Better real-time collaboration with Simultaneous Editing

By Peter RodJul 13, 2020

With the current trend of more distributed teams, the need for more collaboration just skyrocketed. We’re happy to announce that Kentico Kontent is the first headless CMS that supports Simultaneous Editing now. 

Historically, real-time collaboration has never been a strong feature of content management solutions. And it wasn’t different for Kentico Kontent either—over the years we received quite a lot of feedback on its collaboration shortcomings in our product. The need for the ability to safely and reliably collaborate on the same pieces of content simply grew with the increasing complexity of our clients’ content solutions. All these needs just became more amplified and pronounced due to the radical changes of the last couple of months. Many more teams switched to a more distributed setup and started to lack the benefits of shared space and time for real-time communication. The need for better collaboration just skyrocketed. 

I’m proud to announce that, with the latest release of Kentico Kontent, we addressed these issues, and we now support real-time Simultaneous Editing. So, please let me walk you through all the improvements and new capabilities of this feature.

Main features and improvements

Active user bar

The first thing, which you might have noticed in the last couple of weeks, is our new active user bar. It’s a bar that pops up at the top of the item every time there are two or more users present (and editing) in the same content item. Besides notifying editors about the fact that they’re not alone in the item, it also tells them exactly who else is working on the item so they can contact the person and synchronize with them. 

Kentico Kontent

Real-time element locks

The main stars of this show are the content element notifications. It’s not enough to know who’s present or working on something inside the content item. In order to prevent conflicts, you’d want to know what exactly the other personʼs working on. This is precisely what element notifications do—they provide you with this useful information. Whenever someone starts working on a specific element—the element will “lock” itself to prevent other users from editing and will show the name of the person working on it. 

Kentico Kontent

The other collaborators can preview the content of this element by clicking on the “refresh content” button.

Kentico Kontent

When the original collaborator leaves, the element “unlocks” and after refreshing its content, anybody can continue working on it.

Kentico Kontent

But what if the user remains in the element and goes for lunch or maybe a vacation, you might ask? Does it mean the element will stay locked for an hour or a week?

By no means! :) We implemented a release timer, so if the user does not edit the element for a minute or so, it will unlock, and it’s free to take for any other collaborator on the item.

Item-wide changes 

If your collaborator decides to make a big item-wide change (e.g., publish the item, delete it, set a due date, or assign a new contributor), this change will trigger an alert bar describing what happened and in some cases suggesting that you should update the item to reflect the changes. 

Kentico Kontent

Improved revisions

We fully understood that this new collaborative approach to editing would lead to a potentially massive increase in the number of versions produced for the revisions view. So we improved and rebuilt the way revisions work as well. With the latest release, we took the approach of creating a new version for every “simultaneous editing session” separately. And you might ask, what do I mean by these editing sessions? Shortly, it means that the session starts from the moment multiple people begin working on the same item and ends when they stop editing (plus some short time buffer after that). So this way, the version list won’t be cluttered with many versions, and, when comparing, you can still see who made which change. 

Kentico Kontent

Future improvements

We know that even though the features I mentioned are certainly a big improvement for content editors who are using Kontent, there are still parts of the experience that deserve more of our attention. Therefore, in the upcoming 2-4 weeks, we’ll be releasing:

  • Improvements of the item-wide change messaging (to deliver more suiting, precise, and actionable messages)
  • Improvements of the active user bar - right now, it displays the same message to all users across all language variants (in the new version, it will display a different message for each language variant separately)
  • Release of potential conflict resolution dialogues - right now, there is a very slim chance of conflicts happening—two users would have to start editing the same element within 300-500ms of each other. Practically the only time when this could happen would be if the content of the element was updated via MAPI while you were editing it. And since, and this is important to mention, MAPI changes have priority over changes from the UI, this might lead to conflict.

If you have your own ideas for new improvements to add, please let us know!

Written by
Peter Rod

Iʼm UX Designer for Kentico Kontent. In this role, Iʼm responsible for making the experience of using Kontent the best and smoothest it can be. 

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