko dedicated five chapters to the deceptively simple question of what is content, and he wrote:
“If you strip away all of the technology and terminology that we use to describe information systems, what do you have left? A simple and utterly commonplace idea: information systems help you talk to people who are not in front of you.”
So given that it’s an investment, content needs to be created, managed and maintained in purposeful ways that make it easy for you to maximize (and harvest) your injection of effort and resources.
How’s content created?
Content is created through an editorial process, to achieve a specific goal.
The editorial process initiates, prepares, structures and delivers information to your audience, and frequently involves the steps of ideating, drafting, authoring, editing, reviewing, approving, versioning, comparing and controlling.
Each of those editorial process steps is vital to the achievement of your content goals.
How does your CMS control content?
Your CMS allows writers and editors to create new content, edit existing content, perform editorial processes on that content, and ultimately publish it – for people to consume, on their preferred device.
In short, it needs to deliver the right content, at the right time, in the right way to the right people. For those reasons, your CMS needs to efficiently support your content creation process.
What types of CMSs are there?
Although the lines blur quite a bit, the ‘big four’ types are often identified through their intended use:
- Web content management (WCM): Managing content primarily intended for mass delivery via a website.
- Enterprise content management (ECM): Managing general business content, not necessarily for mass consumption – often also called document management.
- Digital asset management (DAM): Managing and manipulating rich digital assets such as images, audio, video and other media.
- Records management (RM): Managing transactional information and records created as a byproduct of standard business operations.
Within each type, there are subsets – like API-first, headless, hybrid-headless, LMS, publishing and component Content Management Systems (CCMSs) – that are targeted to specific markets or usage scenarios.
Rather than getting bogged down in details, to maximize your CMS and its content, you need to consider three things:
- Your specific content goals and creation process
- Your desired level of flexibility and accessibility for the content created
- The degree of personalization in delivery and format that you want for people, during their consumption of your content.
The content creation process
You need a goal and a plan. It needs to include what you want your content (and overall digital experience) to achieve, and the steps needed to achieve that goal.
Next, you need to efficiently create the content. During that process, there are lots of small, messy, subjective and sometimes imperfect decisions that your writers, subject matter experts and editors make when they’re sitting at their keyboard.
Each of those decisions, take your content in a different direction and deliver different outcomes along the buyer’s (or customer’s) journey. However regardless of those decisions, it’s a given that your content is rarely created once – it’s an iterative process, where changes happen before, during and after that initial surge of creation.
Therefore, your authors and editors need to be supported with flexible authoring tools. Those tools need to provide them with:
- Rich text editing and authoring
- The speed of error-free and clean copy-paste from various sources
- The efficient handling of images and other rich media
- The ability to collaborate in real time
- The ability to review, approve and comment
- The overall improvement of workflows and the editorial creation process.
Content flexibility and accessibility
To help maximize your content investment, it needs to be consumed by as many people as possible – no matter their needs. That means built-in accessibility. Given that it’s become a legal requirement (not a nice to have), you can no longer risk your team being unprepared or your content being non-compliant.
At the bare minimum, content needs to have good contrast for readability, large icons and texts, and keyboard navigation. Better still, having an advanced accessibility checker built into your CMS makes sure your content:
- Is compliant with company requirements
- Is compliant with local laws
- Is compliant with WCAG and ARIA standards
- Points out accessibility issues
- Highlights missing alt text
- Automatically fixes the issue or suggests remedial options, before publishing.
Then there are those international content projects. Here, a built-in multilingual spell checker is a must-have for your authors and editors. It needs to cut down on your publishing errors by:
- Automatically activating when someone types in the editor
- Spell checking in multiple languages (plus medical terms)
- Letting you build a custom dictionary of words (including your company’s name) that’s globally accessible across your organization.
Extra features like these, help to speed your editorial workflow and improve the authoring experience for your subject matter experts.
This is where things can once again get messy. Our omnichannel world demands a lot more of every CMS, and the content it contains. There are so many devices and preferences, it’s no longer as easy as building great content to suit a customer journey that only occurs in a desktop web browser.
In addition to that traditional website, the modern customer (or buyer) journey has multiple touchpoints that rely on different screen sizes, channels, platforms, form factors, integrations and media formats. So, your content needs to suit smartphones, wearables, IoT, signage, augmented reality… and the list goes on.
Therefore, content needs to be structured so it can be distributed easily (without reworking or restructuring it) across all those places, in the right way at the right time.
Here, the editing and authoring experience is crucial. It needs to seamlessly integrate with your CMS (be it a headless, hybrid-headless or API-first one) so that it can reuse your content across every required channel.
Omnichannel may mean more systems, more integrations, more development, and more management. But on the human side, it means developers and content editors collaborating more closely to ensure content is at the center of all your human and digital experiences.
What’s the future of content?
Sadly, there are no shortcuts to great content.
However, its production is made so much easier with the right plan, tools and processes in place. Avoid taking a haphazard editorial approach that ill-fits your buyer’s journey, by instead taking a ‘content-first approach’... where your content is tailored and modeled for re-use.
So that it reaches the right person, at the right time, in the right place.