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Web Content Management and Web 2.0

Web 2.0 Enabled Content Management Solutions
With all the hype that Web 2.0 is getting these days, many companies are now looking at their existing Web Content Management System (CMS) and wondering whether it stacks up to the needs of this new framework–or whether it’s just another iteration of an earlier age of the Web. More and more, businesses are wondering if their Web CMS is missing new business opportunities by making existing content appear dated and static to visitors.

Nobody wants to be left behind. Companies currently looking to acquire a new CMS want their new software to be “Web 2.0 enabled.” But what does this mean in real terms?

The term “Web 2.0” refers to the changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design with the objective of enhancing creativity, communications, secure information sharing, collaboration, and functionality of the web. Increasingly, Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of new web culture communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, and blogs.

The term Web 2.0 started to gain a degree of notoriety after the first O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it doesn’t refer to an update to any technical specifications. It mainly focuses on changes in the ways software developers and end-users utilize the Web. According to Tim O’Reilly: “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”

The principals distilled by O’Reilly took us a long way toward drawing much-needed lines around the Web 2.0 concept. However, out in the wild, Web 2.0 is often used more like a “New and Improved” sticker you might find on a slick, shiny box of cleaning detergent.

To be sure, sites with large, bold sans-serif fonts, large form field boxes, “Beta” baked into the logo, and slick DHTML interfaces all look worthy of a Web 2.0 label. But all too often this is little more than updated branding. So, if your current CMS can’t handle what all this is really about, it doesn’t belong on any version of the web.

If you’re still pretty much out in the dark when it comes to what it will take to get your business into the world of Web 2.0, here are 6 principles you can use as working guidelines to get you started:

  • Be Informal; Stick to a Bottom-up Model.
    Somebody once said that “web markets are conversations.” Your audience doesn’t want to be talked at with marketing gloss. They want an honest dialog with real people behind the firewall and with other community members who understand and are active in the site or service context.
    Lighten up–and drop the stiff, canned answers.
    Today’s Web 2.0 world embraces companies, content and services that are open, candid and above all, accessible.

  • Data is the Application.
    Owning unique content is more valuable than owning the software. Your content is even more valuable if you can open it up for broad and creative use.

    O’Reilly said “Data is the New Intel Inside”, others have said “SQL is the new HTML”. What it all comes down to is this: Visitors and customers come to your site for the value they can find inside your data. And they want to leverage that perceived value in ways you may never have thought about before.

  • Participation is Key.
    O’Reilly described this as harnessing the collective intelligence—or what some call “the wisdom of crowds.” Get your community of users to participate. This will create the true value of your service or content and keep that value vibrant and dynamic.

  • Let interactions be flexible.
    Trust that crowd. Embrace the participants. Be sure they have the tools they need to share what they know.

  • Keep the Interface Rich, But Simple.
    When your visitors are having what you might be thinking of as a Web 2.0 Experience, they no longer have the sensation of clicking from one page to another so much as they you have the feeling of being on a user-centric, ergonomically engineered journey!

The bottom line is that the browser-based experience has evolved. Your end users now expect a significantly more sophisticated client interface. This is because content has become objects, not pages. Today’s web content is less about layout and more about structured entities that support a broad range of users and are flexible enough to be adapted and packaged in new ways. To be considered a modern web UI, the interface must be functionally rich, response times must be fast, and a careful balance must be struck between features and simplicity.

But while we’re at it, let’s be clear about something else. This change doesn’t mean the page concept is dead. It does however mean you’re your editors, content managers and CMS vendors must be thinking and acting differently.

What’s more, as you look ahead, your CMS vendor needs to understand that your content managers will need to do more than just edit pages, and accordingly provide a data model, the tools and the interface to support management and publishing of rich content objects.

Now, all this doesn’t mean that the Web you only just started to get comfortable with is dead. Many traditional concepts such as online branding, attractive interfaces, search engine optimization and website usability are still important.

Web 2.0 principals simply take the next step forward, augmenting traditional web content with more dynamic and honest conversations, opening content production to new audiences, introducing new models of participation and supporting new types of client devices and applications.