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Friday, January 8, 2010

The Past, Present, and Future of Content Management Systems (CMSs)

It wasn't long ago that everyone connected to the Internet through a dial-up modem. The familiar beeps and various noises were widely accepted as part of the Internet experience; the speed, or lack thereof, was also commonplace. Web pages were extremely primitive. Being on the Internet still had the feel of playing Oregon Trail: it was a new frontier.

Slowly but surely, the next major phase in the Internet came with DSL and Cable Modems. Suddenly a web page took less time to load than a cup of coffee to brew. What was once a labor intensive task became easy. It was like finding a new shortcut to work, or a new tax deduction. Almost over night, everyone had a computer in their home that was connected to the Internet.

Since speed was no longer an issue, the presence of the Internet in our daily life became cemented. The only real hurdle that remained was making quality web sites. Unfortunately, speed had increased faster the ability to design; web pages were delivered quickly, but satisfaction was still lacking. Its legs had grown too quickly for its feet.

That time was truly the adolescence of the Internet. As we became more familiar with our newly found tools, solid design principles came into the place. No longer were web sites designed exclusively for Internet Explorer or for Netscape navigator. No longer did it matter what vehicle a client used, only that they saw the same thing that everyone else does. The goal became delivering content with consistency.

Right now, the Internet is at the threshold between adolescence and adulthood. The transition is ultimately being driven by two forces: the user's needs, and the user's more powerful computers. People want more flexibility, usability, and functionality. Though that has always been the case, it is only recently that computers have become able to fill that demand. Faster processors, more RAM, better monitors, etc. have all helped bring into fruition the ability for websites to become more than static text.

This change is shaking the fundamental model of web site development. Most web sites use a CMS to create and update their pages. There are as many CMSs as styles of music, but only a few can produce symphonies. They need to be robust but functional, flexible but secure. They need to provide tools, not just cleverly disguised fill in the blanks. Future CMSs need to move from a simple, one-sided producer/consumer model to a client/server model.

By placing more complexity on the client side, future CMSs will free up the server from its current backbreaking work. In the current model, the server is like a vending machine: though you may put some work in by inserting a coin, the machine is the one doing the real work. Users need tools to produce content, not slots to fill in.

This is where tools like Easy Pages come into the picture. Instead of simply being given small, minuscule parts to arrange, users are given a multitude panels to choose from and configure. The content as well as the look and feel can all be managed efficiently and effectively. Unlike a complicated fondue kit, they have been made to be easy to use without sacrificing functionality or expressive power.

Future CMSs like ContentM will allow people with any technical background to create web pages that are appealing both in look and in content. From a technical as well as functional standpoint, ContentM and Easy Pages are amazing systems. Both of them have been an amazing experience to help develop. Thanks to their success, our products will definitely leave a lasting mark.

1 Comments:

Blogger Amit Guha said...

Love the blog. This year at the AMA conference in Boston, I had the exact same topic at a roundtable that I moderated. Almost, everyone commented on their dissatisfaction with their current CMS. Higher Ed has soem unique needs and we need to explore futher why so many Higher Ed institutions seem to be struggling with their CMS strategy

1/11/10, 2:08 PM  

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