Unlocking the power of your headless CMS or content platform requires the meeting of two great minds: developers and content creators. When developers and content creators collaborate, digital experiences improve.
Andrew Kumar, director of Digital Product at Publicis Sapient, says that ongoing conversations with content creators enables development teams to make smarter decisions about what they should prioritize when building components.
Content creators participate in the creation and maintenance of customer journeys. When a development team understands what content creators want to achieve with these journeys, it can create user-friendly experiences inside the Contentful web app. This can simplify the path to production and increase your speed to market.
It’s important to note that the umbrella term “content creators” describes multiple roles, including content manager, strategist, marketer or UX copywriter. I can assure you that you don’t need a secret meeting or language to talk with people in any of these roles — only the willingness to have more than one conversation.
Here are seven ways to have more meaningful collaborations.
If you’re having a conversation where development work is involved, practice simplifying technical terms or leading with a definition of a term. Although some content creators have a technical skill set, that isn’t true for everyone. Using straightforward language leaves little room for ambiguity or assumptions. Technical Team Lead Hamed Mamdoohi says that this is essential because people can use different names for the same term. For example, the term “content model” might be confused with “content type” or “content table” or even “content entity.” Calling out terms or phrases that might cause confusion and using simple language is crucial.
If a content team gives you a task, make sure to tell them how long it will take and the level of effort required to complete the task. Content Manager Tiffany Moreside shares that content teams may not know what goes into an ask or how it will affect components. What may seem like a “simple content change” could result in hours of development work. By communicating the length and effort of a task (expressed in hours or days), content teams will know what to expect and can adjust their request or timelines. Content creators can also help figure out alternative solutions for an easier pathway if their request demands more time than they expected.
As a content strategist, Alice Chen finds it helpful to have a session with a developer to walk through new components or applications. Many frame it as an “informal user test” where they see how content creators interact with elements, difficulties they encounter through their journey or areas that could be simplified. As a developer, this session might give you new ideas about how to optimize for user-friendliness and reusability. This also means that you’ll spend less time answering frequent or repeated questions related to new components down the road.
Talking to content creators at the beginning is crucial. It can help prevent unnecessary development work by understanding the content elements needed. Before starting work on any application, Product Owner Nika Karliuchenko asks her developers to engage with content strategists or information architects to plan the best content structure. This allows her team to create reusable content models and layouts that work well for everyone from the very beginning, rather than reworking and migrating content several times after a launch.
As a content manager, Chantel Chyb advocates for creators to be more proactive in the implementation phase of their content cycle. Often teams will silo their developers to work within the CMS while content creators relay changes or new content. This can result in frustration on both ends as developers may end up with a backlog of time-consuming content edits while content creators wait for changes to be made. Encourage your creators to edit directly in Contentful or take this a step further and teach them how to add content blocks to a page. Support them by letting them know they can use the comments feature to tag you for a quality check if needed.
Technical and content considerations for digital accessibility are intertwined. Digital Accessibility Strategist Mary Elizabeth Sullivan suggests that developers should work with content creators to plan and communicate a content structure. Connect with your content creator and ask them about best practices for the heading hierarchy, link and button text. Or show them where to add the alternative text for images. Identify if you need hidden content on the page or section headings that are visible, as these factors are often overlooked. Engaging in accessibility conversations throughout the process won’t leave your team scrambling to adjust content at the final hour, or worst, after launch.
This might sound obvious, but it isn’t for every business. It’s easy to fall into the habit of communicating important decisions or conversations in JIRA tickets, Slack channels or through an intermediary like a product owner. Having face-to-face conversations enables you to clarify and communicate quickly. Sometimes a 10-minute phone call or video meeting is more effective than an online text chat prolonged for days. If you’re trying to tackle a large problem, consider working together within time limits to find a solution.
It’s important to remember that conversations are a two-way street. The responsibility to initiate these conversations shouldn’t fall on one team or person. These seven suggestions can help everyone feel more empowered to facilitate effective conversations with their friendly neighbourhood content creator.
Contentful makes collaboration even easier, especially amongst developers and content creators. You can learn more by watching our recent webinar about how Contentful empowers marketing teams.
Chantelle Sukhu is a Communications Manager at TELUS Digital. She uses her skills in content strategy, marketing and UX writing to transform digital content for a 100-year-old telco. Her mission is to enable customers and team members to do what they want easily, by creating content that’s clear, relevant and accessible. In her spare time, you can catch her blogging, biking or stirring up a good cocktail.