Are Your Digital Experiences an Extension of Your Business?
Web 3.0 has been described as everything from semantic, to contextual, smart, and decentralized. Formerly stuff of science fiction movies, concepts like Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistants, the Internet of Things (IOT), and virtual reality (VR) are now mainstream experiences. But that also means that digital content must be delivered in more formats, across more and more experiences, while living up to rising end user expectations.
“The Next Big Thing” will need new content to sell, explain, and otherwise connect with users on an emotional level. However, content has a cost, not just in creation and maintenance, but also in impact to customer experience. This price will be important as everyone tries to create and manage more content, more efficiently and quickly than ever.
We have the Five Future States of Content as a great view into the future. I’m also partial to Nuno Linhares’ Future of Content series, which is still highly relevant five years later. The future is in many ways already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.
Contextual, modular content
To support this evolution we need contextual, modular content managed according to a digital content strategy. Organizations must create and update digital experiences delivered in the right language, for a given region or market, to the right audience, and across multiple touch points. The content needs to be discoverable by the machines and services that help those people while being delivered on time, within budget, and at a certain level of quality.
The simplest way to manage content is to copy, paste, and adjust across systems and pages. Beyond the occasional one-off projects, this can quickly become unmanageable as you scale up to multiple languages, regions, touch points, or instances of the same content. Copying isn’t the problem; the pain is when content, branding, or technology changes across dozens to hundreds of experiences and you need to find and update each page or piece of content manually.
Each industry has its own unique but familiar challenges. Manufacturers and retail deal with large amounts of digital data, content and media to describe and manage their online experiences for consumers around the world. Reuse isn’t as important here as creating and delivering the campaigns, descriptions, and product information in time with the release of new products and services. Online travel agencies cooperate and also compete with airlines and hotels. Financial services are challenged by startups offering mobile banking without branches or even websites. And of course Netflix and Amazon have disrupted the media and entertainment worlds in a way that no-one imagined.
At the same time, companies like Twitter, Facebook, Alibaba, and other platforms have introduced tools, frameworks, or components that help developers quickly build fast, responsive web experiences. Cloud computing helps startups break into established industries or create new ones while established incumbents can also drastically transform the delivery of their own dynamic experiences.
Digitally savvy organizations face digitally savvy consumers
Savvy organizations take an agile approach and adopt a flexible architecture, validate their investments before over-committing, and build or buy the right systems to manage great end-to-end user experiences. Many of my customers have taken a kind of B2B2C service-based approach, where separate internal groups can request access to manage their own content within a larger system that already has integrations with partners and third-party systems to create contextual, relevant experience for their end users.
One significant challenge with keeping up is the tremendous number of systems, one-off and legacy implementations. Organizations have to balance incremental changes against integrating these systems and managing technical debt.
I suspect a good balance can be found in agile practices that combine different roles into cross-functional teams. For example, each individual role still reports to a practice or some sort of “center of excellence,” but the team itself is responsible for more of the user’s end-to-end experience. The actual process really depends on your content strategy and focus and how you want to manage your content, regardless of industry.
Industry-specific requirements’ impact on managed content
Regulated industries require certain disclaimers on specific types of content. Such disclosures and disclaimers often appear at the bottom of pages and might have duplicate references consolidated. Health and wellness companies are careful with health and personal information. To better help their members while limiting liability, they might license external health library information while ensuring training staff on HIPAA. It’s important to avoid using real users when testing contextual content based on device, location, language, etc.
Entertainment companies and manufacturers are often careful with embargoing content until it’s ready for launch in specific markets. Mistakes and leaks can be costly. Licensing agreements and intellectual property are also important. For example, an agreement might prevent you from cropping or editing certain images licensed from a movie studio or certain products require specific names or the use of trademarks, which might vary based on region or language.
International companies need to adjust content, imagery, and functionality based on the market and language. This includes everything from which social media platforms apply in each country, to how the design handles labels that vary in length by language.
For many organizations, there’s often a concern of governance – which system “owns” any given piece of data or content as a system of record. Everyone must adapt their metadata, content, and markup for SEO requirements as search engine algorithms change. GDPR impacts privacy requirements in Europe as well as abroad and accessibility requirements.
These requirements create content and review processes that cross multiple systems and people for everything from approval for certain types of content such a marketing-approved branded images to a review and approval of translations. With capabilities and expectations like personalization and good search results (SEO), approval includes a mix of reviewing raw, rendered, and in-context content. You want the right people to approve the content and metadata as well as how it appears in context when integrated with all the other systems.
The role of web content management systems
Various web content management systems were created and have evolved alongside these digital transformations, moving from the digital equivalent of newspapers, magazines, and bulletin boards to cover news, ecommerce sites, community platforms, and many more types of content.
As content became available across more than just websites, content management systems offered multi-channel, multi-delivery capabilities independent of the format. Personalization and optimization capabilities fit mobile computing experiences. Along the while, systems that helped balance the content variation explosion against multi-channel and multi-lingual reach helped sophisticated companies manage their SEO-friendly, regulated, and embargoed media rich experiences.
Ultimately, your Web Content Management system needs to allow your editors to easily create, update, rollback, translate, localize, personalize, and publish content for dozens to hundreds of digital touchpoints or more. Your implementation team needs the flexibility to deliver this content over scaled, robust services in the right formats to your many experiences across a complex digital landscape. The experience is complete if non-technical users can review and test these experiences regardless of the localizations, languages, and contexts you have today or tomorrow.
You want the right people managing the right content and processes to ultimately create compelling experiences for your digitally savvy, evolving customers.
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