blog Content Management

How CaaS Supports a Content-first Approach to Digital Publishing

By Michael Andrews Oct 29, 2019

Previously, we explored how Content as a Service enables collaboration through structured content, and this article will focus on CaaS and its content-first approach. As online audiences gain access to more choices, publishing digital content has become more challenging. Organizations can't expect that customers will necessarily visit their website to get information.

 In the past, organizations focused most of their energy on the design of their website. Today, smart organizations are realizing that they need to decide what they need to say in their content before they decide the details of their website or app design. They are adopting a “content-first approach.” CaaS is an ideal foundation for implementing a content-first approach to digital touchpoints.

What Is Content-first Design?

Simply put, when using a content-first approach, you decide your content before you decide your design. This approach helps enterprises focus on what their customers need to know and what they want to do. They can plan content around the customer's journey so that customers always have what they need, when they need it.

Until recently, enterprises have focused much of their attention on what their websites look like. Designers would create a new website design in Photoshop and use ‘Lorum Ipsum’ for text. The problems of this approach soon become apparent. A pretty looking design would turn out to be ill-suited for the content the website needed to present. Copy wouldn't fit, or else related pieces of information would be disconnected and hard to find.

Enterprises are rethinking their digital priorities. They recognize that their content is the core substance of their communications with customers. Visual presentation needs to support the content, but it should never be treated as more important than the content.  

Why Is Content-first Design a Better Approach?

Placeholder text such as ‘Lorem Ipsum’ introduces a lot of assumptions about what will be said, how long it will be, and how different elements and items are connected. If content elements lack strong connections, the overall content isn't able to help users accomplish their goals.

Content also needs to support different roles. The same content may need to appear in an email, be used in an app, be read aloud by a voice platform, in addition to appearing on one or more websites.

When using a content-first approach, the same content can be presented in different ways, as desired. It can be delivered in different variants, visually rendered in different ways, and even delivered to different kinds of devices. By starting with the content, content teams can explore different designs that present or deliver the content and choose the best options.

A content-first approach separates the content from being tied to a specific layout or design.  Even voice delivery of content is now possible.

Why Is CaaS the Best Way to Do Content-first Design?

Content-first has emerged as a best practice in content strategy. But many content management systems don't support the approach. As a result, content teams need to rely on labor-intensive processes to develop content and connect it to a design so they can see what the design looks like using “real” content. 

Right now, it is common for writers to draft sample content first, often in a word processor or an online drafting tool, before the layout is created. While that helps with deciding the layout, it's not efficient. Because the copy is stored in a file that's separate from the CMS, the copy has to be manually transferred to the design. 

CaaS supports a content-first approach in two ways. First, it separates and distinguishes the details and structure of content from the layout and presentation of the design. The content and the design can be worked on independently of each other. Unlike content written in a word processing document, when using CaaS the content is structured from the start. 

Second, CaaS connects the content to an interactive design so that realistic content can be displayed within a design. The draft content, stored within a content hub, can immediately connect to various design alternatives. The content is described in JSON (a common data encoding format), which connects seamlessly to a front-end design such as a webpage or an app. Teams can prototype both the content and the design, before the content is published.

Because CaaS structures content, teams can easily revise and improve it iteratively. Content is structured into sections containing guidelines that can indicate to authors the purpose, criteria, and specifications for each section. Different content items can be tagged with metadata to indicate the intended audience and their journey stage. Teams can review how different sections and items of content need to fit together, and whether they provide the right experience for customers as they move through their journeys.

CaaS helps teams think about content as a conversation with the audience: what questions people have, and what information they need to see to answer those questions.

The Benefits of CaaS for Creating Content That's More Versatile

  • CaaS keeps the focus on what you have to communicate before deciding on the presentation—what it will look like
  • Instead of creating fixed web pages where both content and design is difficult to change later, content becomes flexible and agile
  • Content becomes more valuable because it is more audience-focused—based on customer journeys instead of how websites are organized

In the next post in this series, we'll explore in more detail how CaaS makes content more flexible.

Links to articles on “content first”:


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