First of all, an apology is due. After DNNWorld and the last few releases I hadn’t had time to work on this blog series. But the important thing is that we’re back and we’re almost done.
Step 4 – Choosing a WCMS for Smartphone Websites
If you are reading this blog chances are you know well what a WCMS is and the advantages of using one. But if you don’t, here is a short description:
According to Wikipedia, a WCMS is a software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage content with relative ease. And some of the main reasons organizations use WCMS include: ease of use, scalability, cost-effectiveness, security, extensibility, support and flexible architecture.
Choosing a WCMS that supports mobile devices can be difficult. Without clearly defining your requirements, you can be seduced by functionality that you will never use, or sacrifice ease of use for yourself or your users. I remember when I was growing up and getting closer to the age when I had to find my own place and start my life as an adult. One of the things I learned from my parents was to never go grocery shopping when I was hungry, and to always create a shopping list. Otherwise I could find myself buying things I don’t need and miss what was truly important.
This rule applies to almost any purchase, including a WCMS for your mobile strategy. Without your shopping list (your requirements) you can be seduced by shiny features you don’t need, and before you notice, you’ll be paying $10K's for an enterprise solution that doesn’t deliver what you need. To help you get started with the requirements, here is a list of 5 of the most important things you have to consider:
Create Mobile Websites from a Template
You may be wondering, if I’m planning on creating a mobile website for my specific needs and using my own branding, why would I want templates available? That is a good question, and there are many reasons:
· Being able to create a mobile website from a template means that all of the main pieces you’re going to need are available in the WCMS (e.g. a mobile menu) and you can see them working together
· If you’re not familiar with some of the best practices for building mobile websites, the template will help you visualize what your website should look like. And if you don’t like what you see, that could be a sign that you’re looking at the wrong system.
· Mobile skins are very generic and if using the default skin is an option, you can save weeks or months of work by using the template
Manage Content of Both, Mobile and Desktop Websites
Using two different solutions means that your team will have to learn, manage, administrate and purchase licenses twice. That can double (or more than double) the total costs of ownership of the products. And the roadmaps of the two solutions may not align making it difficult for your organization to provide a consistent experience across channels (mobile and desktop).
In a previous blog, I wrote that the strategy, flows, users and content of your desktop and smartphone websites will differ. But that does not mean that there will be no intersection between the content of your websites. For example, you may want to access the same forums from smartphones and desktops.
This means that your WCMS must allow you to manage the strategy of your desktop and mobile website separately, but you must be able to share content and users (Just as an FYI. We still owe you content sharing capabilities but we’re working on it).
Here is one fact. Just because it’s easy to use a WCMS to create websites, it doesn’t mean it is also easy to produce good smartphone websites. Besides the obvious limitations like screen sizes, input devices, slower bandwidth and others, you have the challenge of balancing content across different screen resolutions and views (portrait vs landscape).
Here is an example: the screenshots below were taken from m.nfl.com using an iPhone 3GS. If you look at the image – text alignment you’ll notice that the two are not the same, on the left side, the images dictate the height of the row whereas in the right side, the text dictates it.
Now imagine that your visitors are using 10’s (or 100’s) of devices with different screen resolutions. When you are creating content, how do you know if the content will look good in the multiple resolutions and orientations (in a cost effective way)? The answer is, you need a way of previewing the content as you create it without having to purchase and test in hundreds of devices.
The previewer must allow you to manage the devices and see the content as you create it. See the screenshot below, DotNetNuke’s content previewer allows you to see the content using different devices and orientations. The HTC Incredible has a higher screen resolution than the iPhone 3GS, therefore the content looks different (the images are more than double the height than the text when viewing the content in landscape mode).
Device Detection and Device Capabilities API’s
When you go through the exercise of building a smartphone website and look for opportunities to share content between your desktop and smartphone websites, you’ll notice that in many cases the format of your content will not work for both interfaces. The way a module is rendered does not fit well in a smartphone skin.
To increase the cost effectiveness of your WCMS, you have to be able to build and buy extensions that render using different templates depending on the context. That way, you can manage your content in one place.
For module developers to be able to offer smart rendering techniques in their extensions, they will need the WCMS to expose the device information through API’s.
Independently of what kind of website you’re building, you want to have rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. You need your WCMS to either have analytics features built in or allow you to integrate with other solutions like Google Analytics.
I just wrote a novel about WCMS for smartphones, yet this is a tiny introduction to everything that needs to be considered before making a decision. I hope you followed me all the way here and you’re finding the information useful so far.