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Make life simpler for marketers with Contentful

  • 22 April 2021 / By Martin Paton

As Contentful Gold partners, we were proud to sponsor and speak at their global customer roadshow, Blueprints. Our CTO Martin Paton discussed simplifying content operations with Compose + Launch, one of Contentful’s many powerful tools. He also talked about how to best manage Contentful and other flexible stacks to create the most relevant and engaging experience for your marketing team.


 

Why Contentful?

We have been working with Contentful for many years, have many certified specialists and in December 2020 we achieved the coveted Gold partner status.

Agile Headless CMS such as Contentful have never been so important:

The digital economy (and economy in general) changes so quickly that flexibility is crucial and nimble organisations will be the ones that win out (or even survive). Long term investments in huge standalone suites of tech put your business plan at the mercy of the vendor. 

The cloud infrastructure revolution has happened - spinning up global infrastructure can be done as quickly as driving that replacement rack server to the data centre. 

Much improved open standards and tooling mean engineering expertise is far more global and readily available. 

What’s not changed is the importance of compelling content to drive digital experiences - and the need to be able to translate said content into digital form and publish it to your estate. Technologists have a duty to ensure that tools such as Contentful present a good experience for marketing users that:

a) is most relevant to them, and 
b) offers the lowest barriers to success.

Here are five ways that you can achieve this goal, make life easier for marketing users and ensure the Headless revolution plays a significant role in the success of your business.

Hire a business analyst

It’s likely that you will be undertaking some sort of migration activity between old and new worlds rather than a greenfield affair with brand new ways of working. We’ve all seen projects that have replicated the old system, warts and all, and hearing “I can’t use this, I thought it worked like this...” from the teams we are supposed to serve. 

A business analyst will act as that common glue between the teams, a source of truth, an arbiter, and an objective view who can ensure you are building a progressive platform that will have a positive impact.  Resist the temptation to think you can’t justify the immediate cost and that you can cast someone who isn’t a business analyst to play the role.  The value derived from a dedicated, experienced BA will pay back any cost very quickly.

Only store relevant domain data and make it easy to work with

It can be tempting to dive straight into modelling and storing all your data in Contentful because well, it can be done, and it’s API first. This is where scalability mistakes are made and you can end up with future bottlenecks and data that is difficult to manipulate - think about the context of where this data will be used across the organisation and how any updates may need to scale.   

As an example, consider a model of Retail Stores, with opening hours and other metadata.  For a handful of stores, this could be fine to model in Contentful. However with a few hundred, you can quickly run into problems with potentially thousands of related content types.  Let’s say you need to change the opening times across the board, this could literally be days of work for your editors.  

Adopting a pull model here and leveraging the automation capabilities of Contentful in conjunction with a UI Extension or App Extension to create an easy way of manipulation would ensure you have both a more relevant and dedicated system of record for this data, and also data that can be managed in bulk and synchronized to the CMS automatically.

Leverage Contentful’s Compose and Launch tools for simplicity

Compose, a recent tool from Contentful, simplifies the operation for less-technical users who are perhaps used to working with more traditional CMS products in a website use case, which is still arguably the largest use case for CMS platforms of any flavour.

Unlike traditional CMS products which can often require duplication or otherwise undesirable manipulation of content to deploy to separate channels, Compose offers users a different view of the fundamental content meaning the ‘Single source of content’ or System of Record promise is preserved.  Compose helps retain focus on the actual structured content in a Page context.

Launch gives you the ability to group together content and associated assets into releases enabling collation into single releases.  The Launch app aims to simplify the experience of Contentful when creating lots of related and dependent content. The calendering feature allows you to map and visualise release dates and collaborate more easily with your wider content team. Launch also comes with a light workflow feature that helps when you have various review stages for content to pass through before you can publish, for example in a compliance scenario.

 

We must strive to create the best possible experience for our internal marketing and content users and preserve the essence of what makes headless so powerful.

Martin Paton - CTO, Kin + Carta

Create a fast-feedback, scalable preview

Many marketing people are used to a WYSIWYG interface which despite its shortcomings, offers almost instant feedback as to how a page will appear on a user device. This preview and subsequent assurance can be crucial to whether your implementation sticks or leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. 

Don’t leave anything to assumption or chance, and try to make sure you have as close to a 1:1 representation of production as possible with your preview environments so all data can be viewed in the right context.

And make it fast. Really fast. Look towards the more modern frameworks such as Gatsby, Nuxt or Next, or even Hugo for absolute raw performance - you will be able to leverage the incremental build capabilities and create scalable previews much more easily.


Evaluate and invest in content operations

At its simplest, Content Operations is the organisation of internal teams to deliver a consistent execution of your content strategy. In more detail it is the term used to describe the end-to-end set of internal processes, people and technologies for strategically planning, distributing and analysing content for an external market. 

With the implementation of new Agile CMS paradigms and the flexibility and extensibility of Contentful, coupled with the ever growing volume of considerations that must be met when creating and publishing new content, there can be huge opportunities to be realised from a transformation of this area.

Tools such as Compose, and Launch are powerful additions to the overall Content Operations arsenal and in conjunction with the wider API revolution can really make a difference in making your production, delivery and analytics processes much more efficient and scalable.

We would recommend undertaking a fairly granular review of your content operations team as a precursor to your implementation. This is likely to require some tweaking or, if you don’t have one, considering how organising around a more formal content operations function in your organisation can really improve your delivery pace and quality with modern tools.

These five suggestions will help as you look to improve the Contentful experience for your marketing and editorial teams. If you’d like to find out more then get in touch.

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