Thank goodness for iteration. Before concepts like agile and the iterative cycle burst on to the scene, we were held fully responsible for our mistakes, campaigns that didn't connect, and messages that fell flat. Now, we have this wonderfully forgiving system that lets us test, experiment, make changes and deliver a product that is proven to connect and convert –– how good!
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that most digitally-forward companies incorporate the agile pillar of iteration. Iterating has become the key to designing well and delivering products and content fast. It provides quick insights into what customers need, not based on what we think, but how they respond and behave. At it's best, strong iteration cycles help companies understand their customer's needs better so they can adapt.
Like most things to do with content operations, your tools and tech can either help or hinder your iteration process. Below, we'll go through some ways that Contentful is leading the way by providing a content platform that was built with iteration in mind.
1. Give everyone the power over their own iterations
Do your non-technical team members have the power to make changes to your content? It's a simple question, but an important one. Quick iterations become a lot more challenging when non-technical folk can't jump into a simple interface and edit their content.
Before PubNub started using Contentful as their content platform, it took at least a week to publish a new web page. A big part of this was because the development team was too busy labouring to make small, necessary changes to content. Even something as simple as a typo fix had to go through the development team. As you can imagine, this set-up didn’t lend itself to much creativity or iteration for the PubNub team. When creative teams are forced to spend hours on maintenance and administrative tasks –– like petitioning the engineering team –– creativity falls by the wayside.
When PubNub started using Contentful, the content team was able to jump into the web app and add or remove anything they liked. They were able to iterate on big things, like the components of a landing page, and the small things like a CTA or button copy. Unlike their previous set-up, the Contentful web app is created to empower editors and content creators to work simultaneously with development teams, without needing their assistance or any knowledge of HTML and CSS.
2. Your content system should help not hinder
Your content system shouldn't just allow for iteration and experimentation; it should have inbuilt features that make it seamless and easy. The first big one is structured content. When content is structured, it is broken down into reusable components. Structured content lets teams of designers, editors, writers and other creative builders constantly improve the content by giving them the ability to remove, swap, test and optimize individual components. These could be anything from a product image to a the micro-copy on a button.
Facebook's old development motto –– move fast and break things –– still stands true today. When you fail fast and iterate faster, what you're left with is a better, more robust product. However, you need to have a safe environment to do so. There have to be inbuilt features that allow you to chop and change your products without causing lasting damage.
For developers using Contentful, this is space environments. For content creators, this is a feature called entry versioning, where you can restore previous versions of the site. Both features give builders the chance to experiment, without any fear of causing lasting damage to the product or brand.
3. Know what content you have
If you live in Europe, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of ARD. For those who don’t, ARD is Germany’s public-service broadcaster and Europe’s largest public media network. As you can imagine, ARD juggles a lot of content; they’re composed of nine broadcasters, which cover 11 television channels, 55 radio channels and hundreds of digital products.
Here's a little lesson from a pre-Contentful ARD: It's hard to iterate and optimize your content when it's all over the place. When your content is spread across dozens of CMSes, it’s hard to find the content, let alone know exactly what you have, and optimize and iterate.
When ARD started working with Contentful, one of the biggest changes was that all of their content was aggregated into one place. Whether it was text, video, voice or image, it all went into a single content repository. From there, iteration could finally be on the agenda because there was time to invest in their releases –– they went from releasing nothing to one developer release per day, and one beta release per week. It turns out something as simple as collecting all of your content in one place, and minimizing fiddly management tasks, can do wonders for iteration.
4. Add in tools and services to make it easier
For a company to be genuinely iterative, they need to be continuously learning. This learning includes researching its customers before starting development, incorporating it into the development process, and then conducting evaluations and making changes after the content or products go live. And it's not a process that happens once. There's a reason that it's called the iterative cycle. Iteration doesn't just happen after release; it's cyclical and ongoing. This is where your tools come in –– you need tools and services that tell you how your customers are engaging with your content and digital experiences.
One of the best things about Contentful is that it's extensible and customizable and you can add on any tools –– like Optimizely app for experimentation –– to measure results and iterate.