The weaknesses of content management systems (CMS) have always been pretty obvious to me so I was not at all surprised when Karen McGrane referred to them as “content mis-management” in her content strategy workshop at Webstock this year. CMS just substitutes one set of problems for a set of different problems where people can just shove any old garbage onto the internet with no editorial process or standards. The CMS, she said, is “not your editorial staff, its your printing press” and therefore only a part of the content life-cycle, not the final solution as many try to treat it.
Blobs vs. Chunks
Separate content from form and create presentation-independent content. Don’t encode meaning through visual styling – instead, add structure and metadata to your content.
A big part of the problem is that we’ve gotten sucked in to believing that content creators need a MS Word-like WYSIWYG interface, but this allows them to dump unstructured ‘blobs’ of styled content onto the web. These blobs are inevitably unsustainable and in the face of the need to now re-style content for various forms of delivery, including but not limited to mobile, they are extremely limited.
What we need, Karen says, is systems that create more structure around content, to create content in reusable ‘chunks’, not amorphous ‘blobs’ and systems that can deploy the most appropriate content for the platform. So we need to create content packages: for example, we might have 2 or more variations on the page title, of different lengths or keyed to different audiences, a short and long page description, the page content itself, appropriately structured with subheadings that can be reused as in-page contents links, several sizes of each relevant image and a range of metadata.
The content management system would then be set up to fit with the various tasks of its users and to publish the various chunks in the most appropriate way. Karen gave us ten ‘rules’ for content strategy: (more…)