Note: Carrie Hane presented a webinar with us titled "How the Right CMS Makes Content Future-Friendly." In the interview that follows, I ask Carrie a number of questions related to the webinar.
Tell us about yourself, Carrie?
I am the founder and principal strategist of Tanzen, a content strategy consultancy.
I went independent a year and a half ago because I wanted to help small and mid-size businesses who were ready to manage their web presence differently.
And by differently, I mean from a content-first perspective. Since that means ultimately changing how the organization operates, it needs high-level buy-in.
Not everyone has that.
Follow Carrie Hane on Twitter: @carriehd.
What topics did you cover in the webinar?
I shared a content-first process for planning your website. We started with how to get insights into what content you should have by doing a domain model. From there, determining what content you will put on your website via a content model.
Once you have that, you can plan your content types with more precision, before design or development happens. With a full understanding of what content will be on the site, implementation is smoother.
The key to a successful implementation is structured content. Instead of designing pages, content that that is broken into smaller pieces is reusable and easier to maintain. I showed a methodology for doing this. I wrapped up with how this adds up to a future-friendly website that doesn’t need to be continually redesigned and re-architected.
When is an organization ready for structured content?
I’d say an organization is ready to move to a structured content approach when they are:
Frustrated with a back-log of content updates
Publishing the same content in multiple places
Creating a multi-channel publishing plan
Looking for ways to make their marketing and communications more efficient
In addition, they are regularly adding more authors or editors to their CMS, meaning more people are contributing to the website. And, they’re seeing inconsistency in their published content: for example, prices are different from one section to another.
They need to connect multiple systems that need to access to share data and are planning to do personalized or customized content for users.
When implementing structured content, what's the relationship among content strategists, UX designers and developers?
It is essential that they all work together. I couldn’t have made this process work initially without the input from designers and developers. They have to work together from the start and throughout the project.
Each role should know enough about the others to know when to get help or input. For example, back-end developers know how to best set up the CMS to accommodate a particular dynamic display, while front-end developers can chime in about how to best structure something to make an element work in a responsive framework.
But it starts with knowing why the display is needed in the first place, which the content strategist provides. By working together every step of the way, there is no guess work. Each role has a piece of the puzzle.
Domain models seem quite similar to relational database design. How are they similar and how are they different?
They are similar, as the concept of a domain model comes directly from software development. A domain model is a representation of the concepts and the relationships between them.
When it comes to websites, the domain model makes stakeholders take a step back and focus on the real-world representation of what exists in their subject area outside of an interface. By zooming out, they gain perspective on what is important to both subject matter experts and users.
This intersection is what forms the basis for a website, or multiple websites, as the case may be. Whereas in a relational database, design properties are designated and linked together by a primary key, domain models have no properties. It isn’t until we create a content model that defines content types and properties.
In a recent article, you urged content strategists to "think about authors too." What issues arise when this doesn't happen?
content strategist is as much an advocate for the CMS user as it is for
the website user."
A content strategist is as much an advocate for the CMS user as it is for the website user. When the people responsible for entering content into a CMS have trouble doing that, they will make up workarounds.
If it is too hard to make updates, they’ll stop updating. Or they will create their own systems and thus, a shadow system. There needs to be a balance between how much flexibility authors need when entering content and the restrictions we put on the content entry.
And then the authors need to be educated on why, as well as how to use the CMS. All of these things are often missed during CMS implementation. Essentially, creating a usable CMS admin area is equivalent to good, usable form building.
Editor's note: Here's the "recent article," titled A Useful Guide to Content Types, Part 2
Where do you see the role of the content strategist going?
I think there is a split or an expansion of the role coming. A lot of people and organizations have embraced the idea of content strategy, but with a focus on the front-end or editorial side of it. Just like development has front-end and back-end sides, so does content strategy.
I practice the back-end side of content strategy, the part that focuses on planning the appropriate structure, technology, and processes to support content reuse.
This is an area that will continue to grow as the need for the connection between the user experience and technology grows. As this happens, the role of the content strategist will expand from being generally a junior to mid-level role to being one that reach across the entire hierarchy of a business, from top to bottom.
Editor’s note: Read this related article by Ann Rockley, “Why You Need Two Types of Content Strategist,” published at Content Marketing Institute.
View the On-Demand Webinar Now
Title: How the Right CMS Makes Content Future-Friendly
Date: Available Now On-Demand
Presenters: Carrie Hane, Principal Strategist, Tanzen
Your Mission: Register to view the webinar
Future-friendly content is stored, structured, and connected outside any user interface. A CMS that uses a structured-content approach is necessary to re-use, re-mix, and re-style content for omnichannel publishing. Learn more in this informative webinar with Carrie Hane.