Since the explosion of the Internet, Web Content Management systems have been a critical tool to enforce standards and governance.
Web content management systems are predominantly designed for the management of content destined for the Internet as the name would indicate. When web content management systems first came onto the market, they were designed to remove the bottleneck of an HTML developer in order to get things out on the Internet
It became evident very, very quickly, when the Internet started to expand, that information needed to get out to the Internet quickly and effectively. And if you had, either a HTML developer or a team of developers through whom all modifications had to go, all of a sudden things started to slow down and getting small modifications were taking an awful lot of time. So web content management systems were brought in to deal with that.
One of the secondary reasons for a web content management system is for the establishment of online governance. As soon as people started in with Web content management systems, they realized that they had other issues. They needed to ensure that not only the content itself was structured, but the presentation was standardized. If you had different people doing different modifications, they might put it up in slightly different ways, they might structure the content, or they might miss pieces of content. Web content management systems can ensure that your information is always structured the same, and it’s always presented the same, and from an end-user perspective, you can see the value for that.
They also have the ability of controlling who can access and who can do what in a system. If you have users who can only read or if you want users to be able to write or other users who want to be able to approve, you have that ability to split up different roles and give different capabilities to different users.
As more and more organizations started to use these, and more and more people within organizations started to participate making it important to ensure that there was appropriate approval process, so workflow, all of a sudden, became very, very important. These can range from the very rudimentary, simply giving a roll to somebody, to very in-depth business process management systems, and we can get into a little bit of that in another video segment.
And lastly, web content management systems have version control, so if you’re making a modification, and you make a mistake, you may want to revert back to a previous version. Having that capability can really be a time saver for something like that.
Now when I sit down with an organization and we start looking at web content management, the first thing I try to assess is what category of web content management we are really looking for? There are all sorts of different flavors, and it’s easy to get into the wrong category of Web content management system. I have four buckets of Web content management systems that I look at. Marketing, data-driven, e-commerce, and cloud computing, and I’ll talk a little bit about these.
So first, marketing. Marketing is for those individuals that have a website where the primary focus is for marketing purposes, getting information out there about the products or services. In that situation, there’s not so much a focus on structured content; it’s more about presentation, perhaps there’s a lot of rich media or lot of photos. But between page and page, there’s not a lot of consistency, because they want to apply different marketing focuses on different pages, and there is a very page-centric focus to the editing. I have content; I want it to go on this particular page; I want it displayed in this particular way. In those circumstances, there’s a sort of genre of web content management that do that job very, very well, particularly if you want to give marketing people or business people control over the formatting of that content, which normally you would have to have an HTML developer to do. So the focus becomes more on enabling more sophisticated layouts for non-technical people.
The next set I mentioned was data-driven, and in these types of websites, there is a real separation between the content and the display. The content becomes highly structured, and the placement of that information on the website is logic-based. What normally happens is you will author a particular piece of content, and let’s just use a blog site, for example, a blog site is an example of a data-driven website. The blog represents the content. When you add a blog to your website, you’re not adding it to a particular page, you’re adding it in a content entry template, which is structured as to the title, when it was authored, a small description or by-line, and the main copy of the blog. Then the presentation of that is controlled by the data system, so it will likely display the most current blog first, in a reverse order. But there’s many other types of examples like, self-help-type sites, where the focus is on the particular piece of content, and the system controls where it gets put on the site.
Now the third, e-commerce is similar to data-driven. We’ve got information about the products that’s highly structured and it is up to business rules to determine where they get displayed. There might be the ability to look at a product category, and the system will pick out all the products of that category and display them. Where it differs from data-driven systems, there’s two differences. The first is that e-commerce systems need to be able to execute a financial transaction, and other data-driven sites don’t have that capability. Secondly, they have very complex rules about product configuration and inventory. For example, if I’ve got a hundred T-shirts, and I sell those hundred T-shirts, the system knows that there are only a hundred T-shirts, and it is going to remove them from the list of things that are available to purchase. It might know that the white T-shirts cost less than the red T-shirts. Those types of rules are generally built into e-commerce systems, at least the leading e-commerce systems, and then you don’t have to worry about those.
Now the last category of web content management is cloud computing. In these circumstances, we’ve got what would traditionally be a computer application that you install on your computer, but it’s designed to be used over the Internet. It runs on a server, and you interact with it in your browser. Now, you might say, “What does that have to do with Web content management?” Well, the issue is that behind the scenes, there’s still content that needs to be managed, but because they are highly sophisticated applications that are very, very unique, usually you’re not going to be able to find a web content management system off the shelf that you can simply roll out and have it do what you want to do. Now what you will find is a variety of different frameworks that can help in the development of a web-based application, and again there’s a number of different factors that go into the selection, depending on what your particular needs are.
So those are just a couple different categories to keep in mind, and there are specific products that excel at each one of those. So it’s important when you’re starting out to say, “OK, which one of those do I fit into best?” And then start to look at products in that particular category.