What digital marketers, writers and editors need to know when going headless: Part 2

Enterprises are jumping from monolithic CMSes to headless CMSes. It’s an exciting change that gives customers new ways to interact with products and services — but the switch can be challenging, especially for digital marketers who need to quickly learn how to use unfamiliar tools.

I made this transition myself, and I’m here to help you make friends with your new headless CMS. Read part one of this series to learn about my experience and two aspects of going headless: maximizing content use and successful content modeling. In this post, we’ll go deeper into content modeling and discuss how to optimise omnichannel user experience with the best tools on the market.

Content modeling: taking the next step with assemblies and metadata

Most digital marketing professionals have created websites with traditional CMSes, like WordPress, because it’s easy to start something simple with them. You can start a blog by signing up, choosing a template, writing your content and publishing it. Headless CMSes work a bit differently. They’re quite literally headless: they don’t come with ready-made tools to curate content into topical landing pages or manage navigation. All this is handled by a developer team. But headless CMSes can still be easy to use after setup.

In the previous post you learned a little bit of content modeling. After you have your content model sorted out, you can focus on building content assemblies. A content assembly lets you organize design components for your digital products, and you can use them repetitively across all channels.

Once you have a draft of your assemblies, your developers will write the code to render them. When assemblies are implemented to channels, you can populate them with content in a couple of different ways. I strongly recommend that you design a metadata model for your content and enrich your content with it. This is your first step towards automating your content assembly. For example, if you wish to personalise content in the assemblies across channels, it’s much easier to do with greater consistency if the application understands what your content is about with the help of metadata. If you don’t attach metadata to your content pieces, you will need to individually pick the content pieces for display in the assembly.

Nothing is set in stone with Contentful. It’s easy to iterate at every stage of the content modeling process, from creating content and dividing content into pieces to organizing assemblies. Using this flexibility to maximize the amount of reusable pieces increases the speed of development and coherence of digital products across channels. This allows you to think of your customers’ experiences holistically.

I encourage you to have an open dialogue with your developers throughout development. Every piece of the content assembly that is developed, whether it is to website or mobile application, should be subject to discussion. Sometimes hard-coded elements are fine, but the more you have, the more difficult it becomes to manage and optimise the user experience in the future.

How to get started assembling content

  1. Study your omnichannel content strategy and identify key topics and objectives.

  2. Work with your content model and assemble content so that it supports an omnichannel customer journey.

  3. Identify commonalities in different assemblies and see if you can simplify your assembly model without making it too abstract for editors and producers to use.

Optimizing omnichannel use by building a modern web stack

Now that you have your content flowing to different channels, you can start the process of continuously improving user experience.

It wasn’t long ago that enterprises looked for “one stop shops,” one tool to do everything. In this model, the platform purchased curated tools for you. While this might sound convenient, it has its downsides. You weren’t ensured the best version of each tool, you might pay for capabilities you didn’t need, or they might be what you need but at the wrong scale. Both procurement and enterprise architecture design is changing.

But headless CMSes belong in a digital stack, a group of products that deliver all the features needed in omnichannel content management via integration. In other words, stack products are focused on delivering only one capability needed to create great user experience. It’s like choosing the best of every product type and linking them together to create one powerhouse stack. This also allows you to seamlessly replace one product for another when necessary.

For digital experience delivery this means:

  • You’re able to progress at your own pace and add capabilities to your digital experience stack based on your needs.

  • You can compare different products, their features, usability, references and licensing models before choosing the product that best meets your needs.

How to get started with digital experience optimization

  1. Look at your omnichannel content strategy and remind yourself about the key objectives.

  2. Create a roadmap for capabilities you will need to reach the key objectives.

  3. Talk to your development department and work together to find the best possible products that help you to deliver great user experience.

Developing an omnichannel user experience with Contentful will bring you closer to your developers in the best of ways. Instead of asking them to fix typos or update copy, you'll work with them on creative projects, everything from setting up content assemblies across various channels to building new applications. Welcome developers to your crossfuntional team with open arms.

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