August 18, 2015
How Structured Content Enhances Web Experience Management

Structured content is nothing new; we've been talking about it for years, particularly in relation to creating and storing technical documentation. But the importance of structured content has grown well past the management of technical documents. Structured content is important across the entire organization as it works to create and manage great customer experiences.

What Is Structured Content?

Structured content is content stored in a format that defines and describes it. This has nothing to do with where the content is displayed or how it will look, but is about the type of content it is, using things tactics such as metadata tags or DITA (for more complex structures).

In terms of the Web, traditional Web content is HTML-based, but HTML only describes what the content looks like. New approaches to managing Web content provide the structure of the content. This structured content is generally XML, JSON (Java Script Object Notation) or XHTML with additional tag sets and describes what the content means.  

In the web content management world, most organizations fall in the middle of where they use structured content. They do not go to the full XML object model, but they also do not use an HTML Page-based model. A middle path to structured content can be as simple as page-based content management where you structure the content within the page for multi-channel reuse. 

Structured Content & Customer Experience

There are so many channels (website, web application, social, mobile) and devices (tablets, smartphones - iPhone, Android) to provide content to your customers, that it's impractical, if not impossible, to manage different versions of your content for every one of them.  

You need to create your content in such a way that it can be used anywhere - your website, your customer-facing business application, your social networks, a mobile device -create once, publish anywhere.  

And each channel/device requires content to be displayed differently, whether it's how the content is formatted or how much of the content is shown.

Structured Content as a Service

Delivering structured content as a service fits nicely into the agile, service-oriented environment enterprises need to deliver the cross channel customer experiences demanded today.

Let's examine how structured content is supported in a modern Web Experience Management platform.  

Structurally rich. You know exactly how your content is structured, what each piece means in the broader context of the full piece of content. There is no definition of how the content looks, but by structuring the content, you can easily apply different styles to display the content in each channel or device.

Semantically categorized. When taxonomy and metadata is applied to content, the content gets more meaningful because you add additional information to describe the content that you may not put into the actual content item itself such as behaviors, processes, rules, structure and descriptive information.

Automatically discoverable. A search that is based on structured content, a strong taxonomy and metadata supports discoverability of the best content through faceting by category, content type or facets.

Reusable. You can manage any and all content for your website and business systems in your CMS, and deliver it on demand to whatever front-end interface requests it, whether it’s directly to a website built on top of the web experience platform or to a completely separate web application.

Reconfigurable. You don’t always want to see a content item the same way every time, so it needs to be created in a way that enables people and machines to configure it.

Adaptable. Contextual content can be rendered dynamically based audience segments, visitor behavior, devices, business rules, and other factors. In this case structured content supports personalization across multiple channels.

Getting Started with Structured Content

Take the time to understand all the content your organization creates and manages. Define detailed content types, including their metadata elements and how they are related to each other. Your content model should be able to describe how your content is created and can be reconfigured and reused.

Remember to look for a Web CMS that offers not only the ability to store structured content, but also offers features and functionality to use structured content to create a consistent customer experience across all your channels and devices.

Posted by Dave Hillis
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