shutterstock_133219457.jpgEarlier this year the World Wide Web enjoyed its twentieth birthday. Isn't that amazing --we've been navigating websites for almost two decades.

But one of the most interesting things is that we’re just now evolving out of the page. Many, if not most, websites are still using the same architectural and management philosophy that was born out of our natural tendency to use “pages” as the way to describe this new medium. The basic website structure has really remained untouched over the last 15 years.

It’s only now, with the hyper-growth of different content interfaces such as social and mobile that the concept of the Web is really changing. And with this change, marketers also evolve their ideas of how to manage web content.

Twenty years after the birth of the web page we would argue that the page is pretty much “dead.” Businesses must have the ability to flow their content in a liquid manner across every manner of digital channel.

Today’s content and marketing strategy is about creating resonant experiences with consumers. The Web is now hyper-personal, and our audiences now EXPECT content to be personalized, relevant and optimized for how they want to consume it.

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The good news is that from the perspective of displaying content, technology has been responding to these needs. What has been slower to change, and must if marketers are to create optimized experiences, is how internal teams edit and manage content.

The Challenge With Inline Editing

From an inside looking out perspective (e.g. from the editor’s point of view) the inline editing (or WYSIWYG interface) is highly desirable. It’s often one of the first things that business people want to see in a demonstration of a new WCMS.

Inline editing in a WYSIWYG format makes it easy for non-technical people to actually make “visual” changes to the content and (most importantly) see what their content will look like in context to design, but it still forces that content creator to see the Web as a “print” metaphor and think in a page-based format.

But the state of most inline editing of content in many Web CMS systems is ostensibly like sophisticated banner management. The editor is putting an image or a piece of content on a page, and hoping that the system will optimize that page to appear correctly on a given device. It does not address the real challenge of multi-channel customer experiences.

inline editing.pngDelivering content that meets or exceeds the customer’s needs should be the first, and really only, goal of the digital content creation process. The primary question that content creators should be answering is NOT whether the content “looks good” or whether it will be easily and cleanly displayed on a mobile vs. desktop channel.

No -- the right question is how does this content on this channel support my customer’s engagement journey?

Content That Supports A Journey

For every content piece that a business creates, it should be able to be displayed in any context that is optimal to support the customer’s expectations. As such, the business needs the ability to inform the content how and when to alter such presentation. At a broad level, this metadata becomes an important aspect of how content should and will be managed. In fact, some may argue that this metadata (content that is never actually displayed, but actually informs the presentation of other content) is in some ways as important as the content itself.

Different editing views in a Web CMS are paramount. Each has different goals. Inline editing might be fine for a casual, final review edit looking at only things like spelling, or contextual display across different interfaces, or some kind of specific persona use case. However, inline editing is counter-productive and distracting for the marketing author -- who should be writing and creating content in an interface that is focused on persona journeys.

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This also means that it’s important for any Web CMS system to help create and manage these personas, as they will not only inform the inline editing editor, but truly provide the marketer the information on how much and what kind of content to create for whom.

Responsive Experiences - Not Responsive Pages

Ultimately, this is one of the biggest challenges with the web content management process right now. Most business editors and content contributors aren't trained to write for multiple channels in re-usable ways. And most have become accustomed to thinking of design and content creation for one ultimate output (document, website, etc.). But now that consumers will experience content across any number of social, mobile and web channels -- the goal should be to think about the customer, their engagement journey and what kind of content they need/want at each stage in each context.

Content is always separated from the form that it will be presented in. In my view, the technology should optimize and manage the experience, and provide the insight to the editor/content contributor to give them the ability to easily write the content that can be displayed in multiple contextual areas.

Many systems will claim that “responsive design” and “inline editing” give power to the editor to create multi-channel experiences. But this is actually just glorified banner ad management. The user in this context is simply creating a singular page that will adopt to the design constraints of different interfaces. This is NOT facilitating the consumer’s journey -- and it’s not designing optimal experiences.

Instead, the technology should be capable of optimizing, personalizing and adapting to any number of contextual demands. It should optimize things like layout, message priority, language, contextual versions of content, personalization and (yes) even design based on the attributes of the particular visitor in real time.

This is how we truly get beyond the traditional web content management experience, and evolve and deliver on the promise of optimized consumer content experiences.

Title image courtesy of Ruth Black (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more from Tjeerd, see his CXM Isn't a Job for One