Saturday, 27 October 2012

CMS design needs content strategy

I've pulled together some excellent materials that identify the challenges around thinking back from the user interacting with the organisation online, through the content, and back to the root - the content management system and the people who use it.

Why? As we look to the future of the University of Edinburgh's website and the CMS that drives it, I'm looking a lot at the challenges that face us around content management. We want a site that works well on multiple devices, and realistically the only way we can achieve this is through responsive design.

If you don't know anything much about responsive design - a means to deliver your material optimised to a range of devices and screen sizes - this is the place to start:

A Primer on Responsive Design : From Content to Development- article on uxmag by Kevin Stakem, Lindy Roux, Matt Holland

Karen McGrane is a content strategist who seems particularly interested in mobile and content publishing technology. (Really looking forward to her book, by the way: Content Strategy for Mobile.) Karen recently presented on 'Adapting Ourselves to Adapting Content' which is well worth investigating - an hour well spent.

She says:
"For years, we’ve been telling designers: the web is not print. You can’t have pixel-perfect layouts. You can’t determine how your site will look in every browser, on every platform, on every device. 
We taught designers to cede control, think in systems, embrace web standards. So why are we still letting content authors plan for where their content will “live” on a web page? Why do we give in when they demand a WYSIWYG text editor"
From where I'm standing, it's because content curators aren't web professionals like designers usually are. It's also because designers don't care enough beyond the design. It's all project and no process. Many know what is needed, I'm sure. But when they're challenged on their not-WYSIWYG proposals they just shrug deliver what is being asked for (by people who don't know what they want or understand what they need) and move on.

And the people asking for WYSIWYG are doing so because they haven't thought things through properly. So they ask for the most flexible editing device available. Because if they get anything more prescriptive they know there will be things they've not thought of. By which time the designers and developers will have moved on to other projects. And the fund holders (who want to pay for a project and then move on, rather than commit to ongoing, iterative improvement) are reluctant to revisit and improve because they see it as a bottomless pit.

Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content (video, slides, and transcript) by Karen McGrane

(A slight aside but worth a minute's quick read - Gerry McGovern says there's no point talking about UX or content strategy to senior managers because they neither get it or care. Talk about the bottom line.
Is there such a thing as content strategy? - Gerry McGovern)

It was a post by Mark Boulton that turned me on to the presentation and article by Karen. He references her and takes the discussion on further in a blog post.

He says that to achieve the goal of 'Create Once, Publish Everywhere' we need to appreciate the difference between Content Management Systems (CMS) and Web Publishing Tools (WPT).
"People think in pages: users, authors, writers. You. Me. My mum...   ...We need to start talking about content in terms of bits, not pages. And we need systems that help us think that way."
Adaptive Content Management - blog post by Mark Boulton

Related post: Why does getting the online experience right on every device matter? Because we're using multiple devices on a single task these days - Google cross platform research

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