February 4, 2016

December saw the 22nd installment of InVision’s webinar series on design and tech. This episode features our own Todd Ross Nienkerk presenting, with InVision’s Margaret Kelsey moderating. The following is a summary; to watch the whole presentation, along with the Q&A period, head over to InVison’s webinar recap site.

What is the future of the CMS?

We need to rethink how we manage, publish, and consume content.

Decoupled architecture (aka headless architecture)

Traditional architecture thinks of display as the frontend and storage as the backend, starting from the early days of the internet with static HTML sites that were FTPed to a server. Then we moved to dynamic CMS sites with lots of categories and hierarchies of data. But these data now need to be displayed across multiple kinds of frontends…web, social media, native apps, feeds, screen readers, Xbox, smart TVs, wearables, etc.

Multiple frontends

A good CMS takes years to develop, but a new frontend can change very quickly. So when your CMS is coupled to A Specific Display, the display will almost always end up a little stale— or you end up choosing for fresh displays with untested and potentially unstable CMSes.

In order to have a backend that’s safe, and a frontend that’s bleeding edge, they have to be separated.

There’s a tension between design and CMS— e.g, that idea is really cool, and it would be great, but it’s really hard to do. Goodness knows we’ve all avoided updating our website simply because wrangling all the minor changes that a new CMS might generate for the frontend displays can feel like hell. But because decoupling allows multiple frontend experiences: web, iOS, Roku, it also allows for more experimentation in display.

When to decouple

Decoupling makes sense when you want to…

  • adopt cutting-edge frontend technologies
  • separate upgrades from redesigns
  • eliminate tension between a design and your CMS
  • centralize your content
  • publish to many frontends and experiences
  • integrate multiple backends or services
  • make your content accessible via an API

Content as a service

In decoupled architecture, everything must start with content.

Decoupling allows content-first design— not only publishing to multiple frontends, but also remixing and mashing of your content by fans/readers.

We need to think about not just content strategy, which addresses the questions of what are you trying to say and how are you saying it?, but also Content modeling— asking what the underlying structure of your content is and how you can make that content easier to distribute.

We need to divorce the substance of the content from the presentation of the content. A video may be watched, heard, or read in transcript form. We can’t control what the user does, so we need to think about how to focus on the content itself beyond the presentational wrapper of that content. Similarly, we must design for experiences not just devices, because we don’t know or get to decide how people use their devices.

On the horizon…

What’s the future of the CMS? Decoupled architecture, multiple frontends, and content, content, content.

See Douglas Bigham's profile
Douglas Bigham
February 4, 2016
Douglas Bigham is a Content Specialist at Four Kitchens; he's a writer and ex-academic with a background in digital publics and social language use. He likes dark beer, bright colors, and he speaks a little Klingon.