Book Review: Designing Connected Content


Designing Connected ContentTwo book reviews in a row? Yep. As I said in my last review, I’m reading non-fiction a lot more now and I have a backlog of industry books to read. One of the authors of this book, Carrie Hane, is a good friend. I watched her work on Designing Connect Content for pretty much all of 2017. I was very excited to finally get my copy.

For years, Carrie and her co-author, Mike Atherton, have been talking about Designing Future Friendly Content. In the web world this means using a structured content model so that the management of the content is not tightly coupled with the presentation layer. As design trends change, your content and underlying website structure doesn’t have to. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, you are looking at a headless Content Management System (CMS) supporting one or more presentation layers (web, mobile, Alexa…).

They finally took the time to write a book on the topic. It was time well spent.

Content First

When I started reading this book, I figured I was looking at a big piece that Deane Barker didn’t cover in his book (Web Content Management), the design. Not the user experience (UX) part of design but the structural aspects. Information Architecture (IA) with a Content Strategy focus.

Yes and no.

What I found as I read was some great lessons on why content matters. I always knew this but they make the case for why real content matters early in web design. Forget Lorem Ipsum (or Riker Ipsum). Let designers work with real content. Allow stakeholders to evaluate their evolving website with words that provide much needed context.

I had always been a proponent of architect first and then adding the UX to a website. This book really helped me understand why content needs to be first to drive that architecture.

Content Modeling

I am not going to lie. I flashed back to my college days in the Structuring Content section of the book. Back in college I studied the modeling of business processes, business entities, and how to translate those into both application and database designs.

Carrie and Mike walk you through many of those same concepts. They don’t get too technical like my old textbooks. They focus on sharing only what you need to know at each stage.

That is key. They outline multiple steps so you aren’t trying model the most granular detail at the very beginning. You gradually evolve your model until it is ready for the CMS. Tips on how to get the domain experts involved, ensuring the model is correct, are scattered throughout the process.

The authors provide multiple examples, from their own experiences, to illustrate how it all flows together. The examples they use are well chosen. Most readers, including you, are likely to understand the modeled domains without too much effort.

Practical Advice

At every stage in the book, references are provided to other experts should you want to learn more on a topic. This is not to say that they skimp on any relevant topic. They, like Deane in his book, realize that it is impossible to cover everything in depth. As such they point you on where you can go to learn more. I fully expect that future books in the space will reference Designing Connected Content for an in-depth look at creating structured content.

You are guided through the process from initial research to making the hard design decisions when implementing your model. The authors stress that you should never work in a silo as you need input from content creators and those building the website to do the job correctly.

I don’t know a single developer that doesn’t want the content model stable sooner rather than later. I’ve also never met a designer, architect, or developer that wouldn’t rather build things using real content instead of fake content. You never know what is going to happen when real content hits the application until it actually hits the application.

That is the advice and plan they lay out for the reader and they do it well.

In Short…

What I now have in my library is a great tutorial for content modeling and why you need to model it early for any content effort. And yes, I am talking about the old stodgy Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space as well.

If you are working on a website redesign, this book will serve you well in making sure you don’t head down many bad turns in getting to a robust design. If you are building Content Services Platforms, then you need the techniques in this book to help you build a flexible, holistic, model.

It is an enjoyable read full of little bits of humor to help you get through what could have been a boring, technical, process manual. It is far from that and I highly recommend reading it. I already know some people on my teams I’ll be suggesting strongly that they read Designing Connected Content.

Disclaimer

I wasn’t paid to write this review. Carrie gave me a free copy of the book over a frozen picnic table. The usual author requests were made of me; if I like it, please write a review. I did and now I have.

Book Review: Web Content Management


Web Content Management by Deane BarkerA long time ago, Deane Barker swung through DC on business and I was lucky enough to have breakfast with him. Even luckier, he gave me a copy of the book he had recently published through O’Reilly, Web Content Management. After nearly two years, during which I read very few non-fiction books, I picked it up and gave it a read.

I’m glad that I did.

I am not going to profess having learned a ton about Web Content Management (WCM) from reading Deane’s book. After all, I have been doing this whole content management thing for a while. However, it was great to read a collection of wisdom from Deane’s decades of experience focused in this domain. Deane is an excellent write and his practical (and witty) use of footnotes really conveys what is involved when you tackle a WCM project.

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Charting a Path for Managing the Customer Experience


New Picture (3)Today I am breaking my blogging drought by cheating. By cheating I mean that I attended a breakfast hosted by ICF Ironworks and Sitecore to hear Ron Rogowski of Forrester speak on Customer Experience Management. During the session I, among others, tweeted quite a bit using the hash tag #icfcxm.

Before diving in, want to say that Ron was smart, knowledgeable, and entertaining. The room was heavy with Association types and his experience in the space was minimal but most of what he said applied very nicely to the world of Associations.

Why Customer Experience Management

I know that many, including myself, will call it a craponym, but CEM/CXM is a valid concept. Knock the marketing lingo all you want, managing the customer’s experience with you and your brand is critical. As proof of this, Ron pointed to someone who had taken the top 10 companies in CXM, as per Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, and the bottom 10 companies and tracked their stock price over five years.

You know what he found?

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Tracking Website Performance


For those that have been paying attention to AIIM recently, you may have noticed that our website wasn’t performing at 100%. While the website has never been the fastest, it had been dramatically slower recently.

We’ve been working on thing to improve the user experience but sometimes circumstances catch-up with you as it did this week. I thought I would share a little case study in addressing Website performance.

Quick Background

If you aren’t a regular visitor to AIIM’s website, in addition to standard content delivery, we have some basic Community features including blogs, profiles, and discussions. In addition, members can update their information and preferences stored in our Association Management System (AMS). One final feature is that our training courses are all available directly through our website.

In 2012 we saw a steady rise in traffic, which is good. We were seeing more engagement and more of our research and content being accessed by a wider audience than before. We also noticed a trend of people taking more of our online courses instead of the traditional in-person courses.

Seeing this, we made plans to improve our scalability. Then reality hit.

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Oracle Buys FatWire, Now What?


If you missed it, Oracle bought FatWire yesterday. Whether or not this was a shock depends on who you ask. In fact, I suspect that the tension of the sale has been rippling though events for several months.

This acquisition raises several questions, such as, does anyone care, that is, outside of the FatWire install base and those competing against FatWire? I think it matters. Not because of the actual purchase, but because of what Oracle does with FatWire. That will show us volumes about their long-term Content Management strategy.

Before proceeding into my world of hypotheticals, you should read Real Story Group’s collection of thoughts on the deal.

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To Be a CMS, WCMS, or WMS, That is the Question


So I’ve said that that WordPress isn’t a Content Management System (CMS).  My point was more than semantics as it isn’t a Web CMS (WCMS) either.  That said, I have never said that WordPress is anything but a great tool.

So the question remains, if WordPress isn’t a WCMS, what is it? Maybe we need a new term….how about “Website Management System”?

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EMC Admits it Needs Help, Partners with FatWire


If you haven’t been paying attention, EMC announced a strategic partnership with FatWire today.  I couldn’t be much more pleased.  I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t feel that EMC’s Documentum Web Publisher has the chops to compete in the market and that as long as its release cycle was tied to the Content Server, it never would.

That is no longer a problem.  What does this mean for EMC and FatWire?

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