Posts tagged "web cms"

Have a Blog You Want to Migrate to SharePoint?

Metalogix (site) is at it again, offering another way to migrate your content into another CMS. This time it's for those of you who have a blog but are being lulled by the sweet song of SharePoint 2010.

Have Blog? Will Migrate

So here's the deal, Microsoft is marketing SharePoint 2010 as a business collaboration platform. And that means it supports collaboration and content management (enterprise content management and web content management).

So it's the perfect platform for you bloggers who want more functionality than your current blogging software offers. At least that's what Metalogix believes. Which is why they have developed a migration tool — the Metalogix Migration Manager for Blogs — that will help you migrate your blog into SharePoint 2010.

What Blogging Software is Supported?

Here's the list:

  • Google Blogger
  • Wordpress
  • Movable Type
  • Telligent
  • Any blog system that supports either the Metaweblog standard or RSS

What Content is Migrated?

What components of your blog can you migrate? You can migrate all your posts, comments and categories.

Like other Metalogix Migration Managers, batch migration and remote administration of the migration are also supported.

Metalogix Migration Manager for Blogs

The migration manager also supports the migration of blogs from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. In this case all version history and user permissions are supported as well.

Time to Migrate Along?

So if you are tired of your current blogging software or just want more functionality — like that found in SharePoint 2010, take a closer look.

And if you are a Microsoft MVP, you can get a free version of the Migration Manager for Blogs.

Oh, and if you aren't ready to go to SharePoint 2010, the migration manager will migrate your blogs to SharePoint 2007. Fails, 10.2 Million Blogs Go Offline (site) was down for approximately 110 minutes yesterday—their worst downtime in four years. The crash took all blogs off the map, including those registered in the VIP program. Wuh-oh.


All the details about what caused the blackout haven't been released yet, but founding developer Matt Mullenweg wrote the following on the company's blog:

…it appears an unscheduled change to a core router by one of our datacenter providers messed up our network in a way we haven’t experienced before, and broke the site. It also broke all the mechanisms for failover between our locations in San Antonio and Chicago. All of your data was safe and secure, we just couldn’t serve it.

But I'm a Very Important Person!

The crash couldn't've come at a more ironic time, seeing as how's revamped VIP program was just announced this week. Designed for extremely high traffic blogs, the program boasts "rock-solid up time" among other perks.  

Unfortunately even the elite couldn't avoid's hiccup, leading to a whopping 10.2 million blacked-out blogs and what is estimated to be 5.5 million missed page views.

Meanwhile, the team behind the platform is still trying to figure out exactly what happened, and how they can recover more gracefully in the event that it happens again.

"I know this sucked for you guys as much as it did for us — the entire team was on pins and needles trying to get your blogs back as soon as possible," wrote Mullenweg. "I hope it will be much longer than four years before we face a problem like this again."

Drupal 6 Performance Tips From Packt

Packt Publishing (site), one of our favorite providers of IT books for professionals, has just kicked out a book to help you boost Drupal 6 performance.

The book is aimed at users of all experience levels—that includes you, beginners!—as well as, designers, themers and webmasters.

Once you get your Drupal site and up and running, this book will help you to implement performance modules and solutions for keeping track of site performance as well as kicking overall speed up a notch. 

The book starts off easy by covering introductory topics such as upgrading and maintaining your site, and enabling core Drupal page compression and caching. Afterward, a shift in the advanced direction for a look at contributed modules for helping speed up performance. Lastly, you'll learn how best to implement and run a Drupal multisite environment.

Here's a breakdown of the topics covered:

  • Upgrade your Drupal 5 site to Drupal 6 using best practice upgrade paths
  • Back up and maintain your Drupal 6 site using core and contributed modules and utilities
  • Configure the Drupal core and contributed modules for high traffic
  • Run core Drupal page compression, CSS and JS compression, and use Drupal page caching
  • Run scheduled cron tasks to perform crucial garbage-collection processes
  • Use the Development (Devel) module to monitor page loads and queries
  • Use the Boost module for anonymous page caching, tweak Boost settings, and use Boost blocks and advanced Boost settings to monitor site performance
  • Install and use Memcache API and Integration module, and Authcache and Advanced Cached modules to enhance and monitor site performance
  • Configure a Drupal multisite environment for best performance

Normally it'll cost you about US$ 39.99, but there are currently some discounts available. Check it out.

The Essence of a Successful Persona Project

Personas are a flexible and powerful tool for user researchers. They're also one of the most misunderstood. When done well, they ensure the team focuses on the needs and delights of their users.

Like other effective user research techniques, personas deliver confidence and insights to the team. Personas help the team make important design decisions with a thorough understanding of who the users are, what they need, and when they need it.

For the last few years, we've studied how a variety of design teams have tried to harvest the benefits of persona projects. We've explored several wildly successful persona projects and many that fell far short of their goals. We now better understand where the magic lies with personas — what the essence of a successful project is.

An Advanced Technique

You don't get the benefits of personas for free. While we saw many teams reap new insights within the first few hours, the teams that saw the most out of it made a long-term investment.

Our research showed timing is a critical element in the success of persona projects. The team has to be in a place where they can proactively tackle design challenges. If the team is dealing with a firehose-stream of feature requests and enhancements, the project won't get much traction.

At the same time, the organization needs to be ready to make the users' overall experience a priority. We noticed this often comes after an experience disaster — some external issue that brings the overall experience, not just the features and technology, into the limelight.

For example, when a major e-commerce web site suffered a failed redesign launch, reducing sales by 35%, their senior management finally understood the need to know more about how their customers shopped. Before the devastating launch, the management's focus was all about features and slick visual design, but because of the revenue decrease, customer experience was now on everyone's mind. Personas were now a priority.

Because personas take time to develop and integrate into the culture, they require involvement at all organizational levels to be effective. Like any important endeavor, if the organization can't give the team the time and resources, then the persona project will probably fail. When that happens, it's likely the organization is just not ready.

Starting With Information You Already Have

We were surprised by how easy it was to jumpstart a persona project. We came into the research thinking successful projects had to start with an intensive research effort, costing big bucks and eating up the calendar. We couldn't have been more wrong.

Many successful teams started by culling information the organization already had in their heads. Using techniques that collect this information, such as Tamara Adlin's Ad-Hoc Persona workshop, these teams get working personas very quickly.

These quick-start methods are often fun and inspiring, as they focus the team on users’ needs from the very beginning of the project. A key element is involving senior management and stakeholders from the get-go. Their participation sanctions the work, helps everyone think from a user experience vantage point, and simplifies the persona ranking process.

At first, we were wary about constructing personas from existing viewpoints instead of from fresh research of real users doing real things. We thought it would create a design trying to solve problems that don’t encompass real users needs.

However, almost every team that used the jumpstart method went off to do more robust, formal field research, visiting users and observing real issues. As the new information came in, they changed their personas along the way, showing management where the internal beliefs differ from the real world. And, because the team involved senior management in the first pass, it was easier to sell the more rigorous research.

Our big surprise was discovering this: A team using the same, incorrect personas is better than each member designing for a different user, where some hit the mark and some don't.

Having the same personas to work with, even if they're off the mark, gives the team a common language. Since the successful projects ensured their teams had subsequent exposure to real users, correcting any wrong beliefs was easy. When everyone started on the same page, they found it easy to talk about how new information needed to change their understanding.

How Do You Know You've Succeeded?

A common fixation amongst the failed persona projects we studied was the look and feel of the description document. The teams believed they needed a great looking description for each persona for its adoption. These teams invested hundreds of dollars (sometimes thousands) to produce slick posters, screensavers, and slideshows, describing the intricacies of each persona.

Studying the successful projects, we learned these description documents aren't important at all. These teams often had very bland, non-descript documents describing each persona. Instead, we found four success criteria: internalizing the personas, creating rich scenarios, prioritizing the most important personas, and involving all the stakeholders and influencers.

Internalizing the Personas: Each team member had the same personas in their head. As we talked with each person, they could describe the personas as if they were their favorite story characters. They had internalized the details — making them real.

Creating Rich Scenarios: The team members could talk through the personas' scenarios in detail. They could share each persona's context, the desired scenario outcome, and the approach the persona took to get there. It was clear the team had talked about these scenarios often, because everyone would tell us the same details, much like when people share their favorite fairytales.

Prioritizing: Interestingly, the successful projects also had something we hadn't originally looked for: a clear understanding of each persona's priority. We'd always thought the importance of a persona would shift depending on the designer's current focus. However, amongst the successful teams, they knew which personas were most important and which they could sacrifice when compromises had to happen.

Stakeholder Involvement: The most successful projects made sure this knowledge extended beyond the primary design team members, to all the people who could influence the design. When we talked with stakeholders and influencers outside the core project team, such as business line managers and the company's lawyers, it was clear they were also well versed in the personas, their scenarios, and their priority. They told us of frequent meetings and memos where an in-depth analysis of a persona's scenario influenced important business decisions.

We've found there's a simple test to measure whether a persona project will be a success: Walk up to any team member, stakeholder, or influencer and ask who the most important personas are. If they can give the same story as everyone else on the team, you have a winning project on your hands. Slick posters and screensavers aren't spreading this understanding — it's frequent, in-depth discussions at practically every point in the project.

The Essence of Successful Persona Projects

We've long believed personas were a valuable design tool. We were initially disheartened by the many failures we'd seen, but now that we've had a chance to study some successes in-depth, we can see teams realizing the promised benefits.

The trick is to not rush into it. Ensuring the organization is at the right place in their user experience maturity is critical. Using a jump-start technique works, but the team needs to follow up with robust research. Finally, keeping the personas alive through frequent discussions, especially around key decisions and trade-off conversations, makes them a valuable design asset.

Oracle + Sun: What it Means for Content Management

After many intellectual property and anti-trust concerns, one of the biggest deals in the technology space has been approved. Sun fans wipe their tears, as Oracle (site) chooses a new motto "Software. Hardware. Complete." — aiming to provide a full stack of storage, hardware, operating systems, databases, middleware and Java.

All of the above are integral parts of the content management industry. Thus, we pondered a bit over what, if any, impact the Oracle/Sun merger will have on thee.

Middleware and Content Management

The "11g" series is the new black over at Oracle. Part of the Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g monster suite of products, Oracle Universal Content Management (UCM) is, as many of you know, largely based on Oracle's 2006 acquisition of Stellent. In the spirit of further consolidation, Sun products — according to Oracle’s ambitious strategy — will become part of Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Integrating Sun into its Oracle Fusion Middleware portfolio, Oracle says it is will provide maintenance to existing Sun middleware customers and will not force any migrations. Yet, the vendor doesn’t miss a chance to highlight a "variety of upgrade options."

It’s never easy to combine several WCM and/or ECM products in one portfolio — just look at Open Text’s ongoing struggles. And while it is still early, we think that Sun’s integration may bolster Oracle’s position in the content management market and, perhaps, add some fresh blood to the rather stagnated UCM.

Portal Technologies

The portal technology area seems to be a bit more uncertain at the moment. We have Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g and Sun’s (open source portal Liferay-flavored) Glassfish Web Space Server.

Out of all the portal technologies that this merger brings together in one basket, most likely, the focus will stay on Oracle’s own product, although the company plans to continue support of Sun portal customers.

But we don’t think it will be long before we hear about migrations. If you’re one of those early adopters, Oracle is already advertising and re-iterating an upgrade path for Sun GlassFish Web Space Server to Oracle WebCenter Suite.

Collaboration and Office Productivity

Microsoft and Google may feel more competitive pains as Oracle takes Sun’s rather successful under its wing. Sun’s productivity offering dates back to 2000 and includes web-based and desktop versions of office productivity apps, running in just about any browser or any device.

It would make sense for Oracle to continue to invest in both the open source and commercial (StarOffice) versions of On Oracle’s side, we see a gap in the office productivity tools space. We wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing Oracle does is integration of OpenOffice with Oracle UCM and connectors to other Java-friendly web content management systems.

The same probably goes for collaboration tools. Oracle’s own Beehive may overpower Sun’s Java Communications Suite, where similar to portals, Oracle’s investment in Beehive may skew the priorities list going forward.

Java: The Most Important Software Ever Acquired

Oracle stressed its commitment to Java on a number of occasions — even while waiting for the merger to be completed. Back in 2009, Oracle said:

"Java is one of the computer industry's best-known brands…and it is the most important software Oracle has ever acquired."

No surprise here. Oracle plans to cash in on Java, turning it into an even stronger alternative to MS .NET and extend its reach beyond the already considerable 10-million member community.

According to Oracle’s executive vice president, Thomas Kurian, the company plans to integrate and simplify the Java runtime. In the new version 7 of the Java Standard Edition client there shall be many improvements. The mobile version, Java ME, will be compatible with Java Standard Edition to lessen the pains for developers.

Kurian also said they plan to ease the pains of developers using JavaScript who want to also work with Java. This will be part of Oracle’s plans to invest US$ 4.3 billion into post-acquisition-integration R&D, said Oracle’s president Charles Phillips. Even as we watch trillions flushed away in the global derivative meltdown, that's no small number.

Thanks in part to their 2008 acquisition of BEA, Java is not new to Oracle. This event brought the highly popular — in the content management space — WebLogic J2EE application server under Oracle’s umbrella. With the Sun acquisition, Oracle now has the programming language itself. In addition, Oracle Fusion Middleware is built on top of Sun's Java language — all in all, and if strategy executes well, Oracle stands to benefit from complete ownership of the Java stack.

Now, the company is well aware of Java being comprised of many open source efforts, and we’re curious to see what, if anything, they do with the Java Community Process (JCP).

JCP was one of the factors that allowed the European Commission to approve the acquisition, since it was found that "Oracle's ability to deny its competitors access to important IP rights would be limited by the functioning of the Java Community Process (JCP), which is a participative process for developing and revising Java technology specifications."

For the content management space, let’s not forget that Sun’s Java is the heart and soul of many Web CMS, Document Management, DAM and Records Management solutions, not to mention strongly tied to standards like JSR-170 and JSR-283.

MySQL and the Database Market

Here's where it starts getting hot in the kitchen. Many people are concerned about the future of the open source MySQL database. One need not go far to find statements like "I hope [Oracle] don't try to ruin MySQL now."

Even before the Sun acquisition, Oracle has been dominate in the database market. Adding MySQL to its portfolio, Oracle (yet again) competitively nudges Microsoft with its MS SQL database. But that is not the whole story. Richard Stallman, the main author of the GNU General Public License asserts:

"Oracle seeks to acquire MySQL to prevent further erosion of its share of the market for database software licenses and services, and to protect the high prices now charged for its proprietary database software licenses and services."

MySQL is hugely popular in the content management space, especially for the lower end of the market. Many simpler products like XOOPS, Mambo, Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress, CMS Made Simple and TYPO3 rely almost exclusively on it. And  a good number of medium and upper tier WCM and ECM products also build on MySQL — Bitrix, EMC/Documentum, eZ Publish, Jahia, KnowledgeTree and Alfresco are all members of the club. There's another raft of products that support MySQL as well as other databases like PostgreSQL, MS SQL and Oracle.

It would be surprising if Oracle worked to undermine MySQL in any way. According to The Register, Sun retained the entire 400 person MySQL team after their acquisition, and "Oracle has vowed to leave its sales and development team independent and intact." Oracle’s strategy is to include this DB offering as part of the Open Source GBU, invest in and improve MySQL, and better integrate it with Oracle’s products.

The Register quoted Oracle's chief corporate architect, Ed Screven, saying that  "the difference between Sun and Oracle is that Oracle will make MySQL 'better'."

Time alone will tell. But given that Oracle makes a significant percentage of its revenue on software support, the MySQL strategy is not an outlier at Redwood Shores. There is some reasonable cause for optimism. Nevertheless, the question remains: How smart will Oracle allow MySQL to become? Monty Widenius, one of the MySQL project founders, is not too optimistic. His words say it best:

A weak MySQL is worth about one billion dollars per year to Oracle, maybe more. A strong MySQL could never generate enough income for Oracle that they would want to cannibalize their real cash cow. I don't think any company has ever done anything like that. That's why the EC is skeptic and formalized its objections.

Vendors highly reliant on the MySQL database will be watching closely. Hopes that functionality currently implemented in the software layer will migrate down into the database core should be regularly cross-checked with reality.

Cloud Computing

Oracle didn’t express much interest in Sun’s cloud utilities, and the prognosis for Sun Cloud — a public cloud platform — was not very bright, when Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect, said "We're not going to be offering the Sun Cloud service." Some may refer to it as a setback to openness and interoperability in cloud computing, but it is clear that business-wise Oracle had to make cuts somewhere.

At the same time, Oracle does plan to revive the prematurely killed project. With some clarification, we know now that while Oracle's doesn't want to host several platforms (hence, the shutdown of, but will focus on as the hosted development community. So, perhaps, don't be to hasty to migrate to and the likes.

Tears of Joy?

In the days following the official announcement of the merger, Twitter was heartfelt comments aplenty. The end of an era, they said it was, when people saw redirecting to

Will Oracle + Sun combo have a profound effect on the web content management industry? Not likely. Some predictable changes aside, and with widespread M&As and industry consolidation, from what we see it’s nothing more than business as usual.

BuddyPress 1.2 Turns WordPress into a Social Network

It seems like everyone and their mother is trying to integrate social media into their solutions, and WordPress (news, site) is no exception.

BuddyPress, a package of social tools initially designed to add networking to sites based on WordPress MU, can now be used with standard installs. 

Meet BuddyPress

The WordPress team describes BuddyPress as “social networking in a box” because of the range of included features, but like the rest of the WordPress fam, it’s open source and free. This equals a virtual ton of glitzy add-ons from the community, no doubt.

The basic features that work to bring people together include:

  • Activity Streams: Global, personal and group activity streams with threaded commenting, direct posting, favoriting and @mentions. All with full RSS feed and email notification support.
  • Extended Profiles: Editable profile fields allow you to define the fields users can fill in to describe themselves. 
  • Extensible Groups: Public, private or hidden groups allow users to break the discussion down into specific topics. Extend groups with your own custom features using the group extension API.
  • Friend Connections: Users can make connections to track the activity of others, or filter on only those users they care about the most.
  • Private Messaging: Private messaging will allow users to talk to each other directly, and in private. Not just limited to one-on-one discussions, users can send messages to multiple recipients.

Additionally, features can be turned off, so if there's something that doesn't strike your fancy — like private messaging or group discussions — getting rid of them isn't that difficult.

Meet BuddyPress 1.2

The new release of BuddyPress brings all that social goodness to standard WordPress installs (or WordPress MU 2.9.1 and up) in “six minutes flat.” That’s assuming you don’t yet have WordPress anyway, which has a famous installation time of 5 minutes. So really, adding a social media package to your Web CMS only takes a minute.

If you’ve already got a WordPress install up and running, head over to your Plugins page and select Add New from the menu. There you can find and auto-install BuddyPress. Note: There may still be some customization required, particularly within standard WordPress themes. Or, WordPress offers a stock BuddyPress theme that works nicely.

Moreover,'s newly boosted VIP hosting and developer-to-developer support program for their elite users offers additional support for BuddyPress (because it's becoming kind of a big deal).  

Check it out.

Mobile Strategy is Key: More Than 50% of Internet Shoppers Went Mobile in 2009

You're behind the curve if you haven't been working on a mobile strategy. Consider this: the mobile sector is a US$ 850 billion global market and will comprise 62% of the total telecom market in 2010 (IDC study, Worldwide Mobile Trends: Steady Subscriber Growth, the Proliferation of Applications, and the Mobile Internet ). Or this: more than one half of internet users worldwide used a mobile device for part of their shopping activities in December 2009 (Mobile Shopping Takes Hold Worldwide - eMarketer).

But before you circle the strategy and tech wagons, step back and think about how you really need to approach this channel. Need help? Read on.

The Wrong Way to a Mobile Strategy

Here's how you shouldn't approach a mobile strategy: You look around at what your competitors are doing and read about the current stats for mobile usage and you say "we need one of those [mobile strategy] too".

Wrong. Yes, mobile is just another channel, but you need an integrated view across all your channels. The problem is, most companies put the mobile channel in a silo because they really don't know much about it.

This is the experience of Greg Dowling, Semphonic's newest VP. He is leading the consulting firm's mobile strategy and measurement practice, so he knows a little bit about mobile strategy. Dowling (who by the way is holding a breakfast seminar series on this very topic February 23rd in Washington DC and February 25th in New York) told us that companies need to determine their mobile readiness and figure out if a mobile channel is suitable to their current offering.

He says companies "need to get SMART with mobile". What does that mean exactly? Follow along:

S is for Strategy

Every good plan starts with a strategy and the decision to add a mobile channel — or not — should be considered carefully. Unfortunately many organizations are still starting with the technical decision and not with the business requirements.

Do you know the technograhics of your consumers? Do you know user types, geographic distribution, what they are doing on your website? If you already have good measurement of your current website and visitors/customers, you are well on your way to creating your mobile strategy.

It's important to understand that some products and offerings don't lend themselves well to a mobile environment (one example is lead generation websites). Mobile is used the most by consumers in the media, commerce and social markets.

We see this clearly in a report from Motorola that surveyed retail shoppers usage of mobile during the Christmas holiday season: 

eMarketer — Mobile Shopping Takes Hold Worldwide

and in a recent report by The Nielsen Company:

Mobile Audience Mirrors Total Internet as Search, Email, Social Networking Drive Traffic

What are your objectives?

Why do you want a mobile channel? Are you trying to increase revenues? Decrease costs? Or do you want to increase brand awareness or cut calls to your call center.

What is your Level of Commitment?

To add a mobile channel you have to be 100% committed Dowling says. Testing the waters won't be good enough. He told us that in 2010 there isn't a ton of commitment by agencies and brands. According to Equation Research, the breakdown for 2010 plans for mobile marketing is as follows:

  • 10% have mobile as a line item
  • 60% are experimenting with mobile
  • 30% have no mobile plans at all

What's interesting though is that mobile is the fastest, largest and most readily adopted channel, says Dowling — 3-1 over Internet users. That means 70% of people have mobile devices compared to 20-26% that have the internet.

According to recent research from the IDC, the mobile sector is a US$ 850 billion global market with smartphones emerging as a key driver.

The mobile sector is in transition from its prior focus on subscriber growth. The expanding demographics of smartphones and new operating systems, the arrival of mobile broadband, and the explosive growth of applications and content are combining to reshape the landscape of mobile telecommunications," said Courtney Munroe, group vice president of Worldwide Telecommunications at IDC.

Can you define reasonable ROI?

Don't try to get overly specific and detailed when defining ROI. Dowling says a rough order of magnitude will work. You just need to know if it's worth your time.

M is for Measure

Determining what you need to measure once you have your mobile website or mobile application up and running should be an obvious next step. You need to clearly define your KPIs and they should be aligned with your business objectives.

You need to think about measurement enablement options. How do you measure?

The reality is that mobile is hard to measure. Dowling says there are so many nuances to the space, that measurement can be challenging. There are three primary areas to consider:

  1. Platform:
    Traditional website measurement is done with the help of javascript. But javascript is not present/not enabled in many mobile devices, so traditional tagging won't work. You could use cookies but device limitations can prevent cached data coming from your server to ever reach the user's mobile device.
  2. Carrier Limitations:
    Many carriers give mobile users a subscriber ID (usually a hash of their account number). This allows them to marry up the requests that get passed around and is the preferred method to capture unique information. Unfortunately some carriers strip the HTTP header or limit the size of the request.
  3. Mobile Applications:
    Mobile apps live on the mobile device, so you are essentially trying to track behavior that takes place on the application on the device; you want to understand how the application is being used. In this case, measurement becomes a component of development — you need to add your measurement tactics prior to developing the application. This means that more QA time is required — and more rigor — to insure you are measuring properly. Also user identification can be an issue. You can give each user a unique id to track them, but how do you tie that together with that users activity across your other channels?

What is likely to happen, is that you will have a hybrid measurement methodology. Omniture, WebTrends and Google Analytics are examples of web analytics vendors that offer multiple options for measuring mobile usage including leveraging server side scripting or device side tracking (with or without javascript). But there are also a number of niche mobile measurement vendors out there like Flurry and Localytics who offer an additional level of tracking that traditional vendors can't provide.

A is for Analysis

The analysis you need to do for mobile is not your traditional web analytics. You will do basic metrics like handset, manufacturer, browser, device, geography. But you will also have to do intelligent correlation across your other channels.

You need to understand how users come using other channels, like your website. What you are trying to understand is the entire user experience across all channels. It is important to find out how usage differs between other online channels: traditional web, mobile website, mobile application and then integrate this usage with what you know about usage in your offline channels: call centers, other internet marketing, etc..

R is for Reporting

So you have measured, and you have analyzed. Now you need to make that information available in obvious data visualizations and interactions. You also have to create the right reports with just the right amount of information for the right people.

Note that the higher up you go, the less detail they need to know. For example, most senior executives only need to know 3-5 key metrics.

And automate your reports, so you aren't spending a lot time pulling the information together.

T is for Tactics

Once you know what you need to know, start thinking about optimizing tactics. Generate actionable insights and ensure you are providing the right message to the right person at the right time.

Try to understand how offline conversions are affected by mobile, optimize the channel. And where you can, use your fixed website to drive people to the mobile channel.

Dowling also says to leverage experience design and always be testing.

Putting it all Together

According to research firm Gartner, mobile users will spend US$ 6.2 billion in mobile application stores this year, with expected advertising revenue of US$ 0.6 billion worldwide. Now that's only mobile applications. How many more of your customers will visit your website via their mobile device, expecting a good user experience.

The question still comes back to whether or not you need a mobile strategy. You need to understand your market and their needs and expectations. One you have established that mobile is indeed a channel you need to have and you are prepared to do what is required to develop it, then you are on your way.

Bitrix Offers Web CMS Platform through Amazon EC2

The upgrade to Bitrix’s Virtual Appliance for Amazon EC2 from 1.4 to 1.5 adds a number of improvements that the company says will enhance the user performance of its content management and enterprise content management software.

With a whole pile of pre-configured settings to nip any software compatibility issues in the bud, Bitrix (site) says the new release will speed up all the processes and increase the performance of all the components through its built-in mechanisms.

This version allows users to install Bitrix Site Manager and Bitrix Intranet Portal, or any other applications that use the PHP platform, quicker and more efficiently than previous versions. It also includes the most recent version of the Bitrix web environment with optimized memory usage.

It is protected by both Amazon EC2 security settings and by an integrated firewall which is set up automatically. It also now supports all three data center location regions — US Standard, US N. California, EU — Ireland — after recent EC2 development.

However, that is not all you get. It also comes with the beta release of Amazon EBS (Elastic Block Device) customized for Bitrix users giving them 1TB of back-up power for web projects and intranet portals.

Bitrix’s Virtual Appliance is free to download once you have logged in to Amazon Web Services.

Selecting a CMS: Developing Usage Scenarios

In my last article, I described how to avoid the analysis-paralysis trap and quickly make your way to a short list of content management software options. If you missed that article, check out Selecting a CMS: How to Build a Short List.  If you followed the recommended approach, you should have a good idea of your high-level vision (what type of website you need to manage), your financial and technical constraints and few promising products to look at.

In this article I describe how to define some practical usage scenarios which you will use to shape the product evaluation process.

Up to this point you have been thinking very objectively — asking direct yes/no questions and eliminating anything with a "no" response.  But you haven't addressed any of the subjective factors like efficiency, usability and manageability.  All of the products on your short list could work  — given enough compromises and customization — but that isn't good enough. You want something better than nearly adequate.

Writing Effective Scenarios

To find the product that will be the best fit for your organization, you need to dig into your requirements; but put those spreadsheets away.  Spreadsheets are great for naming features but they won't guide you to understand how these products would work with your users and the content that your organization needs to manage.

This is where scenarios come in

A scenario is a short story — written in a language that regular people understand; not business analyst-speak —  that describes a user's interaction with the system to achieve a business objective. A scenario encapsulates lots of specific requirements and gives them greater meaning and context.

These are the four attributes of an effective scenario:

  1. It is written with specific users in mind
  2. It addresses an important and commonly executed task
  3. It references the content that you intend to manage
  4. It is open-ended enough to expose the difference in product design and approach

That list was dense so let me unpack it a bit.

1. Understanding Specific Users

Understanding users is the most important element of a CMS project because in the end, a content management system is a tool for users. The perceived success or failure of your project will hinge on how effective those users feel when they interact with the system. 

I typically write scenarios for four different user groups:

  • content contributors
  • content consumers or visitors
  • system administrators
  • software developers

Each of these groups have different responsibilities that can either be eased or frustrated by the technology: 

  • Scenarios for the content contributor will be about adding, editing, organizing, finding and approving content. 
  • Visitor scenarios will be about front end functionality like searching, reading content on different devices and potentially interactive functionality like commenting and user profile management.
  • Administrators will be concerned with managing contributor accounts, system upgrades and backups. 
  • Developers will need to define content types, develop presentation templates and potentially integrate with other technologies.  

Some people like to build "personas" that give personality and character to these abstract user types but I don't think that adds much value to this exercise. You might as well think of the real person (your actual co-worker or customer) than some made up symbol of him. Personae are more useful for branding and design exercises. But please don't let that stop you from creating an imaginary friend if you want to — we all have our special needs.

2. Prioritizing the Tasks

For each of the user groups outlined above, brainstorm their most important activities with regards to the system. 

What do they spend their time on? What do their "clients" hound them for?  What are they most afraid of messing up? All these are good candidates for scenarios. But don't forget the tasks that they take for granted with their current systems and processes. A new CMS means the old tools go away and even the worst systems do somethings well.

While the types of scenarios will be similar across CMS buyers, the details of how the tasks need to be executed can vary widely. This is why simply naming tasks is not enough. 

For example, if the scenario involves finding a piece of content, we need to think about what information the user starts with. Does he just have some key words that he thinks should be mentioned in the title or the body of the asset? Does he know the URL or the path? What additional information will help him filter down to the asset? The date it was published?  Where it occurs on the site?

This is why scenarios are so different from features. All CMS products will claim to support finding content; the differences will be in these critical details.

While how people work is important, be careful not to get mired in your dysfunctional processes.  Some tasks will go away or be redefined when your broken system gets retired. With that said, don't wander down that slippery slope of business process re-engineering either. Stumble onto that path and before you know it your project will get too big and political. Focus on not re-creating your big, obvious problems

3. Deconstructing Content

When thinking about your content, there are two dimensions to consider: structure and organization.

From a structural perspective, content is often more than simple pages with a title and body. Some content is hierarchical and inter-related. For example, I recently completed a project for a museum that had exhibitions with start and end dates, and ordered collections of works of art. Each work of art has a reference to an artist. Works of art could be re-used across exhibitions and could also be in permanent collections.

This example also presents a question of organization. An individual work of art can appear in different contexts but one is considered the primary. By making the structure and organization of your content part of your scenarios, you will get to see different approaches to meeting these requirements. You will see how the user interface handles input validation, content relationship building and content placement.

It is a good idea to include a model of one of the more complex types with the scenarios. It doesn't have to be fancy. A simple outline with field names and data types will do. If there are rules that restrict privileges to different areas of the site, it is a good idea to include a site map with those rules as well. Some CMS restrict access by content type; others restrict by placement in the content tree; others do a hybrid of both. Know the implications of the vendor's approach in regards to how it will interact with your business rules.

4. Using, not Abusing the Level of Detail

When you are writing these scenarios, be careful not to be overly prescriptive or rigid about how the system works. Some details will not be relevant to certain systems. Focus on the details that are important to your business rather than arbitrary implementation decisions like how you might navigate to a piece of content or what the save button is called.

Save time by glossing over functionality that is more or less homogeneous and ubiquitous across the marketplace. For example, nearly all of the Web CMS platforms on the market use a handful of third party rich text editors. Rather than describing mundane features like bolding and underlining, concentrate on areas where they differ like browsing and searching through content repository to find links to other assets.

If you have a requirement that different types of users should have more control over rich text than others  — like the ability to embed  objects and JavaScript — describe those types of rules in your scenarios.

The scenarios that I write tend to be between one quarter and three quarters of a page. If a scenario is really long, maybe it needs to be broken up into multiple scenarios. Or maybe it just has too much detail.

Using Your Scenarios

Once you have written you interaction scenarios, it is time to put them to work.

First, you will include your scenarios in your RFP. This will help educate the supplier about how you work and what you are trying to do with their software. Keep in mind that the scenarios are also an excellent means to beginning a dialog that will map your specific needs to the features and configurations of a vendor's software. They speak in ways that simple requirements matrices never can.

Next, you should plan and construct your evaluation processes around these scenarios. The scenarios — and your content model — will dictate at least part of your product demonstrations. This is key. If vendors fail to address your scenarios, then work with them to reformat the demonstrations, or recognize that the vendor is side-stepping your demands.

Next Up: Custom Product Demonstrations

Stay tuned. In my next article, I will walk you through preparing for and conducting customized product demos, including how to best process what you have seen. In the mean time, the following articles provide valuable context and advice for the software selection process.

CoreMedia and Forrester: Cross Channel User Experiences Must Improve

Demanding modern consumers want not only rich, engaging online experiences, but, according to Forrester's research, they also expect these experiences to extend transparently across multiple channels — from the web to call centers, to direct mail, mobile, social networks and in-store displays. In fact, recent research says that more than 70% of U.S. consumers use the Web plus another channel when making purchase decisions.

We've said it before, 2010 is shaping up to be a year where experience management needs drive the Web CMS sector in new, and in our opinion, interesting directions.

On Thursday February 25 at 8am Pacific, 11am Eastern and 4pm GMT CoreMedia and Forrester are holding a webinar entitled The Role of Web CMS in Cross-Channel Customer Relations.

The live event will be presented by Forrester's Tim Walters and aims to:

  • Review the emerging trends in cross-channel communications and experience management
  • Explore how Web Content Management solutions can a play key role in driving customer responsiveness
  • Demonstrate that synchronizing, updating and optimizing your digital content for a wide variety of consumer end points can quickly increase your customer engagement

If you're tasked with optimizing your customer communication and interaction channels, then this event might be just what you need. Inquiring minds can register here.