Brent Heslop

Brent Heslop is a Sr. Technical Writer. He has worked as a Webmaster at TIBCO Software, and has authored 15 popular computing books. Brent taught HTML and Web programming at UC Santa Cruz Extension. He enjoys U.S. Masters Swimming, cooking, and spending time with his wife, Kim, and their faithful dog, Fargo.

Posts by Brent Heslop

Mar 19, 2019

The Lines Between Marketing and IT Are Blurring (And That's a Good Thing)

It’s difficult to even consider marketing today without immediately thinking about all the technological elements that go into it. Marketing and technology have become such an iconic duo that a portmanteau has cropped up to rival the likes of J-Rod, Bennifer, and Brangelina—martech. Martech represents the intersection of marketing and technology in what’s become a highly-digitized business world. It encompasses any digital platform, tool, channel, or device that has an impact on marketing operations. Virtually anyone involved with a digital marketing tool such as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, a content management system (CMS), or website analytics software could be considered a martech expert. Despite its prevalence, the martech market isn’t saturated just yet. Companies that specialize in marketing technology have exploded in numbers since 2011, when long-time martech writer and chair of the MarTech Conference Scott Brinker first compiled a list of 150 companies martech businesses. In 2017, that list had grown to include nearly 5,000 companies. Image Source It’s safe to say that martech will only continue to evolve and influence marketing. What implication does that have for enterprise companies and marketing departments that need to keep up? Why the Lines Between Marketing and IT Are Blurring It’s pretty easy to understand why the majority of marketing departments embrace martech. Thanks to new digital capabilities, marketers can understand their audiences better with data gathering and analysis tools, automate what used to be time-consuming tasks, and reach consumers anywhere in the digital world with precise and personalized messaging. However, the massive switch to digitalization also puts more strain on enterprise organizations and their marketing capabilities. Today, consumers expect to be able to access whatever information, products, and services they want on any channel and at any time. Modern enterprise marketing must keep up by consistently developing new ways to deliver delight and improve upon the consumer experience. Martech is the bridge that connects marketing to IT, the one department with the technological buying, building, and implementation prowess it takes to keep always-on consumers happy. For enterprise organizations to develop technology-first marketing that delivers on consumer expectations, they must let the lines between what is technically IT and what is technically marketing continue to blur and eventually fade away. How to Develop a Technology-Driven Marketing Strategy Once marketing and IT can set aside their different personalities and realize that the blurring of their departments empowers them to achieve business goals, the following strategies will help them collaborate to extract business-boosting lead data, deliver personalized content, shorten the sales cycle, and provide the consistent marketing experience consumers crave across channels. Soup Up Your Inbound and Outbound Marketing Efforts with Lead Data By implementing certain marketing technology, IT can enable marketing to learn more about the leads they’re driving to their platforms with inbound marketing. Plenty of martech tools enable marketers to gather data from visitors like general and on-site browsing history, location, an IP address that connects them with a specific company, and perhaps even some contact information. Automated messaging and dynamic forms can further engage visitors to gauge interest and collect even more of that all-important data. Whereas outbound marketing used to feel like throwing money into the abyss and hoping some leads came out of it, smart advertising purchasing tools give marketers the power to target (and retarget) more specific audiences for warmer leads. Incorporating martech to collect and analyze lead data doesn’t just make your business smarter—it gives you time to use that data to create impressive inbound and outbound campaigns instead of spending days manually putting together customer profiles. Customize Your Content to Hit the Mark Every Time Enriching lead profiles empowers you to personalize the experience you deliver. And that may be more valuable than you ever imagined. Harris Interactive found that nearly three-quarters of consumers are fed up with irrelevant marketing content. However, consumers continue to reward personalized marketing. Approximately 35 percent of Amazon sales are the result of recommendations based on personal data. Netflix’s custom-tailored video feed saves the company $1 billion every year in retention alone. Customized content is vital, but today’s most prevalent content management systems sure don’t make it easy to achieve. With a traditional content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Sitecore, or Drupal; creating and managing content is easy. Personalizing that content for unique users, displays, and channels? Not so much. A headless CMS like Contentstack also makes it easy to create and manage your content. But because it stores that content in an accessible container instead of trapping it in a predetermined workflow, it’s also user-friendly for marketers who want to integrate tools that personalize and optimize content for specific display methods, channels and of course users. The variety of Contentstack configurations that marketing and IT can take advantage of is practically endless. Some great use cases include dynamic websites that serve hyper-personalized content based on campaign responses, applications that provide offers based on real-time user behavior and location, and virtual or augmented reality solutions that enable hospitality firms to deliver an immersive experience no matter where in the world the viewer is. Image Source Empower Leads to Skip Stages of the Funnel as They Please It turns out, martech isn’t just getting marketing and IT in the same room but enabling a closer relationship with sales, as well. Technology enables consumers to skip through the sales and marketing funnel and go right to requesting a demo or initiating a purchase without having to engage in a long cycle with sales or a business rep, which is great because consumers are short on time but long on content. They’ve already got more emails and blogs and reviews than they could ever actually read—why not let them cut to the chase and save your team some effort while you’re at it? Marketing and IT can come together to enable ecommerce automation that serves relevant, in-the-moment offers to close the sale. Another use case is automated chatbots, which allows consumers to set up demos or get their pre-purchase questions answered without the email threads and missed phone calls of old. To make the most of consumer attention in the few sections you have it, try self-serve marketing automation. Upgrade Your Website Technology to Provide Omnichannel Marketing Experiences If one of the main reasons marketing and IT are cozying up is to improve the consumer experience, it only makes sense to go all in on website technology that enables you to deliver a consistent experience on every platform your customers use. Contentstack is built with that specific goal in mind. Our headless CMS enables marketing teams to distribute content directly to a variety of channels and devices using the most optimal technology for each endpoint. Unlike a traditional CMS, our headless CMS leverages APIs to push content directly to channels and devices without breaking or requiring any new technology. On the content side, our easy-to-use drag-and-drop builder allows marketers to create content models for each channel while smart Experience Extensions help optimize the content itself, so it’s a perfect fit for any channel to which you choose to publish it. Don’t let your marketing consistency suffer when a headless CMS can provide the perfect omnichannel marketing experiences your consumers have come to crave. Blurry Lines Between Marketing and IT Are Great—as Long as You’re Ready to Take Advantage Martech provides a bridge where marketing and IT teams can meet to develop a technology-driving marketing strategy that squeezes more value out of lead data, automates content personalization, helps sales close deals faster, and does it all while delivering the consistent omnichannel experience consumers have come to expect. If you’re ready to bring IT and marketing together to achieve business goals, Contentstack’s headless CMS is the best way to optimize, personalize, and deliver content that converts no matter if consumers are accessing it from an in-store kiosk, an app, a smart billboard, a search engine results page, or any other channel or device. At Contentstack, we promise to deliver amazing experiences with no-training-required content management tools for marketing along with enterprise-level security, scalability, and rich tooling for IT teams. We stand behind our reliability and your ROI 100 percent. All you have to do is schedule a demo or create a proof of concept today for free.

Feb 19, 2019

The Future of CMS—And 5 Ways to Tell if Your CMS is Outdated

It helps you attract and connect with your ideal audience. It delivers your carefully-crafted value propositions. It sets your organization apart, builds trust, instills your company culture, and inspires consumers to take action with your brand. And, let’s not forget, the algorithms that power search engines still rely almost exclusively on content when it comes to deciding where you show up in relation to your competition in search results. And, according to Forrester Wave’s Web Content Management Systems report, the content management system (CMS) market was still growing as of Q4 of 2018. Content is certainly still king, yet many organizations are still searching for the best way to manage and optimize it. Source If you’re still planning key marketing campaigns around your CMS’ capabilities, waiting on IT to help you make website updates, receiving notifications that your platform is soon to be retired, or avoiding breaking into new channels because it’s double or triple your workload—your CMS isn’t working for you, you’re working for it. In this piece, we’ll help you figure out if you are indeed working for an outdated CMS and what to do to prepare your organization for the rapidly-evolving future of content. How to Tell if Your CMS Isn’t Ready for the Future With all the tasks the modern marketer is responsible for, it’s all too easy to become complacent when it comes to your CMS. If your current CMS falls into any of the following categories, it’s not ready for the future and neither will your company be if you continue to depend on it. But don’t be discouraged, next up we’ll discuss where the future of content management is going and what you can do to keep up. Your CMS is Outdated if You Have to Plan Around It CMS platforms are like any other software—they’re often purpose-built and become cumbersome over time, despite efforts to keep up with modernization. If the CMS you’re using was built or bought around the same time you realized you needed it; chances are it’s out of date and holding back your marketing team from their full potential. To determine if you are indeed planning key content around your CMS’ capabilities, look ahead at your marketing goals and think about the campaigns it’s going to take to get you to them. Can your current CMS truly facilitate everything you need to do? Or do you find yourself dialing back your plans so they fit into what your CMS can handle? If it’s the latter, it’s time to move on. If You Need to Get IT Involved, It’s Time to Switch Modern CMS tools are built to empower marketers and editors to make important content changes without technical intervention. Not only is it demoralizing to have to constantly ask another department to help you use your own tools, but it results in costly downtime as both teams are distracted from doing what they do best. If your CMS makes it so that you’re dependent on another person or department to do your job, it’s high time to upgrade to a system that’s easier for the intended users to, well, use! An Underpowered CMS Leaves Administrators Dissatisfied Too often, the person calling the shots about a content management system isn’t the same person who’s using it day in and day out. To avoid that scenario when it comes to gauging the usefulness of your CMS, we recommend going straight to the source. Here are some questions to ask marketers, editors, and other CMS administrators at your company to find out what their experience is like and help determine if your CMS is fit for the future: These questions will quickly uncover where there are gaps in your current CMS and whether or not they’re worth addressing or if it’s simply time to move on. Your CMS is Way Too Old if It’s No Longer Being Supported We understand that a re-platforming project is a lot to take on, but if the vendor is no longer supporting your CMS, upgrading needs to become a priority. This concern here isn’t just for the sake of usability, though that’s certainly important. Once a platform is no longer making security updates and releases, you’ll become highly vulnerable to an attack. If you’ve received an end-of-life notice for your CMS, it’s time to start preparing for the future immediately. An Outdated CMS Will Keep You From Going Multichannel If your content is sitting in a CMS that wasn’t built to optimize and distribute it to modern devices and mediums, that carefully-cultivated asset is sadly going to waste. Unfortunately, when it comes to omnichannel capabilities, many CMS platforms that were built even a few years ago are outdated! The majority of CMS platforms that enterprises are using today were built with a single channel in mind—the web. Yet, thanks to the rapid growth of distribution channels, content is being consumed way beyond the web on watches, mobile apps, voice assistants, connected home devices, and even jumbotrons! If your CMS wasn’t built to keep up with this level of distribution, your content could quickly become trapped in the past. Fortunately, there is a solution that empowers organizations to remain competitive and create, personalize, and distribute high-quality content on the wide variety of outlets and devices that make up today’s omnichannel environment. Fortunately, there is a headless CMS. Why Headless CMS is the Future Before we dive into why headless is the future of content and content management, let’s quickly review what exactly it means when we say “headless.” With a traditional CMS like WordPress or Drupal, users create and edit content with a WYSIWYG or HTML editor. Content is saved to a built-in database and displayed according to a built-in front-end delivery system (the “head”). The content and its formatting are inextricably intertwined. However, a headless CMS has no built-in front-end system (again, the “head”) that determines how the content will be displayed. A front-end developer will instead choose the best interface for the job and use an API to call up the content. By using a headless CMS that separates the content from its container, content managers can quickly optimize and serve consistent content experiences everywhere from websites to apps, kiosks, chatbots, smartwatches, connected home devices, voice assistants, and much more. Let’s explore how headless CMS empowers enterprise organizations to compete in today’s digitally-transformed marketplace with future-proofing, personalizing, omnichannel optimization, and more. Go Headless to Future-Proof Content and Tech One of the key features of a headless CMS is that it decouples content from how that content is going to be displayed to end users. Marketers create content inside independent, fluid “modules.” That means you can create a single campaign for a smartwatch today and quickly roll it out on a jumbotron tomorrow. With headless CMS, you can quickly update and optimize content for whichever display channel you want to push it to next—without developer support. And, when IT does need to get involved to make sure your front-end systems are up to date, they can easily switch between technologies without breaking your CMS, losing your content, or interrupting your in-progress campaigns. This flexibility helps future-proof both your content and in a way that a traditional CMS just can’t. Personalize Every Piece of Content with Headless CMS Over half of digital leaders say accessing customer data is a major challenge when it comes to personalization efforts. With a traditional CMS, the only way to “personalize” content is to come up with 5, 10, or more versions of it—and that’s before figuring out how to segment and distribute it. But when you use a headless CMS with native integrations like CRM, DAM, and marketing automation; it’s easy to gather consumer data from your single source of truth, use it to personalize content right inside the editor, and segment delivery for optimal results. When the Miami HEAT went looking for a way to deliver interactive, engaging, and personalized content to their fans—they knew headless CMS was the way to go. More specifically, they knew Contentstack was the way to go because of our record of enabling innovative digital experiences, enterprise-ready features, white-glove customer support, and advanced technology that allowed us to integrate with their legacy systems while still introducing revolutionary personalization for fans. In addition to smashing Ticketmaster arena records with over 16,000 mobile scans per game and winning Clio, Webby, and other awards; HEAT’s integration of Contentstack on their mobile platform drove it to reach the second-highest retail sales out of all their digital channels. “...moving to Contentstack was a very welcome transition for our content team,” said Matthew Jafarian, VP of digital strategy and innovation at Miami HEAT. “The best part was that the new platform is customizable to meet all of our content team’s needs, without requiring highly complex development. [With Contentstack,] internal adoption shot up by over 30 percent, while our developer costs and time were cut in half.”Headless CMS Flexes to Fit Your Needs In a 2018 study on the state of the digital experience, digital leaders reported that “ease of integration among front-end components” was the most important characteristic when it came to selecting tools to elevate their organizations' digital maturity. By definition, a headless CMS has no built-in front-end system, so technology teams have full flexibility to integrate whatever front-end components are the best fit for the situation. Headless CMS plays nice with multiple frameworks like React, Angular, Ember, and so on; so it’s always ready to adapt to whatever application, device, or marketing touchpoint is in your future. In addition, this flexibility has the added benefit of widening the talent pool from which you can hire. Headless CMS is the Only Way to Go Omnichannel The growing number of marketing channels and touchpoints has created a complex web of content outlets. Aside from your organization’s website, you may also have several microsites, one live app and another in development, a voice-assistant integration, and more at any given time. If you’re already taking advantage of multiple channels, you’re just wasting time duplicating content if it isn’t all organized into a single source of truth from which you can optimize and distribute it. Going headless empowers you to develop integrated, seamless, and personalized brand experiences whether a lead is interacting via desktop computer, mobile device, inside a brick-and-mortar store, a marketplace like Amazon, or pretty much anywhere else. Without a headless CMS, marketing consistency is, unfortunately, one of the first things to suffer. Even minor inconsistencies in messaging and design from platform to platform can shatter that trustworthy, professional image you’ve carefully cultivated. With your competition just a click away—consistent omnichannel marketing is the future of engagement. Choose Contentstack for the Future of Your Enterprise It’s time to say goodbye to planning around outdated capabilities, waiting on IT just to make simple content updates, risking serious security breaches, and shying away from multichannel optimization. It’s time to say goodbye to traditional CMS. The future of enterprise content lies in headless CMS—where marketers and other content management roles have the power to future-proof, personalize, optimize, and distribute content at the speed of technical innovation. At Contentstack, we pioneered the concept of headless CMS—that’s how much we care about delivering the best digital experiences. We handle all the needs of enterprise business users and developers to improve content management in legacy and modern channels; integrate tons of marketing, ecommerce, and analytics tools; and do it all with the availability, security, and scalability that your IT stack requires. Step out of the past and prepare for the future of CMS with Contentstack. We guarantee our reliability and your ROI. Test drive Contentstack and build out a (free!) proof-of-concept today.

Feb 12, 2019

5 Reasons Adopting an API-First CMS is Critical for Your Business

Do you think using a single tool to boost developer productivity and longevity, future-proof your content, delight users, deliver consistent marketing, and get all of these hard-earned efforts to market well before your competitors sounds too good to be true? If so, then you’re probably making the same mistake that far too many enterprise-level businesses are—entrusting your content management to a popular, traditional CMS tool. In this piece, we’re going to explore today’s leading CMS technology, list several reasons why it’s critical to the future of your business, and show how a game-changing CMS pioneer like Contentstack makes it easy to adopt and adapt to business today. What is an API-First CMS? An API-first CMS, also often commonly called a headless CMS, integrates content management tools via Application Programming Interface (API). By truly separating content from how it’s eventually going to be displayed, a headless CMS ensures content is ready to publish to any device or channel at any time. With an API-first approach, content becomes a highly-accessible service that can be called by a website, a mobile device, a software platform, an automobile, VR headset, voice-activated devices, Jumbotron or whatever tomorrow’s technology looks like. Headless is the latest evolution in the long and storied history of content management systems. To best understand its impact, let’s take to look at what sets it apart from other content management solutions on the market. What Sets an API-First CMS Apart from Traditional and Decoupled CMS Solutions? When using what’s come to be known as a “traditional CMS” like WordPress or Drupal, end-users such as marketers create and edit content with WYSIWYG or HTML editors. Content is saved to a built-in database and displayed according to whatever front-end delivery has already been built in. The content and its formatting are coupled—which will matter more in a minute. Imagine in this scenario that the content is the "body" and the front-end display (elements users will see such as formatting, navigation, layout, etc.) is the “head.” By removing those front-end elements, you will effectively remove that head to create a headless CMS. A headless, API-first CMS has no built-in front-end system that determines how the content will eventually look to end users. Instead, front-end developers have the freedom to build whatever kind of interface they want and use an API to simply call up the content. This makes it easy to compete in an omnichannel world where marketers need to serve consistent content everywhere from websites to apps, kiosks, chatbots, smartwatches, connected home devices, voice assistants, and much more. A headless CMS is basically a more flexible and freeing type of decoupled CMS. It has all the options of a traditional CMS without being locked into a specific language or user interface. There’s no doubt that AI, machine learning, and other new technology will continue to disrupt the field of content management. That’s why, at Contentstack, we pioneered the concept of API-first CMS technology so our customers can keep delivering the best digital experiences and omnichannel marketing that’s secure, scalable, and future-proof. Here are five reasons we believe an API-first, headless CMS is critical for businesses trying to compete in today’s a digitally-transformed environment. 5 Reasons Adopting an API-First CMS is Critical for Business1. Increases Developer Productivity and Longevity Traditional content management systems gained popularity during a time when diverse development languages were rare and an all-in-one solution looked awesome next to the complicated, DIY solutions on the market. However, today that all-in-one solution is like a set of handcuffs holding businesses back from optimizing their content on a variety of marketing and sales channels and internet-enabled devices. A traditional CMS limits you to a single development platform. Aside from only being able to take advantage of a sliver of the ever-growing technology universe, this also limits you to having to find and hire a very specific type of developer. Preferably, they’re very well-versed in one specific language. Even more preferably, they already know the ins and outs of your particular CMS. And most preferably—and concerningly—they’re totally complacent with continuing to use that CMS so as not to interrupt the business processes you’ve built around it. What’s a company to do if they can’t find several of these unicorns in the wild? Spend the time and resources recruiting and training them to fit a very specific niche that hopefully doesn’t get outdated anytime soon. Save time and resources and build a development team that loves their jobs by replacing your traditional CMS with an API-first CMS. source An API-first CMS empowers your development team to use what they know, what they love, and what they think will be a perfect solution in every unique situation. Increasing productivity isn’t the only thing that will save you time and money in this case—just consider the longevity of developers who have a variety of skills and actually want to put them to work for you. When your hiring decisions are less dependent on a traditional CMS, you’ll find that your development team has a deep skill set that can be applied to a variety of projects. This gives them the chance to learn new tech, exercise their creative muscles, and enjoy the job that keeps them with your company for years to come. 2. Future-Proofs Your Business (and Content) It’s human nature to want to plan a project based on a static, “finished” state we have laid out in our heads. I mean, who among us hasn’t fallen into the trap of giving something an implementation-specific name like “Christmas 2018 slider” or “top-right sidebar” in our wireframes or content models? However, it’s the nature of technology to continuously evolve beyond even our best-laid plans. To reconcile the two, it’s critical that businesses adopt an API-first headless CMS. A headless CMS allows businesses to separate the process of creating content from the process of planning how content is going to be displayed to end users. This allows us to create content modules that are fluid enough to evolve separately from each other and stand the test of time as your website inevitably needs updating; the variety of display channels continues to grow; and the use of mobile devices like watches, glasses, and smartphones overcomes that of desktop machines. In addition, when content isn’t anchored to a specific CMS platform, you’ll be able to switch out the technology upon which it’s hosted as needed—further future-proofing your hard-earned content by using the most suitable frontend to garner engagement. source3. Empowers a Delightful User Experience Because it empowers them to use the best technology for the situation, an API-first CMS allows front-end developers to build delightful user interfaces that are simply not possible when using traditional, server-side CMS tech—all without limiting functionality or autonomy for content folks on the backend. These interactions add a ton of personality and character to your brand’s online presence, which is becoming critical as businesses strive to differentiate themselves on something other than branding, selection, or price in a world of increasingly-connected and competitive digital marketplaces. 4. Makes Marketing Consistent in an Omnichannel Environment The age of omnichannel is upon us. For marketers, this means developing an approach that gives customers (and leads) an integrated, seamless experience whether they’re interacting with your brand from a desktop or mobile device, in a brick-and-mortar store, via a marketplace such as Amazon, or anywhere else on any kind of device. The majority of shoppers have been shown to shop in in multiple physical and digital locations. And the more active they are in more locations, the more likely they are to spend more, be more loyal, and refer more people to your business. It’s clear that omnichannel marketing is critical for remaining competitive business—and an API-first CMS is the best way to tackle it. source API-first headless CMS platforms are built to distribute content directly to a variety of channels and devices using the most optimal technology for each endpoint. They’re among the first and the most powerful technologies that cater to the omnichannel future of business. Without such an effective CMS, marketing consistency is one of the first things to suffer. And while it seems minor, even small inconsistencies in messaging and design from platform to platform can shatter the trustworthy, savvy, and expert image you want to present to users. When your competitors are simply a click away—consistent omnichannel marketing might be the only thing keeping consumers and leads engaged with your business. 5. Improves Agility to Get You to Market Faster An API-first CMS provides a simplified, streamlined experience for IT, marketing, and other business-critical units who need to deliver value to your market in record time. When it comes to implementing and deploying updates to your content management system, no CMS is as fast or as simple as an API-first one. That’s because the CMS itself is separate from any custom code, so continuous deployment and other agile development techniques can be used to update and rollback changes quickly without scheduled downtime or the risk of breaking your entire content management platform. And because your API-first CMS allows developers to create a platform of complementary technologies that they know and use every day, they have more control and fewer surprises. This means predictable, easy-to-launch projects instead of a team of developers wasting precious time figuring out antiquated technologies or building in workarounds for a pre-established, traditional CMS. Will Your Business Adopt an API-First CMS or Will It Perish? Headless, API-first CMS architecture isn’t for everyone. If your business wants to keep training developers to deploy content to a static, over-built CMS and ignoring the trend toward omnichannel marketing and sales—then, by all means, stick with a traditional CMS. But if you want to remain relevant in a digitally-transformed business environment, an API-first CMS is critical. When you adopt a CMS like Contentstack that’s easy to build and even easier to customize, you’ll be well on your way to boosting developer productivity and longevity, future-proofing your content, delighting users, delivering consistent marketing, and getting all of these hard-earned efforts to market well before your competitors. And if you need all of these benefits without shelling out to rebuild your entire IT department, consider Contentstack’s enterprise-level headless CMS. Our promise is to deliver amazing experiences with reliability, scalability, and no-training-required content management tools. Try us today for free. We stand behind our reliability and your ROI 100 percent.

Feb 05, 2019

8 Must-Know Content Marketing Trends for 2019

If you are looking to take your marketing strategy to the next level for 2019, you will want to be aware of these content marketing trends. They say that change is the only constant and that old saying is especially true for content marketing as marketers find better ways to connect with their audiences on all platforms. Staying on top of these 2019 content marketing trends can help ensure that your marketing is more successful, more efficient, and more impactful than the competition. By embracing new trends and making them your own, you can catch the next big marketing wave before anyone even has a chance to realize the wave has formed. With marketers spending an estimated $207 billion in 2018, and over half of that going to digital mediums, savvy marketers need to ensure that every dollar invested is delivering maximum ROI. This is why seizing on new content marketing trends early can be so important. 8 Intriguing Content Marketing Trends to Watch As mentioned, now that marketers have fully embraced digital channels, it feels like the marketing world is on the edge of a major change. This trend will likely continue in 2019, but the marketers that will be genuinely successful will move ahead of the curve by watching out for these new trends. 1. Strategy Becomes Mainstream in Marketing Trends Content marketing is an essential part of any marketing plan. There probably aren’t many people who will argue that assertion these days. However, what kind of strategy is going into content marketing? Simply generating content for the sake of having content will not cut it in 2019 as more and more marketers embrace the power of content marketing. The significant trend that marketers should embrace immediately is a clear content marketing strategy. Directly driving traffic is not a strong enough strategy in 2019. Instead, marketers need to determine specific goals, metrics for tracking those goals and set out clear timelines for reviewing their success, or lack thereof. Determining clear metrics to measure success is an integral part of a content marketing strategy. Traffic is nice but what should that traffic be accomplishing? Are more email subscribers needed? Are you looking for more app installs? Determine these metrics as a part of your strategy, build content to deliver based on those metrics, and measure them closely. In doing so, you can ensure that you are investing every dollar in delivering the best results possible. In addition, a content strategy must focus on the customer experience, rather than just gaining access to wallets. What will keep customers coming back again and again? That’s more valuable than a one-time visit to boost traffic stats. 2. The Rise of Instant Messengers Traditional marketing mediums like radio and television are very one-sided. The marketer speaks to the customer, the customer watches or listens, and that is the end of the interaction. Logically, the next interaction might be a visit to a website or store if the marketing was successful. However, content marketing in the digital world is much different. Many types of content marketing are meant to be more of a two-way conversation. A business may post a video on social media, illicit questions or comments from followers, and then continue interacting with followers in the comment section. Of course, that’s a pedestrian way to look at digital content marketing and the relationship between marketers and consumers. In reality, things are getting much more advanced. One of the most significant content marketing trends to watch in 2019 will be instant messenger content. This could include campaigns sent through instant messenger or even the use of increasingly popular chatbots. Some companies are already using chatbots to connect with customers and deliver information on demand, 24/7. Consumers want to be a part of the conversation. They live in an age where their phone can instantly give them answers to any question they may have. Content marketers need to recognize this changing relationship and capitalize on it in 2019 and the years to come. 3. The Creation of Niche Sub-Brands You cannot please everyone with everything. Creating a marketing campaign that captures the hearts, minds, and wallets of every potential customer certainly sounds nice, but it is next to impossible. These days, consumers have so many ways to tailor their media consumption to meet their unique interests specifically. For example, someone can subscribe to a forum about their favorite make and model of car. They can also follow a social media influencer that participates in their favorite sport. No matter what someone is into, there is a growing list of ways they can feed their hunger for content. Brands began dabbling in niche marketing in 2018 and, in 2019, we believe this will be one of the most significant content marketing trends. We have seen brands create branded podcasts that cater to a unique subset of their customer base. This is just a taste of how brands will continue to dive deeper into niche marketing as 2019 kicks off. 4. Personalization of Content Via Omnichannel Delivery In 2018, we stated that generic content was dead, and we believe 2019 will further cement this trend as fact. In an age where someone’s Netflix recommendations know what they want to watch before they do, people don’t have the time or patience for generic and uninspired content marketing. They want personalized experiences, not the same old marketing tactics. Another big challenge for marketers will be delivering personalized content when and where their customers are available. The most significant social media trend or the hottest new platform of 2019 may not even be in the public consciousness yet. Brands that are situated to embrace new channels quickly will have a massive advantage over brands that are slow on the uptake. Delivering this level of personalization and being able to adopt new channels as-needed could prove to be a major headache. Marketers need to ensure that their content management system is equipped to work efficiently with the services they already use and quickly integrate with new services as they become available. Extensive programming and planning may be required to adopt a new trend or service won’t work for brands that want to be on the leading edge in 2019 and beyond. 5. Embrace Interactive Content in 2019 Another content marketing trend that is going to take off in 2019 is interactive content. We have already seen one notable example of this with Netflix’s interactive, choose your own adventure episode of Black Mirror. This is the modern version of the choose your own adventure books that many people read as a child. Consumers will gravitate to this type of content marketing because it makes them a part of the content rather than just the consumer of the content. Of course, not all interactive content has to be a Netflix-quality feature production. Content like surveys and contests will gain favor with customers who want something different from the typical marketing tactics they are used to. The ultimate goal of interactive content is greater engagement. There are hundreds of different things trying to capture the attention of consumers and only the pieces that engage people will earn any significant attention. Much like videos are better than basic, text-only social media posts; interactive content will be the next step in content marketing and one of the most significant 2019 content marketing trends. 6. Increase in Distribution or Paid Content “Social media influencer” has been a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. This is a trend that will continue to grow in 2019 as marketers look to reach people through new channels. 67% of marketers believe that influencer marketing helps them reach a more targeted audience. As we know, people want personalization that fits their unique interests, and influencer marketing is one of the best ways to achieve that for marketers. Of course, influencer marketing isn’t the only way to get paid content out to interested customers. Look for more marketers to directly pay for promotional content on publication websites. With quality content, marketers can appear less like they are marketing and more like they are providing top-notch information to readers. This can help break through that invisible wall that many people put up when they see traditional marketing messages and mediums. 7. Video Goes Big in 2019 Marketing Trends Okay, so video content marketing doesn’t qualify as one of the hot new content marketing trends of 2019. Marketers have been embracing video more and more recently. However, we do believe that video will continue to grow and deliver tremendous results for marketers. With marketing channels like Facebook and YouTube cracking down on content that creators can monetize through the use of video ads, marketers should feel more confident than ever that video content is a powerful tool in the old toolbox. With 1.9 billion people watching millions of hours of video per day on YouTube, video content is going to be a popular way to connect and engage with potential customers. Best of all, you can combine video with many other 2019 content marketing trends. For example, video can be made to be interactive, it can be made as part of a niche branding channel, or it can be incorporated into a paid content promotion. This flexible form of content will undoubtedly be one of the best solutions available to marketers for years to come. 8. Watch for AI, IoT, and Voice Search to Grow Artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), and voice search devices are not new concepts in general, but they will quickly become refined, essential pieces of modern content marketing plans. The new ways that people search for and engage with brands will require marketers to adapt the way that they target searches. While brands will need to cater to AI search results, they will also be able to use AI for better planning and strategizing. With the help of AI, marketers will be able to get deep insights into data in a way that was previously unimaginable. The big challenge will be embracing and implementing these powerful tools. 2019’s Marketing Trends - Bringing it all Together Those are the eight significant content marketing trends to look for in 2019. On the surface, they may look like unique trends and, in a sense, they are. However, there is one underlying theme that connects all of these concepts and trends: personalization. We have been banging on the personalization drum for some time, and 2019 is not going to be any different. Marketers need to embrace personalization more than ever as consumers begin to expect more from their favorite brands and the content that they consume. If you want to learn more, we have some in-depth blogs about the rise of digital experience platforms, the benefits of an omnichannel content management system, what a headless content management system is, and how a digital experience platform is related to a content management system. To learn more about Contentstack’s headless CMS or begin using this powerful tool for your brand, you can start by trying it for free today.

Jan 17, 2019

Content Modeling and Headless CMS: A Match Made for the Future of Content

A study by GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81 percent of consumers conduct online research before making a purchase—with 60 percent going directly to a search engine before visiting a specific website. Another study of almost 50 thousand shoppers found that 73 percent of respondents make their everyday purchases in a variety of physical and digital channels. What does that mean for consumers? The demand for content is strong and the methods they use to search and make purchases are varied. And what does that mean for you? You’re going to need a carefully-structured content strategy if you want to deliver consistent, high-quality content when and where your audience wants it. And that structure is exactly what content modeling provides. That’s why, in this article, we’re going to make sure you have all the information and content management tools you need to create different content models that bring together various disciplines to help your content (and your business!) rise to the top no matter which channel or device a consumer is using. What is Content Modeling? Content modeling is a method for documenting all the types of content you’ll need—now and in the future—to ensure your content management system (CMS) is effectively configured for multiple channels. Content models work best when design, development, and content creation folks collaborate to make sure the CMS can serve readers the content they’re looking for when they’re looking for it—as well as user-friendly for internal stakeholders who will be using it to create and maintain content on a regular basis. With an effective content model in place, organizations can rest assured that their content strategy is sustainable and scalable no matter what the future of business content holds. How is a Content Model Different from a Wireframe? Content modeling future-proofs your content by planning and executing it separately from the structure of your website. Instead of content being permanently affixed to a specific spot on a specific page, content modeling encourages the development of CMS content modules that can be customized, reused, and displayed in different formats outside of your website. While it may live on your website, it’s structured and stored in a way that allows it to meet your target audience wherever they are. Today, consumers are seeking out content on a variety of channels. If your content is chained to a website’s structure, it won’t be able to surface in places like mobile websites, apps, voice-activated IoT devices (Hi, Alexa!), and more. “To meet the demands of content ... it's imperative that we think in terms of content types and not web pages. Sure, web pages still exist, but we have to think of them as a display of a specific set of information, not the structure of the information itself.” - Carrie Hane, founder of content strategy firm Tanzen What Does a Real-Life Content Model Look Like? A content model should contain detailed definitions of each type of content (blog, web page, draft, etc.), the components needed for each of these content types (fields like H1, meta description, body text, etc.), and the relationship (hierarchy, internal linking, etc.) between all the different content types. source The above example shows content types and the relationships between each for a media information and review website. A high-level model like this may be used to help communicate website goals to an engineering team or gain stakeholder approval. source The more detailed model above includes the components that make up each content type. This deeper level of detail can help inform the design of the page, aid in eventually configuring the CMS, and empower content creators to understand the breadth of their responsibilities. The level of detail on your content model will ultimately depend on the job you need it to do. How Content Modeling Brings Together Designers, Developers, and Content Creators Providing a comprehensive experience can feel like a huge, nebulous task in today’s ever-changing digital landscape. But content modeling unifies the experience by bringing together several disciplines to create something that doesn’t just look good but that also provides value for businesses and consumers alike. An effective content model encourages collaboration among designers, developers, and content producers while definitively conveying project requirements and goals. Information Architects and Designers In the context of a website, a content model tells information architects and designers what kinds of content and how much of it each section needs to display. With it, they may also be able to establish module “templates” to ensure a consistent user experience throughout the site. For design purposes, the content model doesn’t have to be detailed down to every single content attribute. However, you should be careful to include any specific functionality that will need to have design layered over it. CMS Developers It’s important for your development team to have a content model that carefully details your content needs and goals. If they know the desired result, they’ll have a better idea of what CMS to use and how to configure it to get you to your endpoint efficiently. If you don’t provide your developers with enough details in the content model, they’ll probably have to come up with them on their own. The risk here is that they likely don’t have the full view of all the design and content production requirements. Content Producers A detailed content model is a helpful outline for the authors and producers who will eventually create and upload content into the CMS. While a content creator won’t be as involved as a content strategist in constructing the content model, it’s helpful to remember that they probably will end up being the people who use it the most. The way the content model is designed and developed will have a big impact on how efficient and enjoyable their workflow is. 3 Steps to Creating Your Own Content Model It’s important to create content models that are as accurate and detailed as possible, as they will serve as the foundation from which your CMS is configured and your multi-channel content strategy is deployed. 1. Take Stock of What You Have (Or Need) If you’re going to redefine the infrastructure of your content, first you have to know what content you have. After gathering all your content in one place, review it to decide what to keep and what to eliminate. Next, develop a taxonomy that will inform the content model and help you port existing content into the final CMS. If you’re starting from scratch, during this first phase of content modeling you’ll want to create a master outline, complete with taxonomy, for content to be created in the future. 2. Determine Your Content Types and Components With your outline in place, it’s time to determine what kinds of content you’ll eventually need. Types of content could include an author bio, a blog post, a call to action, an image gallery, a testimonial showcase, a navigational menu, and so on. Within each of these types are the components (which may also be called “fields,” “elements,” etc.) which a content creator or manager will eventually fill in with live content. These component fields are usually labeled with things like “title,” “date,” “body,” etc. Don’t forget invisible components like metadata and tags that consumers may not see but that play a vital role in your content’s scalability and search engine ranking. source The point of this step is to create a blueprint for the reusable, customizable content modules that designers and developers will bring to life in the CMS. Here, you may design a rough sketch or wireframe so content managers can get an idea of how the content will be organized, developers can clarify questions about functionality, and you can gather feedback on how the content plan will be implemented. 3. Define Relationships to Bring the Whole Thing Together You know what content you want and how you want to display it. Now, it’s time to flesh out the final content model by defining how all of these elements function in relation to each other. This is when you’ll finally draw out a content model to help designers create consistent templates and developers ensure they’re building out connections and functionality correctly. The relationships you define in the content model will determine the workflow of the final CMS. source Content as We Know It is Changing The future of business is being able to deliver a flawless, personalized digital content experience across every device and channel; including websites, mobile devices, email, chatbots, AR, VR, voice-activated assistants, in-store displays, and even jumbotrons. At Contentstack, we create those comprehensive content experiences with headless CMS. Headless CMS is a new wave of API-first content management that allows modern organizations to display rich content in an entirely presentation-independent way. Contentstack’s industry-leading headless CMS empowers organizations to collaborate on robust content modeling, create optimized content, and consistently publish to every channel their audience is using. Contentstack also addresses the needs of business users and developers to improve content management in both legacy and modern channels; integrate all kinds of marketing, eCommerce, and analytics tools; and do it all with the availability, security, and scalability that your IT stack requires. It’s time to finally get your content where your audience is—which is everywhere—while cutting down on content deployment and management overhead. Don’t keep wasting time and resources, take Contentstack for a free test drive today.

Dec 18, 2018

History of Content Management Systems and Rise of Headless CMS

To understand how content management systems (CMS) first came on the scene and why there are different types, let's look back at how content has evolved on the web. DOWNLOAD The Ultimate Guide to CMS NOW.Web 1.0 Managing Static Web ContentWeb 1.0 is the term used to refer to the first stage of development on the World Wide Web that was characterized by simple static websites. The history of content management systems began in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee proposed an internet-based hypertext system HTML and wrote the browser and server software in late 1990. HTML came from SGML, which stands for the Standard Generalized Markup Language, and was created at IBM by Charles F. Goldfarb, Ed Mosher, and Ray Lorie in the 1970s. The first websites were simple HTML text files. You used an FTP program to copy the files to a directory under a running web server. In 1993, Mosaic browsers began supporting images that could appear along with text, and static brochure-like sites shared company and product information. In the early 1990s, the first step to managing content on a web page came with Server Side Includes (SSI). Server Side Includes let you keep portions of your site separate from the main content, such as the site menu or a footer. Around the same time, the Common Gateway Interface came on the scene that let you create interactive forms. As early as 1990, Tim Berners-Lee said the separation of document structure from the document's layout had been a goal of HTML. In 1994, Håkon Wium Lie worked at CERN and using the Web for publishing was growing. However, it wasn't possible to style documents, such as displaying a newspaper-style multi-column layout in a Web page. Lie saw the need for a style sheet language for the Web. Later Lie was joined by Bert Bos who was building a customizable browser with style sheets. By 1995 the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was up and running, and Lie and Bos worked together at the W3C on the first style sheets recommendations. In August 1996, the first commercial browser to support CSS was Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3. The next browser to support CSS was Netscape Communicator, version 4.0. Netscape's initial implementation to support CSS was more of an attempt to stop Microsoft from claiming to be more standards-compliant than Netscape. Unfortunately, the Netscape browser would frequently crash when the page included Cascading Style Sheets. The battle for controlling standards between Netscape and Microsoft came to be known as the browser wars. In 1996, ColdFusion added a full scripting language called CFML. Processing forms with ColdFusion or using the Common Gateway Interface and programming languages like Perl and Python became the norm. From 1995 to 1997, server-side scripting was the rage. During this same time, Personal Home Page (PHP) and Active Server Pages (ASP) came into play with server-side scripting for generating content sent from the server to the Web browser. Similar to ASP and PHP, JavaServer Pages (JSP) arrived on the scene later in 1999 and was built around the Java programming language and was also fairly popular. In 1997, Microsoft introduced iframes that let you split the HTML browser window into segments, with each frame showing a different document that could be used to display content from other sites, and was popular for presenting ads and banners. The iframe tag brought with it security, navigation, and search engine optimization issues that eventually were addressed. The DOM and Dynamic HTML RevolutionThe turning point came in 1997 as dynamic content came into its own with the introduction of the Document Object Model (DOM). The DOM defines the logical structure of documents that lets you identify and programmatically control parts of a document. The DOM is an application programming interface (API) for HTML and XML documents. For example, the DOM lets you access and manipulate the styles of HTML elements like the entire body (body) or a division (div) on a page. Dynamic HTML using Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, commonly called Ajax, was a revolutionary breakthrough letting developers request and receive data to update a Web page without reloading the page. Figure 1. A Timeline of Milestones for Web Content Management Web 2.0 and the Role of a CMSDynamic content delivery brought with it new ways to present and interact with content on the Web, with an emphasis on sites being more social. The term Web 2.0 helped define what is also called the participative or participatory and social web. Web 2.0 also refers to the surge in user-generated content and the ease of use to make websites work with other products and systems. As the web moved from being static brochure sites to interactive sites with dynamic content, the desire for collaboration and fresh, relevant content grew, and the need to manage content came to the forefront. Websites needed to be updated daily, with different people wanting to add and edit content. For example, then Marketing Department wants to update promotional material, Human Resources needs to post new jobs, the Public Relations Department needs to post press releases, the Docs Department needs to publish product documentation, the Support Department wants to interact with customers online, and so on. The role of a content management system was to provide the capability for multiple users with different permission levels to manage content for a website or a section of the content. The Core Components of a CMSThere are two core elements of any content management system (CMS): The Content Management Application (CMA) and the Content Delivery Application (CDA). A CMA for website content allows for the administration of users and groups so that they can create, edit, and remove site content. The CMA also includes the front-end user interface that allows a person to add, modify, and remove content from a Web site without requiring knowledge of HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), or programming languages, thus eliminating the involvement of a developer. The Content Delivery Application (CDA) compiles that information and updates the website. The Rise of the Monolithic CMSIt was apparent that a system was needed that would allow individuals and groups to manage and deliver content to the web. A monolithic CMS is a system that incorporates everything required for managing and publishing content to the Web. This type of CMS is a coupled system, meaning that it is an all-in-one content-management solution. We will take a more in-depth look into the difference between coupled and decoupled systems later in this article. Founded in 1985, FileNet is considered to be the first system that was a real content management system. In 1995 FileNet introduced a complete integrated document management suite of programs with document imaging, document management, and workflow. Vignette came on the scene in late 1995 with the goal of making web publishing more accessible and more personalized, and is commonly credited for originating the term “content management system.” A year later Vignette introduced StoryBuilder. Many enterprise CMSs began to appear around this time including, Interwoven (1995), Documentum (1996), FatWire (1996), FutureTense (1996), Inso (1996), and EPiServer (1997). Open Source CMS and FrameworksBy the early 2000s, content management systems dominated the web. Open source content management systems and frameworks began to appear. A framework is a programming library of pre-written code, such as the then-popular Zend framework written in the PHP programming language. OpenCMS, PHP-Nuke, Mambo, WordPress, Drupal, Plone, and Joomla all offered free alternatives for content management. WordPress gained popularity as an open-source solution focusing on blog content delivery and letting third-party developers add customizations and extensions. In 2006, Alfresco offered an open-source alternative to enterprise content management. The Website-Building Platform SurgeStarting in 2003, easy to use website-building CMS sites offered premade templates for people who had no coding experience, such as WordPress (2003), SquareSpace (2003), followed later by Weebly (2006), and Wix (2006). While not pure content management systems, these building platforms provided a path to building a small, low-cost website that required no knowledge of HTML, CSS, and coding. Web APIs, XML, and JSONA large part of Web 2.0 was making websites work with other products and systems. A Web API is a Programming Interface that allows access to a system, such as a website through standard HTTP request methods. The data is typically wrapped in a standard format, such as XML or JSON to make it easy to read and work with. XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language that is a data format. Like HTML, XML is a descendant of SGML, the Standard Generalized Markup Language. XML allows for transporting data through feeds and API calls because it's a platform-independent format. JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation that is a format of storing serialized data with key-value pairs and transmitting that data between a server and a web application. JSON feeds can be loaded asynchronously much more easily than XML and RSS feeds. Some sites, such as Twitter provide RSS feeds, which are easy to use on the server-side but frustrating on the client-side, since you cannot load an RSS feed with AJAX unless you are requesting it from the same domain on which it is hosted. JSON also gained preference over XML since it has a smaller footprint, is easier to use, and works great with JavaScript-enabled browsers since JavaScript automatically recognizes JSON. SOAP and RESTTo communicate object information back and forth for social and e-commerce sites, developers often use machine-based interactions, such as REST and SOAP. SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. REST stands for REpresentational State Transfer. REST is an architectural style, whereas SOAP is a protocol. An architectural style specifies guidelines that a developer must follow to be considered a RESTful API, including that it supports a client-server model, be stateless, cacheable, have a uniform interface, and be a layered system. A layered system is one where you can keep data on different systems, so your APIs can be on one server, data on a second server, and use a third server to authenticate requests. Developed in the early 1990s, SOAP did not come into the mainstream until the early 2000s. SOAP is a standardized, extensible, XML-based messaging protocol that is language-, platform-, and transport-independent with built-in error handling. SOAP uses Web Services Description Language (WSDL), which is a service description language. SOAP uses Web Services Description Language (WSDL), which is a service description language used to provide web services over the Internet. The WSDL specifies the available functions, so a client program can connect and discover the functions offered by the web services. SOAP is not as popular today and is being replaced with new APIs, such as REST and GraphQL. SOAP works well in distributed enterprise environments and is still used for B2B applications because you can define a "data contract" with it. However, in the web world, 70% of public APIs are RESTful APIs. When a RESTful API is called, the server will transfer to the client a representation of the state of the requested resource. REST uses multiple standards like HTTP, JSON, URL, and XML. A REST API uses a Web Application Description Language (WADL), and it doesn’t require the extensive processing SOAP does, so it is faster. It is also easier to use and more efficient and flexible than SOAP. RESTful web APIs are typically loosely based on HTTP methods to access resources via URL-encoded parameters and the use of JSON or XML to transmit data. JSON ensures reliable, fast, and easy data exchanges, so it is the most common data exchange format for working with RESTful APIs. Going Mobile with Web 3.0In the late 1990s and early 2000s Nokia Symbian, Palm, and Blackberry mobile devices provided access to the Web. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the Android smartphone in 2008 that mobile phones really had an impact on delivering web content. In 2010 smart tablets came on the scene. REST APIs and JSON data format were vital to delivering content to mobile devices. This megatrend of delivering content to mobile devices ushered in the mobile web era, which has also been called Web 3.0 to identify the shift from computers and laptops to mobile content delivery. By the beginning of 2014, mobile internet use exceeded desktop use in the U.S. This rise in content consumption by mobile devices presented a problem for the monolithic CMS that was explicitly created for delivering Web content to desktops and laptops. There was no way to deliver content for both desktop and mobile devices reliably. To address the rise of mobile web usage, developers began creating both desktop and mobile versions of their websites, with mobile designs offering stripped-down versions of select desktop website pages. The mobile sites were on a separate subdomain and called mobile or “” sites since the subdomains would end in “.m.” One problem that arose is that Google does not provide indexing of sites. Instead, Google only annotates the URLs to say the main website is mobile-friendly. In 2010, Ethan Marcotte introduced the term “responsive design” that promoted a shift in thinking from the fixed design for desktop websites to responsive, fluid, adaptable layouts. To deliver on the promise of responsive design, the W3C created media queries as part of the CSS3 specification. A media query allows developers to ascertain the type of device and inspect the physical characteristics of the device, such as the screen size. For example, using CSS you can use the @media rule to determine what screen size is being used and include a block of CSS properties for that device. Figure 2: Worldwide Mobile Growth Source: StatCounter Global Stats ( The Paradigm Shift to OmnichannelThe word “omni” means “all things” in Latin, so omnichannel refers to all possible channels. Just as the mobile channel was disruptive to the delivery of web content, new channels, such as smartwatches, gaming consoles, voice-activated devices like Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and Google Home are continually appearing that present content delivery problems for the traditional CMS. The paradigm shifts—from delivering content for a few channels to true omnichannel content delivery that is flexible enough to support whatever tomorrow’s channels may come on the scene—demand a better solution, which was the decoupled and headless CMS solution. The Decoupled and Headless API-First CMS SolutionA decoupled system consists of two or more systems that can transact without being connected, similar to the separation of an HTML (content) file from a CSS (formatting) and a JavaScript (programming) file. A decoupled CMS allows developers to make changes to the presentation (formatting) and behavior (programming) layer without affecting the content of the site. The term decoupled and headless are frequently used interchangeably, but there is a difference. A headless CMS does not have a front-end system or presentation environment. A headless CMS is API-first, which means it integrates content management tools via API. Separating formatting from content allows you to publish content to any device or channel. A decoupled CMS typically includes a front-end formatting system of templates. A headless CMS separates managing content from presenting formatted content; so in other words, it removes the interdependency of presentation and behavior layers from the content. Moving from a coupled system to a decoupled headless CMS opens up a new world of managing content. The Content Hub ArchitectureKey to the success of working with a headless CMS is the content hub architecture. A content hub centralizes all your content in one place using an API to deliver content anywhere. This content-centric approach accelerates and simplifies content management, letting your developers use the best-of-breed tools to create digital experience platforms (DXP) with omnichannel content delivery to help create more personalized customer journeys and more impactful digital experiences. Figure 3: The Content Hub Architecture Integration and FrameworksNot only does the content hub architecture help you with omnichannel content delivery, but using a content hub also gives you more freedom for integration. Using a headless CMS following the content hub architecture lets you choose the best of existing tools or services, such as marketing automation tools, analytics, a personalization engine, translation services, video delivery services, e-commerce platform, and AI extensions. The world of technology is constantly changing at a rapid rate. There is always a new way of capturing and delivering customer data better, faster, and cheaper. Integrations with a headless CMS with a content hub architecture makes it much easier to be agile and switch to new tools and services without disrupting your content or content delivery.Figure 4. Integration and the Content Hub Security and CMS SolutionsMost headless CMS offerings fall in the Content as a Service (CaaS) category, meaning the service is centralized and hosted on the Cloud. As with any CMS, you put your trust into your CMS vendor. This trust applies to any third-party applications that you integrate into your CMS as well. The benefit of using a reputable company with supported integrations that you can trust minimizes risk and ensures a safer more secure site. ScalabilityUsing a traditional CMS to handle increases in traffic is a typical solution to add multiple servers running the CMS. This is time-consuming and expensive. A headless CMS has the ability to scale and additionally avoid database bottlenecks that you are likely to encounter using a traditional CMS. Scaling is much easier to do with a headless CMS since most headless CMS offerings are Cloud-hosted, so it is possible to automatically adjust your Cloud infrastructure to match demand. Another important technology for being able to deliver content fast and on a global scale is the Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is a network of servers spread around the globe. Static assets and dynamic content of your website are cached and saved on all the CDN’s servers. When a person requests a page, the website retrieves cached content from the nearest CDN server and delivers it to the client. Having a CDN-enabled headless CMS vastly improves the performance of delivering content around the world. The Digital Experience PlatformGartner defines a digital experience platform (DXP) "as an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints. Organizations use DXPs to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile and other digital experiences." The headless CMS approach is quickly becoming a crucial component of the new generation of Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs). DXPs go significantly beyond web content management to create rich, engaging experiences for audiences addressing a multitude of channels. This ties in nicely with the content-hub architecture to enable any type of integration needed to deliver content to any channel. The Importance of PersonalizationPersonalization is key to building an effective Digital Experience Platform. Personalization means understanding your visitors’ interests and tailoring content to fit their needs and preferences, providing them with an experience they find relevant. The more relevant a person finds your message the more you increase customer loyalty and revenue. Personalization is a mission-critical marketing activity. Using a headless CMS, personal data is made available via APIs, web services, and open data standards, so you are not tied down by data stored in a pre-built system. Personalization tools and services, such as Optimizely, Monetate, One Spot, Evergage, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Adobe Target all help you track and act on a visitor’s behavior, location, profile, and other attributes to create a dynamically personalized, highly relevant experience. By creating a more meaningful experience for your visitors you’re also generating better business results. Artificial Intelligence and Machine LearningIn July 2018 at a Town Hall meeting in San Francisco, Google CEO Sundar Pichai called artificial intelligence “one of the most important things that humanity is working on,” saying that it is “more profound than electricity or fire.” Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are ushering in the next era of digital transformation. All major tech companies are following this mega-trend. Google offers TensorFlow; IBM, Watson and AI OpenScale; Adobe, Sensi; SalesForce, Einstein; Amazon Lex and Amazon Rekognition; Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services; and Facebook announced it is expanding its AI-research division to roughly 170 scientists and engineers. AI and machine learning are already having a significant impact on content management. Integrating your content hub with AI and machine-learning tools and services can help you discover hidden opportunities, speed up processes, and most importantly, offer relevant digital experiences to customers. Personalization engines are using AI and machine learning to deliver smarter, customized, and predictive customer experiences. In addition to the personalization services mentioned in the previous section, some examples of using content management with AI and machine language services and tools such as SEO optimization with CanIRank, MarketBrew, and BrightEdge; content creation and text analysis with MonkeyLearn, Acrolinx, Automated Insights, and Narrative Science; and translation services with KantanMT, and SYSTRAN. The Headless CMS SolutionThere will always be disruptive technologies that will change the CMS playing field. There is no doubt that AI and machine learning are going to play a huge role in the future of content management. The primary goal is to build the best digital experience platform with omnichannel delivery that is secure, scalable, and as future-proof as possible, such as Contentstack. By allowing you to integrate with new technologies and applications as they come on the scene, a headless CMS is likely to be the longest-lasting solution in the history of content management systems.

Dec 05, 2018

Understanding engaging and personalized digital experiences

A digital experience platform (DXP) is an integrated software framework for engaging a broad array of audiences across a variety of digital touchpoints. Organizations use DXPs to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile apps and other digital experiences. It takes multiple integrated technologies to control a wide span of touchpoints, which necessitates a central platform to be the control center for this expanded experience. As with all new things, the standardization of the particulars takes time and there’s a natural selection of which standard features end up sticking. The following is how the DXP evolved and what we think is critical for such a platform to drive value. Do you need a DXP?Not every CMS company has evolved their platform toward providing users with a full-blown DXP, mainly because they’re not critical for every user. The core principles of CMS—like version management, workflow, authorization, and content organization—are still fundamental to creating the typical digital experience. For companies that don’t rely on digital as a main driver of business, these features meet their current needs. Who Needs a DXP?DXP platforms should be considered by companies who are more digitally sophisticated or ambitious, i.e., companies that require, or would benefit from, a fully connected experience across several digital channels. Brands with multiple touchpoints, a diverse audience, high stakes in the digital experience or all of the above are ready for this type of platform. The businesses that are urgently in need of a DXP are those with multiple back-end systems and front-end tools currently sitting in disparate silos. This is especially true for organizations with marketers and developers hungry to innovate with highly personalized customer experiences. Deciding if you need a DXP, or are satisfied with a more elementary CMS, requires a critical look at where your digital experience is today and, even more importantly, at what level you want it to perform in the next five years. Ultimately, the right platform is the one that efficiently supports your needs, both current and future, at the right level. Diving deeper into DXPsTo help you evaluate whether implementing a DXP is right for your company, let’s dive a little deeper into understanding what makes up a DXP and how it can be used to support your digital brand. As we mentioned, a DXP is an integrated set of technologies, working together based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints. Imagine a powerful and highly dynamic CMS working together with any number of integrated tools or experience extensions to provide a cohesive user interaction across each platform with which a user interacts with your brand. How DXPs are usedOrganizations use DXPs to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile, and other digital experiences. DXPs manage the presentation layer based on the role, security privileges and preferences of an individual. They combine and coordinate applications, including content management, search and navigation, personalization, integration, aggregation, collaboration, workflow, analytics, mobile and multichannel support, in order to: Provide end users with unified, timely and continuous access to relevant information, interactions and knowledgeAggregate and coordinate disparate local and remote content, applications and web services into cohesive experiences Facilitate and apply user-experience design practices, such as persona modeling, journey mapping, responsive layout and data-driven design, to improve users' digital experienceWhat DXPs are notMany DXP offerings derive from portal platforms, web content management (WCM) systems or enterprise content and collaboration systems as they evolve and converge to support individualized digital experiences. DXPs should not be confused with digital commerce platforms. DXPs are designed to serve a broader range of use cases than digital commerce. Conversely, features and functions specific to digital commerce are not required for a product to qualify as a DXP platform. Still, several DXP providers offer native or integrated commerce functionality, which adds significant breadth to their offerings. Components of an engaging DXPTo better demonstrate how DXPs are structured and provide some dimension to the myriad ways they enhance the user experience, let’s take a closer look at the components that make them so powerful. The API-first headless CMS frameworkThe beauty of a headless CMS is that you have all your content separate, secure and organized. You never affect anything in the content layer by changing coding or formatting. Coding and formatting are isolated from the content layer and are carried out by APIs. APIs, with the addition of microservices, are key to the creation of an effective composable DXP. To truly integrate with best-of-breed technologies and harness the power of digital, a headless CMS is key to getting your content and your brand onto whatever touchpoint you want or require. Limitations of traditional CMSThe problem with a traditional CMS and the reason that a headless CMS are a critical component of a composable DXP is that changes often have to be made in the face of a large, monolithic block of code limiting the potential of the content layer. New development may necessitate an entirely new CMS or heavy modifications within the current system, which adds complexity and costs. These limitations make a traditional CMS cumbersome to maintain and difficult to expand. In our world of IOT, multiple devices and immersive experiences, this severely limits a company’s ability to move and adapt quickly. Adherents to this old technology will adapt and develop slower than their competitors who have embraced new standards. The content hubMore and more companies are investing in content creation, and the competition for the consumer’s attention is fiercer than ever. In order to gain engagement from your target audience, you have to deliver a content experience that is highly relevant and valuable, and a blog simply won’t cut it. For this reason, there is a lot of attention developing around content hubs and the benefits they provide for both the prospect and the business. A content hub centralizes all of your content into a one-stop shop for visitors. Implementing a hub into marketing campaigns that combine lead generation with lead nurturing can increase the value of your investment in content development. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of content hubs. 6 benefits of implementing a content hubCentralize your contentA content hub centralizes your blog posts, social media, videos, white papers and other content into a single destination that provides a more interactive and valuable experience to your website visitors. They don’t have to go searching for a content piece, as a hub presents everything they could want in one place. Boost context around contentA content hub allows you to provide context around your content. You can highlight your brand’s official content around a particular product while including third-party articles about the same product. This type of context helps add credibility and third-party endorsements while keeping visitors on your site. Distribute contentContent hubs amplify your content by making it easy to share the content via social media. Built-in social sharing buttons give your visitors the ability to share your content and customize messages with one click. A content hub also provides detailed analytics reports that let you know which of your content is more social-friendly and getting higher engagement, thereby allowing you to promote the appropriate content to increase overall amplification. Increase conversionsContent hubs increase conversions by keeping visitors on your site longer and highlighting content that’s valuable to them. As website visitors consume your content, a hub will allow you to feature optimized progressive profiling, pop-ups and gated or contextual calls-to-action (CTAs). Showing the right content and CTA to the right person at the right time will increase your lead conversion rates. More ControlA content hub allows you to control your content and the visitor experience better. When you send traffic to a website that’s not yours, you lose the ability to track and control the experience. A content hub lets you include social media on your website while allowing you to control and tailor the experience according to your desires and goals. CurationContent hubs with built-in content curation let you add third-party commentary to your branded content that serves to strengthen your brand’s voice. If your curated content cuts through the noise and brings clarity, it will help build trust and have your visitors coming back for more. Next up we’ll take it a step beyond content hubs and examine API integration, where you’ll learn more about API-based CMSes and why it’s essential to CMS integration as a whole. Tapping the power of integration with APIsWhat is an API-based CMS?The typical way to build a CMS-powered website is to choose a fully-integrated solution like WordPress and build your website as a collection of tightly embedded templates. If you want more control, you build your own integrated CMS using your preferred tech stack. An API-based CMS, also known as a headless CMS, is a relatively new approach to content management with many advantages over the “old” way. An API-based CMS allows you to build websites and apps that are decoupled from their content management tools and integrated via API. This decoupling gives you the flexibility to develop your front end using your preferred tools (e.g., Rails, Node.js, Angular) while being able to integrate a customized, robust CMS with ease. An API-based approach can save a team significant time and money in the initial implementation as well as ongoing maintenance. For more on headless vs. traditional CMS, don’t miss this article. How APIs transform the customer experienceAPIs (application programming interfaces) are becoming increasingly valuable to business because they have emerged as the most accessible way to extract value out of enterprise data. They’re the easiest way to connect systems so they can exchange information, with a seemingly endless variety of uses. They can be used to open up new revenue streams; improve existing products, systems and operations; and provide valuable insights to make better business decisions. But they have to be organized and connected in a strategic, holistic way to provide any value. The way we recommend APIs to be developed, built and deployed is through an approach called API-led connectivity. API-led connectivityAPI-led connectivity is a systematic way to use APIs, designed for specific purposes, to expose data and services onto a platform for broader consumption by the business. With this approach, rather than connecting data sources and systems with point-to-point integration, every asset becomes a modern, managed API. The APIs used in an API-led approach to connectivity fall into three categories: Process APIs: These APIs interact with and shape data within a single system or across systems (breaking down data silos) and are created without a dependence on the source systems from which that data originates, as well as the target channels through which that data is delivered. System APIs: These usually access the core systems of record and provide a means of insulating the user from the complexity or changes to the underlying systems. Once built, users can access data without any need to learn the underlying systems and can reuse these APIs in multiple projects. Experience APIs : Experience APIs are the means by which data can be reconfigured so it is most easily consumed by its intended audience, all from a common data source rather than setting up separate point-to-point integrations for each channel. An experience API is usually created with API-first design principles where the API is designed for the specific user experience in mind. By building and organizing your APIs this way and then making them discoverable and available for the business to self-serve, API-led connectivity makes your business composable, allowing teams throughout the business to compose, recompose and adapt these APIs to address the changing needs of the company. Imagine a shipping company builds an internal customer API (a process API) that includes information about registered customers, their address, email, purchase history, etc. from various system APIs in front of customer databases; in short, it creates a single view of their customers. This customer API can be used across the organization to achieve many business objectives. IT and other technical teams can use the API to create a mobile application for users, build an internal web platform for sales representatives or create a partner portal for shipping status, all with experience APIs. One internal API can have multiple use cases and help streamline business processes across the entire organization. In addition, organizations can also expose the API to partners, who can iterate on these APIs and provide a more comprehensive, omnichannel engagement for customers. With API-led connectivity, every API that is built continues to create value for future business requirements. Final thoughtsThe composable DXP is the future of content management. The question is whether it will optimize the way your organization delivers content to your audience and provide more value to your audience. The answer for many companies will be a resounding “Yes!,” which is why we highly recommend you explore headless CMS even further. We invite you to learn more about the Contentstack platform for your DXP. You can even try it for free here. Have questions, feel free to reach out and one of our experts will be happy to help you answer them.

Dec 03, 2018

How Smart Marketers Implement a Content Management System

There was a time where marketing consisted of developing a television commercial, radio commercial, and print advertisement. With those three tools, you had covered almost all of the important forms of media that your potential customers would interact with. You were free to kick your feet up, light a cigar, and pour a glass of whiskey at 1 PM just like Don Draper would do in Mad Men. Of course, things are a lot different in the marketing world these days. For starters, you probably can’t smoke cigars and drink in your office just because it’s a day that ends in “y.” The mediums by which you reach your current and potential customers have also changed as much as workplace etiquette. Now there is blogging, email marketing, social media, video sharing sites, and countless different types of devices that people consume content on. If you’re reading this, then you are likely already aware of the many challenges that go along with content marketing. You need to deliver exceptional results while juggling the continually changing landscape of marketing and technology in order to be where your audience is. This article will outline how smart marketers implement a content management system (CMS) to help manage the exciting, fast-paced world of content marketing. Most importantly, you will learn how a CMS can lead to better results for your efforts. Why Do Marketers Need to Care About CMS Implementation? As much as marketing and the mediums used for marketing have changed in the last few years, the coming years will bring about even more exciting change. Without proper CMS implementation, marketers may fall behind as they try to stay on top of the latest trends, manage existing channels, and deliver content to new channels. Essentially, a content management system is an investment for today as well as the future. CMS implementation also helps set the standard for your marketing team moving forward. With clear content management rules and guidelines, there will be less room for error and confusion. These examples only scrape the surface of the importance of a content management system. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of what a CMS can do for you and your team. What are You Trying to Achieve as a Marketer? Before jumping into the “how” of implementing a content management system, you must first understand the “why” regarding this type of system. What are you looking to achieve and why is this important? Once you uncover these pain points that you can improve with a CMS implementation, then you can begin working on creating a system that will work for your unique needs. Create a Cohesive Omnichannel Experience As mentioned above, the methods and mediums that marketers are using to reach their audience are constantly changing and developing. For example, by 2022, it is estimated that there will be 55 million VR headsets in America. How does this changing media landscape relate to an omnichannel marketing experience? Instead of trying to shoehorn marketing campaigns into different marketing channels, brands need to optimize their content for each channel. Also, as new channels develop or become available, brands need to be prepared to adapt and change with the trends. All of this, in a nutshell, is what an omnichannel experience is referring to. CMS implementation should address the omnichannel experience as one of the most critical aspects of implementing a system. Improve Workflow and Collaboration Among Your Team For any given marketing campaign, there could be many different people working to bring everything together. Copywriters, designers, editors, programmers, and management could all be involved in some or all aspects of each campaign. Without a robust content management system in place, workflow and collaboration can be significantly hindered by the barriers between teams or team members. A good CMS brings together all team members so that they can collaborate seamlessly, see the status of projects as they move through the development process, and ensure that everything is delivered in the way it was intended. Bring Consistency to Your Brand Every great brand offers consistency. From marketing to service, to product – people trust brands they feel can deliver a consistent experience. Without an effective CMS, consistency is often one of the main aspects of your marketing that suffers. Even minor differences in messaging or design can shatter the appearance of any consistency. These differences leave your marketing feeling disjointed across various channels. However, with a content management system that brings all teams together, consistency can quickly become a strong point for your marketing. When everyone is on the same page, you can feel confident that the same message will reach audiences regardless of the channel being used. Improving Customer Engagement Making a connection with the customer is the most basic goal of marketing. A campaign should drive customer engagement whether that be increasing social media followers, growth in sales, or some other metric. Of course, inconsistent marketing with poor team collaboration and not optimizing content for the channel it is being presented on will not be effective marketing. Many of the reasons for implementing a CMS boil down to improving customer engagement. With better content management will come better marketing and, ultimately, improved customer engagement. Integrate and Adapt On-The-Fly By now, you’re well aware of the many different marketing channels, how they are changing, and how that change could affect your marketing strategy in the future. Knowing this information and being able to adapt your marketing accordingly are two separate things. As a marketer that is creating a CMS, you want to be sure you can integrate new tools quickly and easily without disrupting your entire team. With the right CMS, change is nothing to fear. Selecting the Best CMS Solution The importance of an effective, agile content management system is clear to many marketers. Choosing the right CMS solution, however, is not always so clear. With many different options and types of CMS solutions available, making the right decision can feel a little bit daunting. Luckily, breaking down the differences can help lead you to the right choice for your business. There are some fundamental, essential, features that you should look for when beginning your search for the perfect content management system. Having these features packed into one solution makes launching your CMS a much smoother experience and allows you to adapt and change as needed. Step 1: Focus on Where You Need to Focus – Marketing! First, you want to find a content management system that is relatively hands-off with regards to development and management. It may seem like an easy way to save money but, ultimately, developing and managing your own CMS software will turn into a time vortex from which you may never escape. Okay, so that was a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Go with a proven solution that allows you to do what you do best: marketing. Leave the technical stuff up to someone else. Step 2: Examine the Features Next, you want to find a solution that allows for greater scaling, efficient integrations, and exceptional support. All of these are essential features to help you grow and develop without roadblocks. A few questions to ask could include: “How can I integrate third-party services we already utilize?” Or, “How do I add new team members, new marketing channels, and other important features as we grow?” Your content management system shouldn’t hold you back. Being able to integrate the features you want, grow your CMS alongside the needs of your team, and manage multiple channels from one convenient location should be some of the essential features you look for. Step 3: Look for Efficient Support Finally, you need a content management system that you can feel comfortable working with. This includes timely and friendly support as well as an intuitive and efficient UI. With all of these features in mind during your search, you will be able to choose the best CMS solution for your needs. The Three Types of Content Management Systems While some content management systems may share similar features, not all systems are built the same way. Choosing the right type of CMS can make all the difference, especially as you grow, add new channels, and look to integrate new third-party services. There are three types of content management systems you will see as you begin your search to find the right CMS solution for your team. These systems types include: Coupled CMS, Decoupled CMS, and Headless CMS. Coupled CMS, also known as a Traditional CMS, connects the content database with the content creation and content publishing areas. At first glance, this may seem like the clean and simple way to do things. However, the downside to choosing a Coupled CMS solution is that pages and content must conform to the CMS infrastructure for formatting content. This makes growing, integrating new channels, and optimizing content very difficult. Ultimately, the final product may not look as intended during the content delivery stage. Decoupled CMS breaks apart the content creation and content publishing. This solves some of the issues with Coupled CMS but it doesn’t go far enough. Even though the publishing is separated from the content and programming, the front-end formatting still dictates how content is to be designed and presented. Headless CMS, like Contentstack, uses APIs to connect with different publishing mediums. This means that you can use an API to deliver formatted content for any channel, so that content will fit the medium it is being presented in. Not only does a Headless CMS take out a lot of the development legwork for marketing teams, but it also provides greater flexibility. As technology changes and the mediums you use to market to your audiences change, Headless CMS is best-suited to iterate and adapt rapidly. Developing a CMS Implementation Plan You now know a lot about content management systems, so it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start making a plan. How do the best marketers implement a content management system? The first step is to highlight the features that are most important to you and your team. What kind of third-party services do you want to integrate when you implement your CMS? What are the pain points you are looking to relieve by implementing CMS? Next, you need to create a timeline for the implementation and get buy-in from stakeholders. This gives internal and external stakeholders an opportunity to adapt to the changes and also ensures that you will not be negatively disrupting your operations by implementing a CMS strategy. Examples of Smart Approaches to CMS Many successful businesses have trusted Contentstack with their CMS strategy including the Miami Heat and PhotoBox. Both organizations saw massive improvements in their marketing strategy as a result. Miami Heat’s Mobile App The Miami Heat are a perfect example of the benefits of effective CMS implementation. The results are staggering with 50% reduced development cost and a 220% increase for in-app traffic and active users. Those are numbers that are sure to get every marketer drooling. Matthew Jafarian, VP of Digital Strategy and Innovation with the Miami Heat says, “What we’re powering with Contentstack today represents one of the most important initiatives for the Miami Heat.” The Miami Heat mobile app has become a VIP hub of sorts for fans. From using the app as their digital ticket to checking in for fresh offers, to launching season ticket campaigns – fans have a direct connection to the team through their mobile devices, and the results reflect that connection. PhotoBox PhotoBox has enjoyed similar success after choosing Contentstack for CMS. They have reduced development hours substantially, decreased load times on their pages, and introduced new features. One of the biggest things that attracted PhotoBox to Contentstack for their CMS solution was the ability to change and develop rapidly. PhotoBox largely focuses on web and mobile, but they are excited about the prospect of easily integrating new marketing channels as they continue to grow. Better Performance, Lower Costs, Increased Flexibility You have seen real-life examples of how world-class marketers are using Contentstack to help implement a content management system that will take their business to the next level. Are you ready to see how Contentstack can give your marketing team the flexibility and control you have always dreamed of? Contact Contentstack today to learn more about creating and implementing a unique CMS solution for your marketing team.

Nov 08, 2018

10 MUST KNOW Development Trends to Keep You on the Cutting Edge

Staying on top of emerging web development trends is a critical requirement for staying on the cutting edge. That said, developers often get complacent in their positions and don’t prioritize delivering the most significant possible outcomes from their work. Don’t be one of them. We’ve compiled this list of the most impactful web development trends of this year and beyond. We’re not talking about short-lived fads that will be irrelevant six months or a year from now, but the advancements that will have a lasting impact on how development is done as a whole. These are the development trends you need to be paying attention to remain relevant and competitive in your space.Personalization and Immersive TechnologiesOne of the greatest trends emerging in the development space is that of hyper-personalization and immersive technologies being used to enhance the way users interact with technology, especially online.1. Artificial IntelligenceSociety has been talking about AI for years as if it were some far off technology from science fiction. As developers, we know that AI is all around us but often don’t fully understand how it’s impacting the work we do day in and day out.Simple AI chatbots are popping up everywhere you look, but what about using AI to expand the way our users interact with us online? Machine learning, inference, planning, and perception have the potential to provide an enhanced user experience and streamline prospect/customer interactions. Without the ability to learn, applications approach problems the same way each time. The same mistakes appear over, and over and nothing is done to optimize the result based on prior experience. Machine learning allows web apps to adapt based on user habits, preferences, and idiosyncrasies to deliver an experience tailored to their unique qualities. It’s something every developer should be excited about incorporating into their designs and skillset. 2. Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR)The next development trend on the list is two development trends all wrapped up into one, or at least two distinct technologies that can support an exceptional UI when well executed. Both Virtual Reality (completely simulated) and Augmented Reality (a mix of virtual and real world inputs) can be used to deliver information to the user in a way that immerses them entirely, creates a unique experience, and delights.Well executed VR can take consumers into a whole new world, and more importantly, into an entirely new level of understanding about a product or offering faster than any other experiential development to date. Similarly, AR can make the mundane interesting, piques curiosity, and allows for measured, interactive consumption of information.While these two toolsets are past their infancy and are still somewhat novel but you can plan on them being a standard feature of websites, apps, and software in the very near future.3. Voice Assistants and Conversational AI Platforms (CAPs)Voice assistants have been supporting users on mobile devices and in their homes for years, and their increasing popularity has given rise to the need to prepare your web assets for voice search, as well as their inevitable integration. Companies like Snips are helping device makers incorporate voice assistants without the need to develop proprietary software.As you might imagine, it’s only a matter of time before these voice assistants become a part of the enterprise business website. The implications that these will have on development are substantial, as these sites will essentially need to be able to execute commands based on the user’s vocal instructions alone, entirely independent from any traditional input interface.While individual voice assistants aren’t here yet, it’s critical to understand how your current web assets can benefit by supporting today’s user’s voice-centric demands. In doing so, you’ll be able to take the smooth incremental steps toward what the future holds, versus a giant (and potentially messy) leap. The Need for SpeedYou find speed at the forefront of any discussion about the future of development (and technology as a whole). Speed has always been a must, but the UX demands of tomorrow’s top performing websites will require a greater developmental focus on speed and performance than we could have possibly imagined just two years ago. The following trends all have a focus on speed.4. API-First Headless CMS and Fast Omnichannel DeliveryAn API-first headless CMS can deliver content to multiple channels—such as a laptop, mobile phone, and a smartwatch—a whole lot faster. Unlike a traditional CMS, a headless CMS can leverage an API to provide content directly to any channel, even emerging ones, without changes to the core dev. Also, to integrate best-of-breed solutions for content delivery, such as adding a personalization engine, a headless CMS eliminates the need for a traditional CMS specialist to try to integrate a solution with a single coupled system. Beyond speeding up omnichannel delivery, a headless CMS is faster and less expensive than a traditional CMS in regards to development and content creation. A headless API-first CMS lets the content team work independently on content while developers work separately on building CMS templates. This separation does not exist in a traditional CMS, where both the coding and content are linked together within one system requiring developers to handle formatting for delivery in the same space as the content. Another speed benefit is that most API-first headless CMS solutions typically exists in a Content as a Service (CaaS) cloud environment, they are much much easier to scale and deliver omnichannel content than a traditional server-based CMS. In addition, some cloud-based headless CMS offerings include a Content Delivery Network (CDN), which is a group of servers distributed around the world that cache and deliver content from a server in close proximity to the user making the request. A CDN reduces bandwidth from local servers and reduces latency resulting in much faster delivery of content. 5. Progressive Web AppsProgressive web apps (PWA) are touted as the future of the web, primarily because they deliver what people want from their web experience: exceptionally fast load times, highly intuitive user experiences, and functionalities that emulate those found in your phone’s native apps.With more development frameworks popping up all the time, developers are spoiled for choice. Google’s Polymer Project is working to standardize the reusable web components that make PWA so that these elements can be swapped between frameworks, allowing you to create hybrids with multiple toolings based on the unique requirements of your project.6. Static Website GeneratorsStatic website generators are all about generating code that is as simple and light as possible while maintaining the dynamic impact delivered by a traditional website. They’re fast and secure, and they’ve been an increasingly popular development tool in recent years, especially for those building smaller sites. Larger sites tend to shy away from them due to the poor UI and lack of a proper CMS.That said, they’re important tools that every developer should be aware of, as they may advance in the future to serve larger and larger website development projects. It is also important to note that since these tools cater to many new businesses, who can’t afford elaborate development, they have a captive audience who are building loyalty to a specific generator and may take those tools with them as their companies and needs grow. To put it another way, today’s WIX may be tomorrow's WordPress, so keeping your eye on these generators is pertinent.7. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, aren’t exactly groundbreaking as they’ve been around for a few years now. However, as Google continues to prioritize the mobile user experience, these pages are becoming increasingly important. The AMP Project is one of Google’s initiatives to deliver the ultimate experience to its majority of users (mobile users) across every site they visit. Essentially it’s a list of criteria that developers must follow to provide fast load times and an easy-to-consume mobile website.If you aren’t already developing AMP, you should be. Having your mobile projects rank well is critical to successful development, and Google controls the game. You can be that AMP is a fast track to good Google mobile results.CybersecurityThe web is a scary place, and high profile breaches, hacks, and malware have all eyes on cybersecurity as a critical factor for success and stability. Long gone are the days when only the IT department had to worry about security. Good developers have to produce code that protects their products, companies, and consumers.8. GDPR FactorYou need to be developing with GDPR in mind.GDPR made headlines for a good reason. Europe is leading the way with the protection of personal identity and personal info, and developers in the know understand that this is the way the world is heading. This web development trend isn’t one any of us can ignore. It’s made enough headlines on its own for you to be aware of it, but don’t miss this excellent article from Smashing about how it will impact your job directly. 9. Internet of Things (IoT) and SecurityThe Internet of Things has taken the world by storm, with more smart devices than one ever thought possible filling the homes of today’s gadget-happy tech enthusiasts. Development for these technologies has become an increasingly important web development trend on its own, but the popularity and prevalence of this technology has also presented developers with a new challenge—keeping users secure. Some of these devices can tap into users’ private info on their own, while others represent a backdoor network through which threat actors can gain access. As development for advancing IoT applications continues to increase, it’s important to pay special attention to what can be done to fortify the security of these devices. 10. Blockchain and CryptocurrencyThe rise of blockchain technology, as a support of cryptocurrency, in recent years has been fascinating, to say the least, and presents incredible opportunities for developers. You may have even invested in bitcoin, for better or for worse, but you may not be fully aware of why this tech presents itself as the final web development trend on our list. Blockchain has shown us that every transaction can be encrypted and only accessed by a private key. Sure, all financial and confidential data transactions can be made far more secure, but this takes peer-to-peer encryption to a new level and ups the ante for virtually all online communication. Furthermore, because every blockchain revalidates its content every ten minutes, users would have to override an entire network to corrupt a single piece of data in a block. This validation provides both security and stability, in a way that we are only beginning to understand the capacities of. The implications this technology can have on development are astounding and cannot be ignored.Final ThoughtsThe development space can be highly personalized, with each developer conducting themselves differently than the next. Different toolings, skill sets, and work habits produce different results. However, the web development trends outlined in this articles will impact us all. Some already are, others may take time before their presence is felt within your particular work environment, but at some point, they will make themselves known and have some level of impact.The best web developers are those that remain aware of everything happening in their world, both immediate and for the future, to be better equipped to embrace what will inevitably come knocking at their doors.

Aug 13, 2018

GraphQL: A Query Language for APIs

GraphQL was developed internally at Facebook by Nick Shrock, Lee Byron, and Dan Schafer in 2012, and it was released as an open-source project to the public in 2015. The list of companies using GraphQL is impressive, for example, Shopify, GitHub, Twitter, Pinterest, Stripe, and Photobox are all are using GraphQL and companies such as Amazon are creating GraphQL apps and content management tools supporting the move to GraphQL. When I asked Christopher Taylor-Davies, Enterprise Architect at Photobox, why he thought that GraphQL was gaining so much momentum after being available for the past three years, he said “It's a relatively lightweight framework that doesn't demand that you do things in a certain way. With just a little bit of tweaking, you can make it talk to a broad range of backend services and provide a simple way for your clients to connect to diverse systems. It survived the scrutiny of early interest by delivering, and because it didn't break things, people kept using it.” The following delves into what GraphQL is and the basics of how it works, its pros and cons, and what is likely to be the future for GraphQL. What is GraphQL? The “QL” in GraphQL stands for query language. However, GraphQL is actually a specification. Nick Shrock, one of the creators of GraphQL, points out that “GraphQL does not mandate a specific language backend, and it does not mandate a specific storage engine...It is all about a standardized type system and a standardized API...A GraphQL server exposes a single endpoint. That endpoint parses and executes a query, that query executes over a type system that’s defined in the application server.” The “Graph” in GraphQL refers to the organized data on the application server in a graph structure. The following shows an example of book and author data organized in a graph. In GraphQL there is one endpoint that returns a data graph. Each object represents a node, and the edges between the objects represent the connections to the objects in the graph. Book and author data in an application server data graph The Basics of GraphQL GraphQL has three main building blocks: the schema, queries, and resolvers. In addition to these building blocks, GraphQL includes an impressive introspection feature. The following sections explain each of these and examine how they work together. The Grand Plan: The GraphQL Schema GraphQL has a schema, so there is a type structure that describes the shape of your data. The schema defines an object type for each node. A GraphQL service defines a set of types which thoroughly describes the set of data you can query on that service. When queries are received, they are validated and executed against that schema. In other words, the schema is the data definition used for the request, and a type system defines all data that can be given in a query response. GraphQL defines some object types out of the box. For example, query type and scalar types, such as integer, string, and boolean. The API developer defines the rest of the objects using the GraphQL Schema Definition Language (SDL). The following is an example of a snippet of a schema that shows how each element has a type definition. type Book { id: ID title: String published: Date author: Author } type Author { id: ID name: String book: [Book] } The Ask: GraphQL Queries A query is precisely that, a query or request from the server for specific data. The following is an example of a GraphQL query that asks for a book and author by its ID number. type Query { book(id: ID): Book author(id: ID): Author } Using REST you would need to create multiple endpoints that you would have to write individual requests for, so you would need one request for book information and another request for author information. With REST, it is possible to code workarounds to parse data and only include the data you want, however, GraphQL gives you a standardized way to get all the information with a single query. Suppose that you want to get additional info about an author and the books he or she has written. Using REST would require multiple requests or creating a custom workaround to get each book by the author, but with GraphQL it requires a single GraphQL query, as shown in the following example. { book(id: 100) { title isbn date author { name bio books { name } } } } The beauty of this is that you can selectively get data without having to make multiple round trips to fetch the data. Let’s say you are creating an app that needs lots of different kinds of data, in different contexts. Instead of formulating multiple queries, one for each context, GraphQL lets you use one query to give you all the data that you need. Making It Happen: GraphQL Resolvers A resolver is what is responsible for accessing your data. A resolver tells GraphQL how and where to fetch the data corresponding to a given field. For example, a resolver might be used to fetch the title of a book. REST APIs follow the CRUD (Create Read Update and Destroy) model that is used to operate on a resource. In GraphQL resolvers are defined on an individual object, so each data type in your data graph will be supported by a resolver. Unlike REST, there is no mapping between functions implemented on the server and HTTP methods. So you are not required to use a GET request to fetch data, nor are you required to use a POST request to change or delete data. Say, for example, you use an HTTP POST request to query the server for data; the API will start executing at the query root. The query goes through each field, executing a resolver for each field. The resolver sends the response back to the client, and the server’s response mirrors the client’s request. In other words, the resolver takes the name of the requested object as the key value and the “resolve value” becomes the returned value. Looking Within: GraphQL’s Introspection System GraphQL provides an “introspection system,” an inherent self-documenting feature that lets you use queries to return information about themselves. Introspection makes a GraphQL schema discoverable and machine-readable. Software that works with GraphQL queries doesn’t have to be permanently connected to work with any particular set of fields; it can ascertain the fields automatically. Introspection is a helpful feature built into the GraphQL API so that when you type a new field name, an IDE can automatically offer possible field names directly with autocomplete. Another feature of the introspection system is that you can use it to access documentation about the type system and create context-driven documentation. The Benefits of GraphQL The most significant benefit of GraphQL is that it allows for relational queries with one trip to the API. While a REST API requires loading from multiple URLs or coding workarounds, GraphQL presents a standardized API for queries that enable you to follow references between them. GraphQL APIs get all the data your app needs in a single request so that an app using GraphQL executes quickly even on slow connections. GraphQL’s introspection system is also a big plus for helping developers ensure that coding is correct and providing built-in documentation. Since GraphQL is language and system agnostic, the market is bursting with support for GraphQL. There are several popular languages, server-side frameworks, client libraries, and services available for working with GraphQL. You implement the GraphQL API on the server-side, and there are some great GraphQL servers, such as Apollo, Express, and Prisma. On the client-side, Relay is Facebook’s open-source GraphQL client, and Apollo Client is an extremely popular community-driven client. Additionally, there are some fantastic GraphQL tools, such as GraphiQL (Note the “i” before QL), a first-class debugging tool that gives you hints and points out errors as you type. Another example is Gatsby’s GraphQL powered site generator that lets you build websites by pulling data from headless CMSs, such as Contentstack (a shameless plug), SaaS services, APIs, databases, and so on. The Problems with GraphQL GraphQL is not the panacea API. There are plenty of people on the web bashing GraphQL and letting you know about its shortcomings. Some of the things that are difficult with GraphQL include hiding data, versioning, representing state, and server caching issues. Third parties are already addressing some of these issues. For example, Apollo provides stack libraries for hiding data, Apollo Link State for handling state, and Apollo Cache-Control for GraphQL caching. Some issues are just treated differently by GraphQL. The GraphQL site states in its best practices docs that it “takes a strong opinion on avoiding versioning by providing the tools for the continuous evolution of a GraphQL schema.” GraphQL is also subject to the same vulnerabilities as any web application so that access control implementation is crucial. The Future of GraphQL GraphQL is a standardized API that reduces the amount of code to write, is less prone to errors, and provides built-in documentation. In most cases, building an app with GraphQL is the better choice than REST since it delivers a standard for one-trip relational queries, rather than multiple round-trip queries that not only slow down your app, but they also eat into your data plan. GraphQL’s single trip, standardized architecture is ultimately better, cheaper, and faster than the REST alternative. While it has its shortcomings, these issues are bound to be resolved over time. It is likely that GraphQL will continue to gain popularity over REST in the future as new developers begin by choosing GraphQL over REST as their starting point.

Jul 25, 2018

What is Blockchain and Blockchain-as-a-Service?

When Amazon Web Services introduced Blockchain back in April this year, to compete with the growing number of vendors on the market, it became clear that the big enterprise players were keen to jump on the Blockchain-as-a Service (BaaS) bandwagon. SAP also recognized this need and got on board with a BaaS called “Leonardo” which is based on Hyperledger and available in the SAP Cloud Service. Since this is a cloud service, it requires no on-premises software or hardware and is accessible from any device. Leonardo is a blockchain cloud service and supports the IoT in a single ecosystem. SAP HANA Blockchain service (coming soon) will offer a custom solution for enterprises depending on their specific needs. A growing number of startups are also starting to embrace blockchain because it offers a realm of possibilities for both businesses and consumers, ranging from a whole new monetary system and method of facilitating international payments to a distributed ledger and data source that applies to many other business essentials such as supply chain, logistics, crowdfunding, etc. There are many possibilities for blockchain, and both companies and consumers are still figuring it all out. But for now, we are off to a good start. What Exactly is Blockchain? Blockchain is a technology that was created by the anonymous person (or group) using the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” in 2008. Although there were previous efforts in this area by other potential “creators,” it was Satoshi who brought Blockchain to life. Blockchains are distributed ledgers that rely on internet-connected, individual computers and open software across the globe, to verify individual transactions and maintain a continually growing list of records referred to as blocks. Since the process works with a series of blocks, it is aptly named blockchain. Each newly created block receives a timestamp which connects it to the previous block. These blockchains are crowd validated and therefore resistant to any alterations as at least 50% of participating computers must confirm any given block. Crowd validation makes blockchain an exciting, safe, and verifiable solution for any transaction. In summary, blockchain allows us to build applications where multiple parties can record transactions quickly and efficiently without needing a trusted, central authority to ensure that transactions are secure and verifiable. This decentralized validation is made possible by the establishment of a peer-to-peer network that gives each participant access to a shared ledger where independently verifiable transactions are recorded. “Blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) provides the easiest, lowest-risk gateway to experimenting with distributed ledger technology in the cloud.” – SAP Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) is set to play a crucial role in the IT sector going forward. According to a recent Gartner report; “as of February 2017, “blockchain” was the second most-searched-for term on, having increased in volume by 400% in the last 12 months.” In the same report, David Groombridge, research director at Gartner, said that “blockchain resolves the problem of a lack of trust between counterparties” which sums up why it’s so popular. It makes the whole process of business transactions more efficient and protected. A recent report by IBM stated that “91 percent of surveyed banks are investing in blockchain solutions for deposit-taking by 2018 to protect against start-up non-banks.” These investments show just how much of an impact blockchain has made on the financial sector. Banking isn’t the only industry that can benefit from blockchain. Other industries are beginning to take notice, such as academia, music, areas, and cybersecurity – for a start. The point is that blockchain is about to become a regular part of our lives. Why Do We Need Blockchain? Business transactions take place every second on a daily basis, for example, orders, account tracking, payments, and more. Each participant often has their own ledger which means that their version of the truth may differ from other participants. Having multiple ledgers like this is a recipe for disaster as it can result in errors, inefficiency, and fraud. The difference in using blockchain is that all members share a universal version on the truth so it’s possible to see all transaction details end-to-end which reduces those vulnerabilities. The reality is that ordinary transactions are complex and blockchain provides a way to bypass that unnecessary complexity. Here’s a brief comparison: Issues with standard transactions: Each participant has their own ledger which increases the chance of fraud or human error. The process can become paper-laden, meaning a high frequency of delays and potential losses for stakeholders. The reliance on intermediaries for validation can create inefficiencies. Benefits of blockchain transactions: There is a one single, shared, tamper-evident ledger and transactions can’t be altered once recorded. There is no need to track disparate ledgers. All network members have access rights so that confidential information is kept that way and shared only on a need-to-know basis. Before adding a new transaction to the network, all parties must give a consensus. Speeds up processes: Elimination or reduction of paper processes which makes the transactions more efficient. Security: Transactions require a consensus from all members of the network and validation before they are permanently recorded. Transactions cannot be deleted by any members, not even system admins. Where Can We Use Blockchain? The possibilities surrounding blockchain are endless. Let’s look at a few popular uses of blockchain and another few you may not have thought of. Identity Using blockchain means that you don’t have to build your own identity infrastructure - i.e., identity cards, badges, etc. These can all be replicated so how do you verify them? With blockchain, you can store your identity details in Ethereum's open blockchain, and this can be verified by anyone who queries by simply opening blockchain. Notary Storing records in paper ledgers makes them accessible to tampering. You can’t tamper with blockchain data. See what I’m getting at here? If someone starts messing with your records in blockchain, the chain is broken and you’ll know straight away. Healthcare Healthcare organizations are examining the use of blockchain to improve data sharing in healthcare. Securing medical data with blockchain could improve the wellness of patients, lower admin costs, significantly reduce fraudulent billing, and manage credentials. Distributed Storage Right now, you probably use Google Drive or Dropbox to store your documents, files, etc. The issue with this is that you’re trusting that those companies won’t look at your data or disclose it to any third party. Blockchain data is different. It’s decentralized and stored on different computers on a high encryption network. So basically, your data is locked away in a distributed vault that you – and only you – can access, quickly and at a lower cost. Supply Chain Blockchain is an immutable data source for tracking goods through their lifespan. It tracks from raw material to the field and uses smart contracts to facilitate transactions between customers and dealers. Financial Transactions Blockchain networks allow multiple parties to transact directly without a central authority involved. Eliminating a central authority makes the whole process more efficient when it comes to clearing cross-border payments, settlements, and other financial transactions that usually require an intermediary. Insurance Smart contracts based on blockchain can auto-approve trigger payments and claims which removes the need for manual intervention. Eliminating involving additional people could potentially automate claims management processes and heavily reduce fraud by verifying customers, claims, and policies. Blockchain and Content Management A CMS manages and distributes digital content. As we’ve seen, the blockchain introduces a new approach to storing, securing and managing digital data of all kinds through the introduction of its immutable, distributed ledger. For content that is regulated (e.g. subject to GDPR) or proprietary and monetized (such as an e-book), the idea of a blockchain-enabled CMS is appealing because it infuses the dissemination of content with an element of control and accountability. For the same reason that blockchain works so well in the healthcare, financial, notary and legal professions, a blockchain style CMS to manage the creation and display of content suitable for those industries is equally as desirable. The Future of Blockchain Blockchain is fast becoming recognized as the ledger system of the future. If you’re going to get on board, then you should do it now. This technology has vast potential that is being pushed even further by the high profile companies, research institutions and governments who continue to heavily invest in it.

Jun 27, 2018

Digital experience platform (DXP) vs. CMS

What is a digital experience platform (DXP) vs. a legacy CMS? Digital experience platforms are fast becoming an industry necessity, but what differentiates them from a traditional CMS system? Gartner defines a digital experience platform as “an integrated software framework for engaging a broad array of audiences across a broad array of digital touchpoints,” further noting that “organizations use DXPs to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile apps and other digital experiences.” The best way to explain digital experience platforms is to look at the building blocks that led to the necessity for a central platform to control a wide span of digital touchpoints. DXPs began with content management systems (CMSes) which helped companies to gain control over their content, so let’s look further into CMS and web experience management (WEM) and how they paved the way for DXP. WCM: Web Content ManagementA content management system, or CMS, is a program that enables enterprises to manage digital content by adding, editing or deleting content and facilitating its delivery by publishing it electronically. While CMS programs vary, the majority include format options, web-based publishing, indexing, editing and version control,and search/retrieval of content. Using a CMS, users can create and edit content and assign different permissions to other users involved. The CMS landscape was characterized by analysts under the acronym of WCM – or web content management – because of the predominance of content published to websites. Alongside the perks of using a CMS to simplify content management, its evolution over the last few decades leads us to the next transition in web content management with the emergence of web engagement management, or WEM. WEM: Web Engagement ManagementWeb engagement management has changed the way we build and utilize online content management systems. Back in the day, most businesses started off their websites as a stand-alone feature that was utilized by marketing as a promo channel. You’d open the page, see a few pretty pics and marketing jargon and if you were lucky, a product brochure available to download. These sites told the visitor what to do rather than trying to figure out what the visitor had come to the site for and adapting to meet that need. In time, the web began to evolve, but communication still very much veered towards marketers talking at you rather than with you. Communication was predominantly one-way rather than conversational, and customer input was only gathered via web forms (if it ever was). In 2005, Web 2.0 arrived, famously ushered in by Tim O’Reilly. This was the birth of web engagement. A new internet came into play, consisting of blogs, content feeds, comments, and social media and networking input. The tone of communication changed as people began to spend much more time online. Soon, organizations began to take notice and reacted to the new web changes by rebuilding their online presence to promote visitor engagement, give visitors a voice, and increase their participation in these online conversations. Which, in 2007, led to the emergence of Web 2.0 content management. However, the need for a more comprehensive technology soon became apparent. Today’s visitors have extremely high expectations for their digital experiences. They want to see relevant content and have a consistent user experience across all devices, all of which brings us to the next step in content management technology: digital experience platforms (DXPs). DXP: Digital Experience PlatformsDXPs work by combining the benefits of WEM with those of an open platform. Utilizing a composable architecture designed around microservices and APIs reduces the IT complexity that was often an issue with deploying and operating WEM. Digital experience platforms are not just about content; they have evolved to meet the needs of businesses by allowing them to share all types of assets across any digital touchpoints, whether it’s online, in kiosks, on billboards, or e-commerce systems. DXPs use a consistent satisfactory customer experience to transition the customer from the acquisition stage to becoming an advocate for the company. The need for this customer-centric, consistent experience led to the need for an agile digital experience platform. Every system that we’ve looked at here focuses on creating a customer-brand interaction that meets the needs of both parties, and the focus now is on evolving how that happens. The rise of the open digital experience platformIt’s no longer practical to expect to have one company provide the tools to control your entire digital experience. Digital experience platforms that exist within a traditional/legacy CMS are not true DXPs. Even if packaged as a comprehensive suite with many add-on options, it still exists only within the confines of a single vendor’s purview. The number of digital touchpoints has multiplied, and this trend of adding new digital channels shows no sign of slowing down soon. To keep your content consistent, you need an architecture that is not tightly coupled to a particular channel and that can embrace new ones as soon as they emerge and become useful. An API-first design allows digital experience platforms to present and publish content in an omnichannel way. This means you can write a document/product catalog/campaign offer once and use it across multiple digital touchpoints such as web, mobile, chatbots and customer portals. When the document is updated, that update is reflected everywhere. The digital experience platform is the center stage of the many tools you need to get customers to your site, a digital hub for all your content. Its role is to use APIs to aggregate and orchestrate data to ensure customers have the best possible experience every time they visit your site. A composable DXP integrates with your existing technology stack, with best-in-class third party services and ultimately brings together all of the tools you use together with ease. Why a headless CMS is essential for DXPsA headless CMS can be differentiated from a standard CMS by its ability to deliver content via an API. It stores and delivers the content and provides tools to create, edit and organize it. A headless CMS architecture provides an ideal foundation for a DXP as it can quickly pull data from any data source using flexible APIs and leverage data logic to deliver content to the right individual at the right time. Not only does this mean that developers and marketers can work independently of each other, thanks to an untethered back end and front end, it also allows modular editing and changing without interrupting the flow of the site. A headless CMS is invaluable because of the extensible APIs available and its ease of integration with many industry-leading content management tools. With a headless CMS, you can integrate your preferred digital experience platform with everything from mobile apps to conversational interfaces to personalization engines and connect all of your marketing tools in one central hub. Does your business need a digital experience platform?Not every business needs a digital experience platform. It depends on how far your platform has evolved and whether there’s a necessity to move in this direction. The building blocks of content management, workflow, version management and content organization are still vital in the creation of a fulfilling digital experience. If your business isn’t using digital as the primary driver of your business right now, then these building blocks may be sufficient to meet your needs at this time. The companies that have reached a point in their digital journey where they would benefit from – or their audiences expect – a fully connected digital experience should start to consider a digital experience platform This includes brands with a broad audience, multiple touchpoints or a business stake in digital. Businesses in desperate need of DXP are those with marketing and development teams who are eager to create highly differentiated experiences for customers, or whose core businesses are being disrupted by technology-driven startups (think Uber for transportation, Airbnb for hospitality or Paypal for payments). Whether you’re ready today or expect to be ready tomorrow, it pays dividends to stay on top of technology trends and best practices surrounding digital experience platforms.

May 15, 2018

Generic Content is Dead: Discover Personalization and Headless CMS

Whether you are a B2B customer or an individual looking for personal information or products, you get aggravated by wading through non-relevant content. Demand Gen Report’s 2017 Content Preferences Survey revealed that 89% of B2B buyers are inundated by the amount of content directed at them, and Harris Interactive found 74% of consumers are frustrated by irrelevant marketing content. We all want high-quality content that is relevant and personalized from companies we trust. Williams Sonoma, Amazon, Google, and Netflix are examples of companies that use personalized content to create loyal customers – and you’re probably a happy customer of some of them, so you know. Approximately 35% of Amazon sales come from recommendations based on personal data, and Netflix’s recommendation system saves the company $1 billion per year in customer retention. Today, almost half of all consumers won’t engage with a brand that doesn’t provide content relevant to their interests and needs and with new generations this number is growing rapidly. According to Marketing Insider Group and OneSpot, 88% of consumers say that relevant content improves how they feel about a brand, and 78% say that relevant content increases their intent to purchase products. The Problem with Traditional CMS Solutions Most traditional CMS platforms advocate their ability to support integrations and direct targeting through omnichannel support, but in reality, the opposite is true. Traditional CMS platforms, such as Adobe, Sitecore, SDL Tridion, WordPress, and Drupal are built so that digital asset management, marketing automation, and personalization are a part of the system. Either the capabilities were developed as a part of the CMS, acquired and bolted onto the system, or supported through third-party plug-ins. Customer journeys are rooted in content, so it should come as no surprise that your content management system (CMS) forms the content hub of your marketing technology stack and will dramatically help or hinder your efforts to deliver personalization at scale. It is imperative that your CMS can seamlessly connect with other systems you use to store customer information. Personalize Content Better, Faster and Cheaper A headless CMS enables you to present personalized content with state-of-the-art tools and continue to iterate as your needs evolve. Regardless of how well the resulting product suite is integrated – and many aren’t – this approach works only if your needs align exactly with the capabilities your CMS provider envisaged for all of the functional areas you’re trying to cover. As Frank Zappa once said, “One size does not fit all.” This saying is certainly true for content management systems. Not only is your business unique, but in the world of technology, things change fast. There is always a new way of capturing and delivering customer data better, faster and cheaper. Having a headless CMS allows you pick the best tools for your business and be agile enough to swap them out with something new at your discretion. Using a flexible platform designed for integration lets you use the best DAM, CRM, email targeting solution, recommendation engine, AI tool, and analytics tracking. The Headless CMS and Omnichannel Content Most traditional CMS solutions require a tremendous amount of resources and patience to set up personalized, omnichannel experiences. As a result, many companies struggle to scale and deliver customized content to their customers on multiple devices and systems. Using a headless CMS, personal data is made available via APIs, web services, and open data standards, so you are not shackled by data stored in a pre-built system. The separation of content from formatting and coding allows changes to content to be made by any business person without requiring a developer to be involved directly with the content side of your headless CMS. Your best move to create compelling customer experiences and create a better business leveraging personalization is to use a headless CMS as the central hub that connects the rest of your marketing technologies to deliver scalable, personalized content. Letting your developers code without interfering in the content process by using a flexible API-first CMS is sure to keep you ahead of your competition, so you can innovate and iterate quickly and efficiently to reduce acquisition cost while increasing customer loyalty and revenue.

May 03, 2018

The Future of AI and Content: How Robots Will Change Your CMS

Automation is coming. What used to be far off science fiction is fast becoming science fact.  The future is AI, so how do you make it work for you? AI and CMS fit together seamlessly in a way that might surprise. In the past, it appeared that “creative” gigs such as content creation, design, and other tasks of this nature were under no threat from AI. We can all imagine a self-driving car and perhaps even A/B testing done by a bot. But what about authoring full-length articles indistinguishable from human work written by a computer program? This concept might seem far off but it’s already being implemented by companies across the world. Content Creation  In a previous Gartner study, it was reported that 20% of business content would be authored by machines by 2018. Well, here we are, and programs like Quill are already molding the CMS of the future. Quill creator, Narrative Science, already rents out the program to financial institutions to create 10-15 page financial reports. It is a compelling proposition, considering that it takes mere minutes for the program to create what a human writer might take weeks to produce. According to MIT, Quill is producing millions of words per day; words that no longer need a human touch to be produced.  It’s startling to think of the changes this will make for lower level content production in the short to medium term. We aren’t yet at a point where AI could be expected to create long form, ultra-creative work – we still need humans for that – but when you read that the Washington Post published 850 entirely robot generated articles in the last year, you can see where the future of the business is going. The Washington Post used a program called Heliograph to produce 500 articles around the US election that generated more than 500,000 click throughs. That isn’t a lot when you weigh it up against the rest of their output, but when you consider these articles were in an area that they weren’t going to dedicate staff resources to, it’s clear how the numbers stack up. That’s 500,000 clicks generated by one source that didn’t need a weekly wage. At the moment, AI helps add value to human writers by taking a lot of the dirty work off their plate. Take financial reporting, for example. Why would you pay someone to dig through realms of numbers when AI can do it quicker, easier, and error-free?  “In the case of automated financial news coverage by AP, the error rate in the copy decreased even as the volume of the output increased more than tenfold.” - Associated Press strategy manager and co-AI lead Francesco Marconi From a CMS perspective, why wouldn’t you want to bring AI in to take over some of your content creation? It will eliminate mistakes, dramatically increase production, and it’s a solid solution for a large scale need. AI can be helpful in a number of CMS use cases.  Suggest the content editor to use a different style based on sentiment analysis, for example.Filter or suggest to remove words/phrases which may not be suitable for the individual or company to publish.Enable the CMS to dig deeper into data for more advanced customer insights.Help to publish the approval workflow. In theory, an article could be automatically approved by AI without a human reading it over. But when will we reach a tipping point at which companies compete with each other on cost benefits entirely facilitated by AI advantage? This is one of the strongest advantage of AI, along with time-to-results. In a media world where costs are increasing, ad revenues are decreasing, and realtime information is king, how long before AI becomes a standard tool in the content creation process? A program in development called Stats Monkey is already producing passable sports copy based entirely on data point entry.  NLP and NLG: How this Actually Works NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It’s basically about learning the language of the mind. In AI, NLP uses computational techniques to analyze and combine natural language and speech. There are three types of NLP: Inquiry: uses text analytic tools.Conversational: engages the person in conversation to clarify information and refine inquiries.Reasoning: this goes beyond the basic understanding of AI and deals with more abstract concepts such as beliefs and emotions. AI can generate bucketloads of content 24/7, no caffeine required. It monitors how that content is consumed, who consumes it, where it’s consumed, and how readers respond. In addition, it can also learn from this to become even better at creating content that feels personalized and targeted to the needs of the reader, i.e. it can become more human. Generating Content Natural language generation (NLG) is a subset of the field of NLP and focuses on generating content that mimics the language a human would create – except it’s produced entirely by a machine. It typically operates using a repository of content, or knowledge base, and translates the underlying data into natural language that you and I can make sense of. NLG has existed for a long time but has made tremendous leaps in recent years. Turning financial data from a set of databases into plain English (or German, Farsi, Spanish etc.) is a quintessential use case example. Analyzing Consumer Behavior The area of consumer behavior analysis is a huge one for AI, because – quite simply – robots do it better. AI can monitor behavior in realtime at a speed and standard that’s beyond the ability of humans.  A/B testing can be automated and the results of this testing can be implemented straightaway to improve UX based on the AI analysis. In terms of content, personas and advanced segmentation can be utilized to create content that presents varying text based on each visitor profile. This is one of the most profitable and valuable usages of AI at present. Marketing AI even has a role in the future of social media. The role of social media is only going to increase when it comes to content promotion. Spending was up 60% for social media advertising in 2017 and companies are already using Natural Language Processing to increase the feeling of real interaction from bots and AI. As advertising spend increases on social media, companies will look for more bang for their social media manager buck.  Social media management can be quite complex but if your needs on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are basic (reply and tweet), AI can and will replace human input sooner rather than later. The biggest issue in removing this cost base is the ability of bots to properly process language and appropriate responses. The field of NLP is based on greater understanding of language from written inputs. And as it develops, there’s an obvious advantage to customer service – which is also handled on social media – by improving customer drop off rates. It’s estimated that by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent being required. But the further NLP progresses, the more we could see AI used in actual social media interaction.  But Don’t Fire Anyone Yet! AI will change the way CMS is managed from the ground up. It will change how it’s costed, it will change how it’s created, and how it’s eventually marketed. The ultimate destination isn’t to replace your copywriters and marketing staff. Instead, view AI as a tool that will evolve the role and change the daily tasks of your content creators. NLP still needs that subtle touch of human influence when content is being delivered in any kind of creative aspect. There’s no point in generating 100s of pages of content that no-one will actually take notice of. Sure, there is a lot of content that’s suitable for AI takeover, but it’s best to leave the creative content to your skilled human workers. The job of your content writers is to connect with the reader, and that authentic human touch is something that AI is a long way from mastering.  What AI can do for your CMS, is make life a whole lot easier by streamlining processes that were previously tedious and allowing your content creators, marketers, and designers to work on what they do best.

May 01, 2018

Is Your Company and CMS Ready for GDPR?

The mantra of the Internet has always been “Content is King.” But now, the new mantra is ”Consent is King.” You must get consent to store and process an individual’s personal data. After a two-year warning bell, on May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect which serves to protect the personal data of anyone in the European Union. If a data controller has a breach of personal data, they have 72 hours in which to notify the regulator and potentially any person affected. Be aware that the penalties are hefty, €20 million, which is over $24 million, or 4% of the worldwide annual turnover of the parent company, whichever is higher. The GDPR is also in United Kingdom law, so this applies to all of the UK as well. Now, you’re thinking, hey it’s Europe, how can they come after me in America? United States trade agreements with the EU are being enforced by the US government, which now includes the GDPR and pursuing companies breaching the regulations. If you’re a US business and storing data of an EU citizen who happens to live in New York, you’re on the hook as much as you would be as a company doing business in Germany with the locals. 10 Steps to GDPR Readiness To meet the impending GDPR deadline, here are ten steps to ensure your company and CMS are ready for the GDPR. Get consent. Consent must be freely given and verifiable. For example, there must be a positive opt-in. You cannot infer or have a pre-selected checkbox for consent. You must also provide everyone an option to easily withdraw consent. Withdrawal of consent must be as easy as the way the person gave consent. If you have a site that is geared to a younger audience, such as a gaming site, and you will be collecting personal data, you will need to get parental consent from anyone under 16 years old. In the U.S. the Children’s Online Privacy Act (COPPA) and some EU member states require parental consent for anyone under 13 years old, so be sure to check to make sure you are compliant. Present a privacy notice. A privacy notice needs to let people know when you collect personal data, how you intend to use the information, and the amount of time you plan to retain their personal data. Your privacy policies need to be transparent to people visiting your site. The GDPR requires that you communicate your privacy policy clearly and concisely in language that is easy to understand. Maintain records. Be sure to maintain records of your personal data processing activities. You need to know what personal data you hold, where it came from and who you share it with. Data mapping is a powerful tool for tracking data processing since it allows you to see how personal data from one information system maps to personal data from another information system. Making sure that you have a CMS that has access to data storage and includes an Application Programming Interface (API) that can be easily used to track data processing activities to show how you are complying with data protection regulations. Retrievable data capability. Make sure personal data is easily retrievable. A primary tenant of the GDPR is to respect individuals’ rights. A person visiting your site has the right to be informed and access his or her data. For example, Google lets you access and export all data given to Google using Google Takeout. LinkedIn enables you to see your privacy settings. The data needs to be presented in a machine-readable format, such as a CSV, JSON, or XML file. Having a CMS that supports working with third-party tools or databases, allows you to identify and access personal data that can significantly simplify making data retrievable. Protection by design. Data protection by design and by default is required. Be aware that visitors can reserve the right to refuse service. An individual can ask for his or her personal data to be erased. Individuals can request that you restrict processing their personal data. A person can object to being subjected to automated decision making, including profiling. It is essential that your CMS has ways of restricting capturing personal data. Be sure you can rectify mistakes. Rectification must be made for incorrect usage of personal data. Say, for example, that I have stored incorrect information about you and passed it onto a third-party company. A person can demand that you and the associated company correct the inaccurate information. In most cases, you will have to make rectification requests free of charge within 30 days. Get a DPO. There’s a new sheriff in town known as the Data Protection Officer (DPO). Having a DPO is a requirement for companies that deal with a large amount of data or companies that frequently deal with sensitive information, such as healthcare info, information about minors, racial, biometric, or political opinions. The DPO cannot be your IT Manager, CTO, or security personnel since they will be governing data protection. A Marketing manager is out of the running since he or she is likely to be defining how data is managed. The DPO is a “protected” role; you can’t fire a DPO for doing his or her job well. The DPO does not have to be a dedicated job. Some organizations only need a few days a month of work by a DPO, so it can be outsourced to one or more individuals. Detect, investigate, and report. You must have procedures in place to effectively detect, report and investigate a personal data breach. If a data breach puts an individual’s rights and freedoms at high risk, you are required to address the cause and notify anyone that has been impacted by the breach. Failure to report a high-risk breach of personal data likely will result in a fine. In fact, you are likely to be fined for the breach itself. Having a CMS that has the API support to work with any system connected to your site collecting, storing, or processing personal data to detect data breaches is essential. Understand your data usage. Ensure you know how the personal data in your CMS is being used. If you are sharing personal data with a marketing agency, you will need to keep track of the data and ensure its integrity. You are responsible for the data, so you need to make sure any third-party agency is storing and using the data appropriately and has GDPR compliant policies in place. Having a CMS that supports the API tools needed to have an audit trail of internal and external shared data will save you a lot of work. Have a contingency plan. Last, but certainly not least, have a contingency plan. In most cases, companies do not have a contingency plan of what to do if they are not able to work with personal data. If users do not consent, you will want to have a plan to anonymize the data, since data that has been sufficiently anonymized is excluded, but still allows you to use anonymous user data for tracking your site pages and advertisements. Additionally, have a worst-case scenario contingency plan, for example, say a breach happens on a long holiday weekend. Be prepared to be able to notify subjects of the data breach promptly, so that you can meet the GDPR time guidelines. Following these steps is a great way to ensure that your company and CMS are ready for the GDPR deadline. Making sure your CMS has the APIs to help you track and manage personal data is key to your success. If you are interested in finding out more about the GDPR, you can visit the English version of the EU GDPR site at the following URL: Learn more here: