Some say that Microsoft hasn't really made many changes to SharePoint 2007's web content management functionality for SharePoint 2010 (news, site). While the underlying architecture may not have changed, there are some improvements that you are bound to like. Here are 8 changes to SharePoint WCM that you need to know about.

UI Improvements

Rich AJAX Interactions

This by far is the most impressive improvement in SharePoint 2010. You may have your own opinion on the style of the UI itself, but you can’t deny that it’s a large improvement over the 2007 interface. The entire user experience for SharePoint 2010 has been revamped with a sleek, AJAX-enabled interface.

Just about every action that an end user needs to do will require zero page loads. How will this benefit the management of content? Fewer page loads and a more intuitive interface means higher productivity and efficiency. It also means increased end-user buy-in.

If you’re a 2007 veteran, navigating the 2010 interface will be a more enjoyable experience in every way.

The Ribbon

The Microsoft Office 2010 suite will signify the consistency of the ribbon across all products. SharePoint 2010 will also be receiving the ribbon. In general, you either love the ribbon or you hate it.

For some, the ribbon was the single greatest thing that ever happened to Office. But others simply don’t like change, and since the ribbon was a significant one, this feature was not always welcoming.

However, the emergence of the ribbon made third-party product integration a lot easier. This trend should continue with SharePoint 2010 as innovative developers extend the ribbon to integrate their products further into the SharePoint UI.

WSIWYG Editor

I won’t tell you that the new WSIWYG editor is an all-encompassing, wonderful editor, but they have certainly improved it since the 2007 release. Tight integration with the new UI and ribbon will cut down on page loads and confusion that were frequent with the end user experience in 2007.

The editor now natively supports browsers other than just IE. So you should be able to fire up the editor in Firefox 3 and Safari 3 with no issues. It's about time.

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SharePoint 2010 WYSIWYG Editor

Accessibility Improvements

SharePoint is finally joining the ranks of other popular WCM products by simply conforming to modern web standards, like XHTML and WCAG 2.0 AA. Not only will this decrease the financial costs of branding and customizing a SharePoint 2010 site, but it will hopefully allow organizations to brand the site themselves without hiring SharePoint-specific branders.

Browser support

Part of WCM is accessibility. SharePoint 2007 is for the most part jailed to Internet Explorer. Sure, you can load any SharePoint site in Firefox or Chrome, but it’s not fully supported and several features do not function correctly.

Firefox now has roughly 25% of the browser market share, and Microsoft is listening. In 2010, Firefox 3 is now a tier 1 supported browser. This essentially means that it has the same level of support as IE, but only on Windows machines.

Although you might not have the same experience on Mac or Linux with Firefox, Safari 3 is now a tier 2 supported browser. That will no doubt increase the ability of non-Windows users to browse SharePoint sites in an environment they are comfortable with.

New Features

Managed Metadata Service

I previously expanded on the managed metadata service in another article, but I wanted to mention it here again as a new WCM feature. Microsoft is making a huge push in 2010 for metadata management. Whether you want to retain complete control of your taxonomies or let your users help drive, this entire experience has improved. In turn, this helps solidify SharePoint as a solid web-based tool for managing content across all of your sites.

Editor's Note: You can read Mike's overview of SharePoint 2010's Managed Metadata Service in detail in How SharePoint 2010's Metadata Services Increase Usability.

Tagging & Rating

These two features need no convincing of their usefulness. This very article benefits from tagging to aid the reader in finding similar content. In the enterprise, tagging can be used in the same ways that modern blogs and content-driven sites use it.

At a high level, tagging is no different than traditional metadata columns. But from a usability standpoint, tagging just makes more sense to an end user. Rather than being jailed to a specific column of metadata, tagging provides an open-ended avenue for users to organically drive content relevancy. Oh and did I mention there’s a new tag cloud web part OOTB?

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SharePoint 2010 Tag Cloud

Content rating is yet another new feature that Microsoft is bringing to the table to help drive user involvement. When enabled, you’ll give your users the ability to rate pages or individual documents themselves.

I won’t be recommending ratings to an organization unless they absolutely know how they plan on implementing it, but it’s nice to see Microsoft listening to its customers.

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SharePoint 2010 - Ratings

Content Organizer

Last but certainly not least, we’ve got the content organizer. This feature is pretty self-explanatory. Yep, you guessed it. The content organizer helps you organize content! Publishing groups that manage thousands of pages will immediately love this new feature. If set up correctly, you’ll provide your content creators with an environment that decreases the burden of always having to know where things should go.

This feature uses a rule-based concept that allows different types of metadata to help decide where the content should sit in SharePoint. This will allow your users to concentrate on what they do best, while easing the minds of IT, who are usually burdened with worry about empowering end users.

Encouraging WCM Adoption

Only time will tell how well these new features will be adopted in today’s enterprise, but so far things are looking good. Technology is still king when it comes to employee empowerment. But just buying tech alone will not get you very far.

Microsoft is hoping that improvements and new features like these will help cut implementation and development costs, so you can focus on doing business.