Adaptive content. Responsive design. The separation of content from presentation.
It's a dense world in web content management systems (CMS). Ultimately, though, the primary challenge may be staring you in the mirror. The human challenge.
"The human challenge is actually the primary one," said Tim McLaughlin, president and founder of Siteworx,a digital agency and system integrator based in Reston, Va, that specializes in web content management (WCM), e-commerce, digital asset management (DAM), mobile and content marketing and strategy.
"Authors like to see the context of their content," McLaughlin added. "That's why Microsoft Word defaults to showing you the WYSIWYG mode. If an organization chooses to do that separation of content from presentation, then the tools should easily facilitate previews and authors should be well educated on the reasons for it."
Mobile vs. Omnichannel
McLaughlin talked to CMSWire on the heels of his organization's citation from Adobe as its 2013 Digital Marketing North American Regional Partner of the Year. Siteworx received the award during the Adobe Summit Digital Marketing Conference last week in Salt Lake City.
CMSWire asked McLaughlin what a good Web CMS platform should include as companies embrace an "omnichannel world." He said that while omnichannel often ends up being discussed as the “newest channel,” the reality is that, as painful as it is, consumers still use a lot of email and even good content management systems tend to neglect that.
"The more exciting channel that most platforms claim to include -- but how well is still debatable -- is mobile," McLaughlin said. "It’s new, so everybody is thinking about that. The ability of WCM platform to support content delivery to consumers through in-store mobile applications is something we’ve been paying a lot of attention to. Another channel that is compelling is the 'new email' -- text messages."
Mobile may be hot. But it's not easy, McLaughlin said.
"Anything related to mobile is still tough, not the least of which is that budgets for mobile channels are still in the 'experimental phase," he added. "This is despite the fact that the results already show that we are well past that stage. But in hindsight, that should not surprise us since it wasn’t until last year that advertisers started reallocating significant budgets from traditional -- print, TV, etc. -- to digital."
Right now in the industry, a proliferation of devices and formats is currently expanding the gap that mobile started with the new channel, McLaughlin said. He added he sees vendors trying to close the gap, but it is an "extremely difficult problem."
"Try as we may," he added, "software can currently only get so far in solving it. Ultimately experience architects have to think about the usage contexts of these devices and design in the differences."
Adaptive Content and Responsive Design
With all the talk about "Adaptive Content" and "Responsive Design" and which is more important, McLaughlin feels the argument distracts from the real challenge.
"We are all trying to reuse as much content as possible for a plethora of reasons," he said. "Those of us who have been through this before used to refer to it as 'separation of content from presentation,' but I suppose everyone likes a good argument. In my opinion, some content can be abstracted from context, and some cannot. But gray zones like this make the conversation more interesting."
Adaptive Content and Responsive Design concepts deal with the same challenge of content and presentation abstraction, McLaughlin added.
He referred to a project for NPR where it started using the COPE (create once publish everywhere) model. Neither the term "responsive" nor "adaptive" was around then.
"Those terms came afterwards," McLaughlin said, "but I tend to think that they are slightly different approaches to the same challenge albeit not all that different."
Adaptive Content (AC) allows for better content reuse and that typically is the driver, McLaughlin said.
"Reuse has a lot of cascading benefits such as simpler management and a more consistent user experience," he added.
Are there some challenges on the tools side (WCM) related to AC?
The biggest challenge with AC is that people actually consume content in context -- or in a presentation to say it another way -- and authoring it out of context is not something people are used to," McLaughlin added.
"The tools don’t make this particularly easy to understand, since almost all WCMs at this point focus on in-context editing and forget about the abstraction of content and presentation," he said. "Typically such a system is great for small and quick efforts and all appears well at first, but as the content grows, inconsistencies and duplication creep in, and maintenance becomes a nightmare. This is where there is no substitute for good architecture."