Crafting Content Management Experiences

It's no secret to anyone who's been working in the web over the past several years that "content is king." As more and more organizations start to recognize the value of quality content, they are also realizing that their content will only be as good as the people, tools, and processes involved in managing it.

We've heard lots of horror stories from editors and content managers over the years about how their CMS was built in such a way that might have solved a hard problem or two but also somehow ended up making the simple things hard.

It's no secret to anyone who's been working in the web over the past several years that "content is king." As more and more organizations start to recognize the value of quality content, they are also realizing that their content will only be as good as the people, tools, and processes involved in managing it.

We've heard lots of horror stories from editors and content managers over the years about how their CMS was built in such a way that might have solved a hard problem or two but also somehow ended up making the simple things hard.

Crafting an intuitive and streamlined content management experience gets even harder at enterprise scale, where you're supporting large content teams and any number of external systems that need to be seamlessly integrated with your CMS to support your organization's overall content strategy. We don't back down from this challenge; we embrace it.

Empowering Content Managers

Given a difficult economic climate coupled with a 24/7 news cycle, it is more critical than ever that content managers be empowered to execute on their goals without having to rely on technical resources or code deployments. As a result, content management needs at this point in time extend far beyond simply creating, editing, and publishing content. Now it's all about ingesting, packaging, scheduling, and curating content from any number of sources.

Within larger content teams, content management responsibilities are typically divvied up amongst the group in one way or another (typically by site section for example). A logical extension of that is a core need for editors to see the subset of content under their purview as opposed to viewing a "find content" list that completely inundates them with a river of all incoming content. The right way to attack this varies (workflow states, section assignments, etc.) but the core problem is the same.

As certain topics gain momentum, editors need to have real time insight via analytics and a set of flexible and intuitive content assembly tools that allow them to capitalize on the opportunity and "own" that topic.

Efforts such as the Content Staging Initiative within the Large Scale Drupal group further underscore the need for content management solutions to be flexible and extensible enough to meet the needs of teams working together to ingest, evaluate, curate, and collaborate around their content before unveiling it.

Beyond Drupal

As I mentioned, big content management challenges inevitably require multi-faceted solutions involving systems other than Drupal.

For example, one client of ours used a service called PublishThis to create and curate "super stories" around big events that incorporated coverage from all sorts of different sources around the web. We built some tools that allowed super stories to be manifested and updated within the main site built with Drupal.

We've also worked on integrations with other legacy systems used to produce printed editions of content, so that it is instantly queued up for publishing on the web site. This concept could be extended to any number of other distribution channels as well (mobile sites, apps, etc). Karen McGrane did a brilliant job of breaking down the importance of structured content for facilitating this during her keynote presentation at the Content Strategy Forum in London last fall.

My colleagues and I at Phase2 are really excited about the renewed focus we're seeing from our clients and colleagues on crafting better content management experiences. We strongly believe that putting powerful and flexible tools in the hands of passionate content creators will benefit us all in the form of more usable and engaging content. As an old client of ours put it: "Now we can focus on our business instead of our technology."

Dave Leonard