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5 crucial WCM capabilities you can't live without

Web content management systems should be able to do more than create and publish web content. Use this checklist to ensure that your WCM system can keep up with today's content needs.

When they first hit the channel, web content management applications had one mission: enabling nontechnical staffers to create, organize and publish content on the web. Today's web content requires more advanced capabilities.

As expectations rise, endpoints increase and handoffs between nontechnical and IT staffers change, organizations should consider updating their WCM system to invest in next-generation capabilities.

As a content manager, you should watch for these five features to upgrade in your next WCM platform.

Better mobile experiences

Mobile access to websites now surpasses desktop access by almost 2-to-1. But full-screen usage on desktop and laptop devices is not going away, particularly for in-the-office tasks that require focus.

At minimum, your WCM system should support responsive web design to accommodate mobile browsers. You should be able to publish content for both PCs and mobile devices through a single set of editorial activities. Most WCM platforms no longer produce full-screen page displays. Instead, a WCM system should define content as discrete content blocks or content chunks, which are dynamically assembled at runtime to produce the results.

Be prepared to manage expectations. Traveling users, for example, do not have the patience to scroll through pages to look for information. The most important things to your mobile users should appear at the top of their mobile page displays. WCM capabilities should make your mobile and full-screen layouts highly usable.

WCM vs. ECM
There are key differences between an ECM and WCM platform.

Access more content

You rely on your WCM platform to produce the webpages and links for browsing. As the volume of information increases, you will need to not only browse through the pages on your site, but also use familiar search terms.

Your WCM system should enable you to organize all of the information within your site and make it findable, both to your website visitors -- people who are accessing your site directly -- as well as to search engines such as Google. Your WCM platform should make it easy to tag content blocks by relevant terms, which search engines then use to retrieve information on demand. More precise tags lead to more accurate search results.

You'll need the mechanism to assign tags to content blocks, and webforms are a step in the right direction. In addition, WCM capabilities should support tag management ‑‑ ways to define, organize and manage the tag sets that provide tags listed within webforms. These tag sets may be formally defined collections, such as a thesaurus of terms or ad hoc terms, sometimes known as folksonomies. Content editors don't need to manually assign all tags; your WCM system should support semiautomatic and automatic tagging capabilities using natural language processing and/or machine learning technologies.

Prepare for personalization

Your WCM system should provide the foundations for personalization by solving two problems.

As your organization's digital presence grows, personalized content for target audiences becomes more important. The more you know about your customers, the better you can deliver relevant content. Your WCM platform should provide the foundations for personalization by solving two problems.

First, your content creators and editors need an intuitive environment to manage large content collections. Your WCM system should include workflow capabilities to manage all of the editorial activities to produce and update this content.

Second, personalization requires extensive content tagging, which involves adding machine-readable metadata to content blocks. Take advantage of investments in content findability by using tag sets that correspond to your customers' varied interests. Add the relevant tag sets to your editorial activities, and support automated tagging wherever possible.

Beyond these foundations, your WCM platform should provide the profiling and rules-processing capabilities of a personalization engine. Evaluate your options, and consider whether integrated personalization capabilities meet your business requirements.

Deliver richer media experiences

Target audiences increasingly expect video clips and images, or rich media, as part of their digital experiences. You need to automate many of your manual processes and manage the editorial activities associated with producing these digital assets.

Corral all of the rich media you use, and put these digital assets under formal management. It's no longer sufficient to use networked file shares, such as Dropbox, even when hosted in the cloud. Make it easy for website editors to access these digital assets as part of their routine editorial activities. It should also be easy for them to search through the collections, select the right items for their designs and automatically render them correctly with various digital displays.

You should adopt a digital asset management (DAM) system to manage all of your digital assets, which enables your creative team members to upload and organize all rich media. Then, you should integrate access to this DAM from your WCM system, enabling your website editors to have a single, unified experience to produce web content. A DAM platform manages all of the technical details on the back end to render digital assets for different devices, screen resolutions and delivery environments.

Support headless content delivery

The content you carefully curate for your websites adds business value to your organization. As the value grows, expect your organization to use curated content in new ways. Purpose-built websites -- with their capabilities for page-centric displays and single-channel experiences -- are no longer sufficient.

Plan to support headless content delivery. Continue to invest in your WCM system to provide the repository of record to source, edit, organize, secure and store all of your valuable content, tagged with relevant metadata.

Provide well-defined APIs and microservices to distribute these content blocks across disparate devices and applications to produce contextual experiences. Your WCM platform should provide a single source for all of your digital endpoints, which enables your organization to cost-effectively scale its digital transformation initiatives.

This was last published in January 2019

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