The Content Management System of The Future

April 21, 2017
Digital Surgeons

One website, one mobile app...life used to be so simple. We're now deep into the next phase of the digital landscape and that means mass consumption through multiple channels. Your customers don't want to search for answers. They want you to deliver answers via any medium they may desire. From websites and apps to bots and connected devices, this is the landscape and you need to be flexible and accessible.

You may be asking yourself how you even begin to manage all of that data distributed across all of those channels. Well, several platforms are evolving and emerging to solve this very problem. We’ve gone beyond the traditional Content Management System and it's time to introduce the system of the future: the “Content Management Framework.”

The systems of yesterday

Traditional Content Management Systems were built for a single purpose: to provide management and organizational tools for teams of content creators to manage content-driven websites. WordPress grew into the de facto standard of these types of platforms, with Drupal and other platforms constantly driving the industry forward through good old fashioned competition. These tools all provided a slightly different outlook but all aimed to solve the problem of managing the content on your website.

Constant evolution

There was a definite shift in the trajectory of Content Management Systems as platforms began evolving to support flexible taxonomy and the huge burst in channels and mediums. No longer restricted by rigid content organization, creators could now structure and distribute their content as they saw fit. Traditional Content Management Systems began molding around our content hierarchy rather than shoehorning it into place and many enterprise systems began moving to a cloud based approach, enabling mass distribution and syndication through various marketing cloud toolkits.  

The systems of tomorrow

The industry has taken note – existing systems are evolving further, and exciting new technologies are emerging with new tools built upon them that both solve existing problems and create new opportunities. The concept is simple and one that has been prevalent in software development for decades: decouple content and presentation.

What developers really need is an API for their content. We need all the benefits of a beautiful graphical user interface on top of an intuitive and flexible system for managing our content. A robust API for querying our data, completely absent of presentation or layout. With this base system in place, applications can be built around it, querying the data they require and presenting it to the subset of the user base they are serving – a truly modular content management framework.

Off with their heads

Recently, a number of platforms have emerged that bring this concept to their core, generating RESTful APIs with your content by default. With no concept of templates, layout, or styling, these systems are referred to as “headless” and truly serve as your content management system, not your website management system.

Platforms like Contentful allow users to store their content in a way that makes sense, completely absent of templates or styling, headless browsers are a true representation of your content hierarchy. An article that you may write, with all its assets, dependencies, and relationships, could just as easily be consumed by your website, mobile app, Google's AMP, Facebook's Instant Articles, or any other third party platform that you wish. This is true decoupling of data and presentation, not just in code, but in your entire portfolio.

Tailored to each user

Not only do users expect your content through any medium they desire, they expect an experience tailored to their needs. They expect personalization. The approach of the content management framework in providing a robust API to support multiple content driven applications allows engineers to personalize their experiences like never before.

Adobe Experience Manager, Demandbase, and other cloud based enterprise content management platforms are spearheading this concept. With all content in a single centralized data store and a robust API for querying the exact data an application needs, personalized experiences can be spun up like never before. Tailored content, layout, features, and services can be offered to your users based on their precise needs.

Solutions in the wild

Many enterprises including Nike, Netflix, Spotify, and Urban Outfitters are already turning to content management frameworks as a replacement for legacy and cumbersome enterprise systems. Platforms like Contentful, CraftCMS, Adobe Experience Manager, and SiteCore, allow these brands to ship applications like never before. No matter the platform, their content is structured in a robust, flexible, and centralized manner, allowing a diverse portfolio of applications primed for rapid development, iteration, and innovation.

New technology broadens horizons

Technology is constantly evolving, and at a rapid pace. It’s one of the main reasons we are so passionately consumed by the industry. As always, a new technology emerges that changes everything. Facebook’s GraphQL is a data query language that completely rethinks models we have all become accustomed to. Providing a complete description of the data in your API, GraphQL gives applications the power to query exactly what they need, allowing the application to evolve and iterate without the need for fundamental changes to the content structure. Rather than having a set of API endpoints that can be queried in order to receive subsets of data, GraphQL allows applications to query the data and relationships they require. This means ultimate flexibility.

When a new technology emerges, there’s a fantastic buzz of innovation that occurs as developers and entrepreneurs develop new applications and use cases, and it wasn’t long until we saw that with GraphQL. GraphCMS is a content management system built on top of GraphQL. Aimed at developers, the platform allows the quick creation of GraphQL APIs with an intuitive content management interface.

A look around the corner

Although Facebook has been working on, and improving, GraphQL for some time now, it’s still a relatively new technology in the fast paced world of tech. And, although it was built for flexible data representation, it opens up exciting possibilities for the world of content design. With a flexible querying language like GraphQL, we’re less restricted by hierarchy and relationships and are open to flexible content storage like we’ve never seen, leaving the data querying up to the applications that desire it.

The content management system of the future is very exciting indeed. With great headway being made in real-time communication, peer-to-peer networks, and distributed systems, the way we store and retrieve content in our applications is going to rapidly evolve. Perhaps the systems of the future won’t just be headless but will be without any kind of centralized storage system whatsoever. With increasingly advanced AI, perhaps the content management system of the future will evolve, manage, and personalize our content for us, a charge that Demandbase is already leading. But until the machines completely take over, it’s on us to build the systems that will define the future of content.

Let me know @chambaz how you plan to build the future of content, or contact us and learn how our creative technologists can accelerate your content creation.

Thanks for reading.
Digital Surgeons
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