It used to just be words and pictures.

Originally, content management was a way for non-technical users to change the text and images on a Web site. The technology was limited, and there was a pervasive belief on the IT side of businesses that line of business (LOB) users should not be presented with too many options or features for fear of confusing them.

I remember working for Knight Ridder, a newspaper chain based in San Antonio, on their homegrown WCM system. All Web sites using the system were nearly identical, save for a different logo. Editors would be given small blocks on the page where they could put content. Often the HTML tags had to be inserted around the content. I remember the ubiquitous HTML4 Visual Quickstart Guide on the desk of every online editor so he or she could quickly refer to what tags were needed. Homesite hadn’t been acquired by Macromedia yet. Macromedia had not been purchased by Adobe yet and Adobe had not developed InDesign yet (Quark was the only game in town). These were the good ol’ days of Web site building.

Over the next several years, Web content management (WCM) matured as an enterprise platform. It no longer made sense to develop a content management system (CMS) in house. All major off-the-shelf systems had personalization, workflow and versioning. WYSIWYG editors alleviated the need for direct HTML editing. Robust template engines allowed for fast visual customization. Even so, content creation and maintenance was still a slow process.

Now we face an inflection point: WCM is at another key stage of evolution. No longer confined to words and pictures, the experience is now robust enough to support a number of new possibilities for content creators.

Front-End Editing
Content Management systems of old required users to log into administrative interfaces that had no design relation to the broader site. It often posed a steep learning curve for content creators to understand how to find and edit content in the old systems. Now content can be edited directly in the Web site. Finding content is easy: just navigate to the page you want to edit and mouse-over the content you want to change. There’s no longer a learning curve, since the site’s editing capabilities behave in such an intuitive manner.

Actionable Data and Immediate Changes
Today’s business environment requires agility. Marketing teams get inundated with data and they need to be able to respond in real time. Modern WCM systems address this need by integrating Web analytics directly into the content management experience. Marketers can use these systems to make immediate changes to content.

Manipulating the Visual Display
No longer confined to mere text and image changes, modern systems allow business users to change the entire experience. Need extra columns or rows? Not a problem; the entire layout of a page can now be manipulated with a simple drag-and-drop interface. What’s more, the combination of traditional text and image changes with the new visual interface changes opens up a host of creative applications for marketers and content creators.

Imagine the case below where a simple interface allows merchandisers to make all content editable. Portions of an image can be lassoed and linked, or given hover behavior. The image below shows the products (clothes in this case) in use, and the consumer can click on any product to see information or make a purchase.:

Experience Driven Commerce

Armed with a modern WCM system, marketers and content creators can finally reach their full creative potential without sacrificing time for legacy training or need of technical knowledge.

To learn more about Web Content Management solutions from Sirius, contact Paul Bucalo.

Paul Bucalo is a Senior Solutions Specialist with Sirius Computer Solutions.