where web content management and user experience collide

What the iPad means for web content management

Publishers are understandably excited about the iPad, for a couple of reasons other than simple gadget lust. First, Apple have already implemented a hugely successful paywall in the iTunes store, selling music, games, TV, films and apps. With the introduction of the new iBooks app, publishers hope that consumers will (finally!) be willing to cough up for magazine and news content delivered over the web.

In addition, many see the iPad as offering an opportunity to deliver more engaging content. It seems likely that iPad content will be able to achieve something close to print quality layout and typesetting, but with the added goodness of video, audio and social features. That could be pretty exciting, especially for magazine content (though I expect there will be teething troubles, eg. the return of the splash page…)

These two things aren’t unrelated: more engaging content will help justify the introduction of charging. I’d guess many publishers are also hopeful there will be a resurgence of professionalism, figuring that only they will have the experience and skills to generate quality layout on a regular cycle.

But there’s the rub. As Bill Jensen of the Village Voice pointed out during a panel at SXSW this week, existing production processes are unlikely to support the necessary workflow.

For print-to-web productions, here’s what typically happens at present: copy and images are prepared for the print edition (using, say, InDesign), with attention to word counts and layout so that it all fits on the page. Then the raw content is exported to a WCM, discarding all the layout information (which would be pretty useless anyway, as tablet dimensions and resolution will be significantly different from the printed page).  In the WCM, there’s likely some extra metatagging etc carried out by the web team, with rich media content blended in. But there’s not usually any layout to speak of: content is simply pumped out through fixed web templates. At most, the web team choose from a set of pre-existing templates.

Bringing per-page design, layout and typesetting back into the equation is a big shift, and one that I’d guess most existing WCM solutions will have trouble coping with, certainly not without expensive customisation or reengineering. In the short term this might create greater opportunity for vendors like Issuu, who are already generating “digital editions” of print publications, albeit without much in the way of webbish enhancement.

But if the iPad is successful and this scenario does play out in the wild, then pure-play WCM vendors may need to gear up to make significant changes in their product functionality; hopefully via a deeper integration than just bolting on a standalone iPad solution as an additional layer of production workflow.


Filed under: Publishing, , ,

CMS events at SXSW 2010

Here’s a list of the obvious content management-related events I’ve found in the SXSW schedule. Do let me know if I’ve missed anything.

Web Content Management Systems from a Designer’s Perspective
Sat, 9:30
Not a lot of info at this one. By Scott Fegette from Adobe and  Chris Charlton from XTND.US

CMS Admin. UX Gateway to Heaven or Hell
Sat, 11am

With so many different people using Content Management Systems there should be a best practice, intuitive user experience for the admin. So why do Drupal, Joomla, WordPress and others do it so differently? Take an inside look at the UX process used in developing some of the leading CMS admins.

A topic dear to my heart. Though if those are the only products under consideration, the scope is a little narrow.

Bringing it All Back Home: CMS Communities
Sat, 12:30

When you adopt a Web content management platform, you’re not just getting the software, you’re also becoming part of a community that develops, uses, and supports it. With the help of representatives from the Drupal and SharePoint communities, we’ll explore how different CMS communities are structured and operate, and the impact that they have on the experience of using that software.

Managing Your Content Management System
Mon, 9:30

An effective content management system is a must for any content-based web service. This technical session will discuss elements of designing and building a custom CMS that leverages technology and existing web data from sources such as Flickr and Wikipedia to automate research and increase time spent writing original content.

R.I.P. Content Management System
Mon, 11am

The medium is the message. On the web, the medium is community. This shift has made legacy CMS products as outdated as scribes and printing presses. Open source technologies are disrupting this market and moving into mainstream enterprises. Join Drupal founder Dries Buytaert as he discuss how social publishing will bring content and community together.

Slightly provocative (ie. troll baiting) title for this talk by Mr Drupal, Dries Buytaert

ExpressionEngine 2.0: Total Domination!
Mon, 12:30

ExpressionEngine is growing in popularity and with the release of 2.0, it’s power has expanded to the stratosphere. Powering great websites such as, A List Apart, and Campaign Monitor, it represents an amazing way to build websites and publish content. Join us as 5 experts give best practices from a beginner front-end level up to extension developer supreme

Official winner of the “most product-pitching event title”, 2010.

It’s worth noting that there are many other events of interest to CM people; in particular, a load of stuff around content strategy.

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