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Giving The CMS Back To The Content


April 9, 2017

CMS' have gotten sick. Sick from feature bloat and just general overload. Their main focus is not creating and managing content anymore; in fact this is almost a forgotten part of what they are meant to do. And I don't think it's anyones fault in particular: clients have needs and concerns that their CMS be able to do X, Y, and Z, and developers have needs to make a living. So it's understandable that feature creep just inevitably happens in a CMS and that focus gets lost easily.

I know in my experience, when working with any kind of CMS (WordPress, BrowserCMS, Squarespace, etc.), there is a good amount of time that must be spent learning how and where to do everything it was built to do. And when it comes time to adding content to the site, the editing interface is often buried beneath lots of other items vying for your attention—custom fields, calls-to-action, other content functionality, etc. The editor itself has never (at least in my experience with CMS') been the main focus on the page. Again, this is understandable, as content strategy is just coming into it's own now, and the lack of emphasis on this in the CMS is just par for the course.

Is The Content Really Suffering?

Yes, I really think so. And, to me this seems like a huge miss on everyones part, not just one end of the pipeline. Agencies and developers not stressing to the client the importance of what a CMS is really all about (the content), and the clients for not treating the CMS for what it really should be—an effective tool for creating and posting great content. I think with a bit of tweaking to a CMS' interface, we can really show value to clients about how a focussed writing screen can be very, very effective for the content creation process. I think we also need to stress to clients that creating your content in a Word Doc is doing them a great disservice. Not only is there a problem with transferring content from Word to a CMS (unless you're well versed in HTML formatting, it's just not a fun process and often leads to misunderstanding(s) between clients and devs about formatting), but there is a bigger problem in general about how it's a disconnect from the medium. Online (web/mobile/TV/etc.) content is online for a reason; that's where we consume it, and this is where it should be created. Of course I can understand a need for approval/review of content, but almost all CMS' come built with a way to deal with this; either through a preview function or role limiting (i.e. only certain users can publish certain content).

Moving Away From A WYSIWYG Editor?

I also think we need to start pushing clients away from WYSIWYG and more towards markdown editors. I know this is going to be a hard transition for users, as they do love their WYSIWYGs, but the problem with these (besides possible poor code output & extraneous code) is that users focus on the look and feel way more than the content. Using some sort of markdown editor with a templating system, we should be able to give the same ability to format content as in a WYSIWYG, but using this format, the content is everything. All you can really focus on in this style is what you're writing; and that's the whole point of this shift.

[re-]Shifting The Focus

The idea behind this is neither new nor mine; I thought of this after reading a lot about the IAWriter and seeing the Svbtle Blogging network. Both of which enable the user to focus entirely on the content and only the content; and from what I've heard about them, they work very, very well. We need to [re-]shift the purpose of CMS' to enable users to focus on creating great content, and not just being able to copy and paste from a Word Doc when it's time to launch. I'm not saying we need to do away with custom content and features, surely not. But when it comes to the content creation process, we should strip away all the fluff and visual extras and let the CMS be used as it was intended.



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