Published on August 5th, 2013 | by Rahel Bailie11
Holes in the Template: Piping content into the CMS
When companies want to publish lots of information on their website about their products, it is likely that product information doesn’t originate from their Web CMS. They will have an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that stores the SKUs and prices, and a PIM (Product Information Management) system that stores the descriptions and variants, and probably some other software that processes other bits of information, and then the front-end Web CMS allows all this information to integrate into beautiful product descriptions, and converge onto a single page.
After all, it doesn’t make sense to store all of this information in the Web CMS. You store the information in the system that is meant to manipulate it at a granular level. Once it’s been highly tagged, it is pushed to the display layer, a Web CMS.
This is done by putting “holes in the template” and calling some scripts to get the right information to populate those template holes. Sounds simple, right? OK, doesn’t sound simple. Deane Barker , in his post, Editors Live in the Holes, describes the folly of not paying enough attention to what happens in the holes. And as the saying goes, therein lies the problem.
If you remember nothing else of this post, remember these next few lines.
- An ERP system pushes data (SKUs, prices, etc) into the Web CMS.
- A PIM system pushes content into the Web CMS.
- A DITA-based CCM system pushes content into the Web CMS.
These are parallel processes. Just as you can manipulate content in many different ways. The content can be shown according to the reader criteria. That could mean that a reader logs in as a premium-package member and sees something different than a standard-package member. Or an administrator sees something different than an end user. Or that a reader chooses some filters (women’s shoes, red, heeled, size 8) and sees content specific to their criteria.
Putting content that is tagged up enough that it can meet all of these types of demands – well, it’s just hard to do in a Web CMS. Not just hard, exceptionally hard. Which is why companies who need to respond to market conditions in a hurry, or companies who want to output to multiple devices, channels, markets, or audiences don’t put their content directly into a Web CMS. They put their content into a heavy-duty authoring system, and then let the Web CMS do what it does best – pipe the content into the right holes.
Someone asked me whether using DITA meant losing out on the ability to easily re-use and re-purpose content for different media and devices. Actually, it’s the other way around. Creating highly semantic content, what Ann Rockley would call Intelligent Content (I’d link to the site but each conference has a different URL – search for “intelligent content conference” and see what comes up), means being able to re-use and re-purpose content with infinitely more ease and agility. Intelligent content and DITA is not for the company who has fifty pages of highly crafted marketing content that never changes. It’s for the companies whose writers are closer to being content engineers.