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The (Unfulfilled) Promise of Content Management Systems. Victor Lombardi.

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the unfulfilled promise of content management systems

The (Unfulfilled) Promise of Content Management Systems

Victor Lombardi

“I know of no place where you can go and read a concise summary of all this tribal wisdom. The only way I know is to go to a conference and talk to your peers. That's the only way to find out where the bodies are buried.” – Tim Bray, co-inventor of XMLhttp://www.cmswatch.com/Features/PeopleWatch/FeaturedPeople/?feature_id=13

agenda
Agenda
  • Part I: The CMS Ecology
  • Part II: Designing for Reusable Content
  • References
  • Appendix: A CMS Framework

With a focus on web content management, though the concepts apply to other media

victor lombardi
Victor Lombardi

CMS Experience

  • Capacity: Internal and Consulting
  • Industries: Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Publishing, Telecommunications
  • Large: Vignette, Interwoven
  • Medium: SBI.Razorfish Homegrown
  • Small: Movable Type, Tinderbox
summary
Summary
  • Be realistic about your needs
    • Use the right system for your needs
    • Err on the side of a smaller system
    • Accept the consistency/flexibility tradeoff
  • Devote extra time to information architecture
    • Build a modular design with reusable content
    • Standardize process and design elements as much as possible
  • Don’t neglect the content in favor of (sexier?) IA and technology
    • Plan extra time for authoring and migration
part i what is content management
Part I: What is Content Management?

Start by entering content and metadata using an authoring template

Logo

Then the content is published into the right spot in the publishing template

major components
Major Components

Publishing

User

Interface

Templates

HTML

Pages

Application

Server

Authoring

Templates

Database

process for designing ia for cms
Process for Designing IA for CMS

Business Strategy

User Research

ContentAudit

Info Architecture

Definition

Publishing Process

Research

Content/Metadata

Model

Workflow

Authoring

Templates

Presentation

Templates

Content

Presentation

Web Pages

basic cms features
Basic CMS Features
  • Access Control: Who is allowed to do what?
  • Version Control: Return to a previously saved version
  • Library: Page templates, images, other assets
  • Content Repository: Text and other assets stored in a database or XML repository
  • Publishing Functionality: Creates web pages using content and templates
benefits aka promised benefits
Benefits (aka promised benefits)
  • “Single source” of content
  • Reusability of content
  • Versioning
  • Easier maintenance
  • Consistency
  • Easier authoring and publishing
the cms ecology
The CMS Ecology

Assumes content management at the institutional, not personal, level

  • The average CMS project cost is about $6.6 million Computer World, September 30, 2002
  • Over 300 Software Packages http://directory.google.com/Top/Computers/Software/Internet/Site_Management/Content_Management/
  • Software packages vary widely: web content mgmt, document mgmt, asset mgmt, workflow, portal publishing, application integration, small/medium/large/enterprise
  • Initial implementation requires 3 months, overall process can take 9 -12 months or more
venting frustration
Venting Frustration

Peter Merholz commandeers the CMS Panel at IA Summit 2002

Photo: Erin Malone/Christina Wodtke

aifia cms survey
AIfIA CMS Survey
  • Conducted January 24-31, 2003
  • Invited participation from members of ASIST SIGIA-L, AIfIA, and the ia-cms list
  • 64 responses collected
  • Purpose to gauge perceptions of CMS
what problems have you experienced when designing for or implementing content management software
What problems have you experienced when designing for or implementing content management software?
slide15
Apart from hardware and software what other problems have you experienced with content management systems?
most popular responses
Most Popular Responses
  • “No easy way to integrate controlled vocabularies”
  • “It should be more clear what kind of content the system is designed to manage: documents, web content, etc.”
  • “Make it allow for more flexible designs”
  • “Workflow didn't fit my needs”

The diversity of responses reflects the broad – perhaps overly broad – scope of CMS systems

conclusion 1 prepare your organization for cms complexity
Conclusion #1: Prepare Your Organization for CMS Complexity
  • Requires many skills: writing, gathering assets, designing a templated website and authoring templates, technology implementation, workflow…
  • Requires coordination across diverse departments and roles
  • Requires rigorous project management
  • “A CMS is probably the most complex rollout you and your IT colleagues are likely to have to manage.” – Martin White, CMS Consultant and Writer http://www.econtentmag.com/r5/2002/firewall7_02.html
conclusion 2 be realistic about your requirements
Conclusion #2: Be Realistic About Your Requirements
  • Go beyond "requirements gathering" to requirements prototyping: prioritize what you need and try using a prototype first
  • Resist Featuritis or suffer from the resulting complexity
conclusion 3 tightly integrate design and technology
Conclusion #3: Tightly integrate design and technology
  • CMS configuration is technical work and often performed by information technologists
  • Yet many tasks, for example creating authoring templates, require a well-designed user interface for content authors
  • Therefore, designers must be proactive and find/learn where their skills are needed
conclusion 4 don t neglect the content
Conclusion #4: Don’t Neglect the Content
  • With all the focus on design and implementation, not enough attention is given to content creation and migration
  • Ultimately, you are designing a system to deliver content – prioritize it appropriately
  • Migrating old content will always take longer than you expect
conclusion 5 build workflow organically
Conclusion #5: Build Workflow Organically
  • Often difficult to model offline processes for online publishing
  • Try building only what you absolutely need, then use it for a while and fine tune it to your needs
  • “The 80/20 point suggests that you can do 20 percent of the effort to get 80 percent of the benefit and since effort in this field is so expensive, that's the point we should all be shooting for.” – Tim Bray
conclusion 6 buy the right size
Conclusion #6: Buy The Right Size

Small

Enterprise

…and 292 packages in between

Products are merely examples of this genre; this is not an endorsement. There is no easy escape from the soul searching involved in selecting CMS software.

small is beautiful
Small is Beautiful

Fast

  • Information Architecture
  • Business Re-organization
  • CMS Implementation
  • Manageable complexity
  • Can always export your content into a bigger system later
  • Many good low cost options
  • Consider using only the part of CMS you need
  • Can implement it before the need for CMS changes

Slow

While IA can be done fast enough to serve an organization before it changes, a large CMS implementation can require more time than a business re-organization, which might significantly alter or eliminate the original purpose of the CMS

big is beautiful too
Big is Beautiful Too*
  • …if it’s right for you
  • Efficiencies in using one system for many people
  • Requires standardizing software, content, and often publishing processes
  • Organizations must be prepared for the significant inter-departmental coordination required
  • Without an CMS departments might share one or more common sub-system:
    • Content repository (text stored using XML or a database)
    • Metadata registry (controlled vocabulary, other metadata)
    • Library (templates, images, other media assets)

* Medium is beautiful as well

part ii designing for reusable content
Part II: Designing for Reusable Content

Information modeling that takes advantage of CMS efficiency

think in terms of building blocks
Think In Terms of Building Blocks
  • Think of your site as made up of building blocks of content
  • Having some standard “sizes” make it easier to build the user interface
reusable content requires standardization
Reusable Content Requires Standardization
  • Standardize on many levels:
    • Format of Information
    • Sites
    • Metadata
    • Authoring and Publishing Templates
  • May require coordination across an organization
start with the user interface
Start with the User Interface
  • This keeps the information centered on user needs, instead of having to retrofit a user interface onto a mismatched information model
  • Helps determine scope: model only the information you need in the system, and avoid an unnecessary large intellectual exercise
feedback loop
Feedback Loop
  • In practice, there’s a feedback loop between the user interface and the information model, but focusing on the user interface helps ensure the right design for the user
  • You may have to consider several different UIs that share content to make sure the content is reusable
creating building blocks
Creating Building Blocks
  • Do a significant portion of the information architecture
  • Look for places where content is similar
  • Try to standardize the similar content, or at least reduce the set of possible pieces that can be mixed and matched
  • Balance the needed user interface elements with author effort to create that content
granularity
Granularity
  • Granularity refers to the size of your building blocks
  • May vary from document to document
  • More granularity equals more flexibility in reuse but also more complexity
  • Hard to increase granularity later on
  • Try erring toward finer granularity during design, then come implementation time see whether it's still necessary
group exercise
Group Exercise
  • You have:
    • One document
    • Five user interfaces where information from that document appears
  • Make a list of:
    • each type of information (e.g. the title of the document) that must be a separate element in the CMS to enable all five user interfaces
    • Mark whether each type is required or not
    • Specify how many of each type may is allowed in the system (i.e. cardinality)
modules and html templates
Modules and HTML Templates
  • Fewer makes for easier maintenance, and possibly also a more consistent layout which could contribute to usability
  • Cisco.com: nearly one million pages and about three HTML templates
prototype content in page layouts
Prototype Content in Page Layouts
  • Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme
  • Results depend on how HTML is developed

Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme.

Try using different sized content:

Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content:

Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme.

an average case and at either extreme.

Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content: an average case and at either extreme. Try using different sized content: an average case and at

bigger sites must be smarter sites
Bigger Sites Must Be Smarter Sites
  • Bigger sites (>100K pages) require more than efficiency, they require automation
  • Even with reusable content, it’s not cost-effective to touch every piece of content on every type of page
  • Once content is authored, only touch each type of content
  • Accomplished via a Semantic CMS…
example product information
Example: Product Information
  • We’d like to add a link to a new type of information – “white paper” – on every product page
  • We don’t want to modify every template for every kind of product page every time we have a change
create semantic relationships
Create Semantic Relationships
  • Use metadata to describe the relationship among information types
categories of pages
Categories of Pages
  • “Product Pages” include page types:
    • Product Overview
    • Product Details
    • Technical Specifications
    • Case Studies
    • Warranty
rule powered pages
Rule-Powered Pages

If Page is tagged as a “Product Page” then…

link to related information types

conclusion
Conclusion
  • Be realistic about your needs
    • Use the right system for your needs
    • Err on the side of a smaller system
    • Accept the consistency/flexibility tradeoff
  • Devote extra time to information architecture
    • Build a modular design with reusable content
    • Standardize process and design elements as much as possible
  • Don’t neglect the content in favor of (sexier?) IA and technology
    • Plan extra time for authoring and migration
resources
Resources
  • Books
    • Content Management Bible http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/076454862X/theasilomarin-20
    • Managing Enterprise Contenthttp://www.managingenterprisecontent.com/
  • On the Web
    • CMSWatch http://www.cmswatch.com/
    • Metadata & Taxonomies for a More Flexible Information Architecture http://www.asis.org/Conferences/Summit2002/IA_Summit_031602.ppt
    • Smarter Content Publishing http://www.digital-web.com/features/feature_2002-08.shtml
    • Ontology Development and Relationship Modeling for Enterprises and Enterprise Websites, Brett Lider (IA Summit 2003)
  • Email Lists
    • IA CMS http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ia-cms/
    • CMS List http://www.cms-list.org/
thank you
Thank You

Questions? Feedback?

http://www.victorlombardi.com/

+1 212-798-6685

SBI.Razorfish

http://www.sbiandcompany.com/

appendix a cms framework
Appendix: A CMS Framework

An initial analysis of your CMS environment

framework summarized
Framework Summarized
  • Establish metrics
  • Size of company
  • Project management proficiency
  • Degree of centralized content management processes
  • Type of content
  • Variety of content
  • Variety of publishing channels
  • The content to be managed
metrics
Metrics
  • Start by listing what you intend to accomplish in terms of goals
  • Be specific: “We will publish product information in one week instead of two and reduce the costs of staff and computers by 20%.”
  • Helps focus all decisions downstream
company size
Company Size
  • Bigger companies often have requirements that result in more expensive software

Small Medium Big Enterprise

< $10K $40K-100K $100K-200K > $200K

project management ability
Project Management Ability
  • Factor in the formality of your culture and support from management

Can Handle the Largest IT Projects

None Moderate

Don’t attempt, or outsource

Consider outside assistance

N/A

degree of centralized content management processes
Degree of centralized content management processes
  • How much do departments need to synchronize authoring and publishing processes?
  • To what extend do sites/content/applications interact?

Many departments author and publish content with no standards

One department authors and publishes all content in a standardized way

Higher complexity

Lower complexity

media types
Media Types
  • Buy a system suited to your needs
  • Also see CMS Watch:
  • http://www.cmswatch.com/ContentManagement/Products/
  • http://www.cmswatch.com/images/CMSWatchIMChart.pdf

Content:

Website content

Documents

Software Code

Multimedia

System:

Web Content Management

Document Management

Source Code Management

Digital Asset Management

variation in content
Variation in Content
  • More heterogeneous content requires more tough standardization decisions

Low level of variation among content items, pages, site sections, and sites

High level of variation among content items, pages, site sections, and sites

Easier to standardize

Harder to standardize

variation in the publishing channels
Variation in the Publishing Channels
  • A higher number and heterogeneity of channels requires more granular, standardized content

One homogenous site for one audience

Many heterogeneous sites for many audiences

Courser granularity

Finer granularity