The CMS is Dead: Thoughts from DrupalCon Portland

I’m just getting back from DrupalCon in the so weird it ceases to be weird city of Portland, Oregon. Here are the major points I got out of it with links to a few sessions:

  1. Let’s not bury the lead and get right to it: Content is killing the CMS. I didn’t hear these exact words used at the conference, but I felt the message was clear. More below.
  2. Drupal 8 is sweet. Did I just hear that D8 will create mobile apps? More Below…
  3. There is more than one way to eat a Reese’s when it comes to the Design Process or UX. I spent a lot lot of time in UX centered sessions and each presenter seemed to have a different process or workflow, and each offered good techniques and sound theory. Therefore, I recommend you watch this session, but only if have an hour to waste, and have watched the other sessions listed in here first. Or feel free to watch the session first and then you will understand why I am speaking in contradictions and circles. That is enough about this.
  4. My informal study has concluded that Portland Timbers logos out number Trailblazer logos like 3 to 1. Unfortunately, no games were in town on my trip.

Point 1: Content is killing the CMS

If you’ve been paying attention to the greater web community over the past few years you will have read your fair share of articles about responsive design and the strategy known as mobile first. So popular in fact, it was the underlying theme of DrupalCon Denver. They are effective and popular techniques to try to pry the internet out of the concept of pixel perfection.

Then along came Karen McGrane’s keynote. (NOTE: You can watch all of the keynotes at this link and you should watch this one.) While she did not say it directly, she made an argument that the mobile first strategy is not enough. I don’t want to understate the importance of mobile, but a mobile website is simply one device and display in a multi-device world.

Think of all of the places where digital content now exist (or will exist in the next few years: desktops, phones, tablets, phablets, TVs, Xboxes, Google Glass, watches, refrigerators, and digital signage. What will happen to your content when it is read to a user by an automated voice while they are driving a car?

While it’s important to remember that the number of mobile users is growing every day and its important not to neglect them (i.e. mobile first), it is not enough. Not every device mention above is mobile. Different devices require a different experiences.

In today’s terms, I only need to look at my organizations needs. Our content is delivered to multiple apps and devices including: radio stations, desktop site, mobile site, mobile app, iTunes, Google Currents, Flipboard, Pulse, and multiple RSS feeds. All of these devices have different displays and content needs.

It is not enough to simply add some content in a WYSIWYG body field, hit save, and ensure it looks good on the desktop page. Content needs to have the ability to flex. Meaning there needs to be one spot (or system) where all of the content is added and distributed to each device from. Once size doesn’t fit all.

Therefore, we need to breakdown our content into many fields that may be similar but have a different purpose. For example, a long summary, a short summary field.  There can no longer be a correlation between saving a page and immediately ‘seeing how it looks’ on the desktop page only.

The purpose of a CMS, as we know it now, is to manage the content of your website. That’s it. Upload content. Add it to a WYSIWYG. Hit preview and look at it to make sure its formatted correctly. Then save and publish. It’s for the website. It’s a glorified magazine publisher. But, with all of the devices and apps that modern content is delivered to is this enough?

Point 2: Drupal as the Content Hub

It was a bit frustrating to hear the questions in the Q&A after McGrane’s keynote and some of the discussion afterwards. It seemed the focus was on whether or not you should use a WYSIWYG or Markdown or something else and to allow inline editing or not.

It’s not a terrible discussion to have, I just think that misses the point. The point is that Drupal is much more marketable as tool than simply a CMS. It’s a content hub. That’s exciting.

As Drupal founder, Dries Buytaert, pointed out in his annual keynote, Drupal 8 will be even better positioned to be the desired content hub mentioned above. He showed new features that will allow Drupal use different content per screen breakpoint, and even better, the ability to create mobile apps! Packaged with the power of Content Types and a simpler editing interface, Drupal will be the spot to house your content, and Drupal will distribute your content. WordPress can’t come close.

Note: I am currently in the process of a Drupal redesign for Stay tuned.

In summation, the main thing I can take away is this: Device and App specific content is killing the CMS. So, in the words of R.E.M. I feel fine (because of Drupal).

Agree? Disagree? Chime in below.


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