Unlock a better way to work with Contentful’s content infrastructure

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March 18, 2019


This is part of a series of blog posts sharing how we use Contentful from both a practitioner and a developer perspective and what you can do to get the most out of your Contentful experience.

Contentful is more than a content solution or a development tool. It changes the way you work, making editors, marketers, product owners and developers much happier and more productive. “It’s just another way of life,” asserts Esa McGavin, the product owner of Contentful’s website.

“I’m already forgetting how bad it used to be before Contentful,” she says adding that she doesn’t think she could go back. “If I ever left I would insist that the company use Contentful or a system like it.”

So what sets Contentful apart as a solution that both developers and content editors love?

Everyone gets to be happy

Tools for developers are often lacking in amenities for the marketing teams and editors who will be keeping content up-to-date. The decision often comes down to what will be the least painful for marketing and still acceptable for developers. No one is really happy in the end.

Contentful changes that dynamic by providing products for editors and developers that come together seamlessly. There are no negotiations or tradeoffs, says Esa.

Esa compared this to her experience on a project that used GitHub. It would take days of in-depth training for users to make updates themselves, which made finding and keeping content editors challenging. What’s more developers worried that non-developers would miss steps. The alternative would be to have editors send pull requests, but that creates inefficient workflows and bogs down developer resources. These are common challenges faced by companies using GitHub and similar tools.

Contentful answers these challenges with separate interfaces for developers and editors. Instead of frustrating content editors, Esa and her team can make them happy and more autonomous by customizing the editorial interface to their needs and preferences. All without compromising the development side.

The other benefit of using Contentful is that it is language agnostic. This means that developers can code in their preferred language with a tool that integrates into their workflows. They can choose the best coding language and tools for each project without compromises.

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Features that make work easier for editors

Contentful is full of surprisingly thoughtful features designed to help marketers and other content editors get work done faster without calling a developer.

  1. Easily search and reuse content. Full disclosure, as a marketer this is one of my favorite features. Contentful’s search feature empowers users to search content by keyword, content type and more. For example, if you are making a landing page about a specific product or topic, you can quickly search for related content instead of starting the page from scratch. Learn more.

  2. Keep brand elements consistent. One project we are working on at Contentful is a component library of web elements to will keep core elements consistent. Users will be able to drag and drop approved design elements into place to create their own layouts and developers will have a strong starting point when developing new digital products. As our brand evolves we can update the components in the library instead of having to edit them on every page.

  3. Make sitewide updates in minutes. Esa explains that with modular content and reusable components, marketing teams can quickly get messages out across pages, devices and even digital products. For example, when Contentful has a new campaign the campaign manager can simply create a “card” to update the banner at the top of every page instead of updating each page individually. They can also pick and choose which pages the update should appear on. Read more here.

  4. Integrated marketing and editorial tools. Workflows can be streamlined with UI extensions that integrate the tools you use into the editorial interface so you don’t have to click between apps to complete a task. For example, Contentful uses a Marketo extension to provide editors with a drop down of forms they can include on a page. We also have a Wistia extension that makes it easy to find and include videos. There are so many ways to UI extensions, and clients often remark how it's one of Contentful's best features.

These are just a few examples of how Contentful streamlines workflows for teams at Contentful. The features you choose to use, integrate or build will depend on your business needs and preferred workflows. No one size-fits-all around here.

DIY: Content management style

With a separate customizable interface, Esa finds that editing, marketing and product teams are more autonomous. A welcome change that frees up Esa and her team to work with the latest and greatest technology instead of worrying about content.

This autonomy is supported by a few key features of Contentful:

  • Users can control the appearance of the page. “We have some really flexible content types that let editors get creative with how they want things to appear,” says Esa. This means they can experiment and try things by themselves rather than asking a designer or developer to update templates.

  • The Preview API makes it easy to share updates. At Contentful we have a QA site that updates automatically so users don’t have to manually deploy content to the site to preview it. They just send stakeholders the link to the preview site where they can preview unpublished content. The preview site is always updating to eliminate issues with keeping sites synchronized. Editors and developers are always working in sync on the most current version.

  • Contentful has strong, intuitive user controls so that everyone (marketers, editors, lawyers, finance, etc.) can have the level of access they need and no one needs to worry that someone will accidentally delete or publish content.

  • Contentful decouples work flows so editors don’t have to tell developers when they make updates. Teams can work in parallel and focus on getting projects completed instead of taking turns in the system.

Goodbye grunt work, hello happy developers

Giving other teams more autonomy means fewer interruptions for developers. Often these are small requests that require little skill, but take up a frustrating amount of time.

For example, changing an H1 tag can mean several rounds of back and forth between development, preview, editorial and back again until it looks right and then it might need to be run through another developer for QA before it can go live. Compare that to Contentful, where an editor can update the H1, flip back and forth to the preview site until it looks right, and then push it live.

Content-related grunt work can also bog down bigger projects. “Back when I was working on projects with other tooling, managing the content was a huge part of the project and a huge blocker,” recalls Esa. “With Contentful we never have to worry about content.”

This is because Contentful separates content from the code used to present it on a page, in an app, on a wearable device, etc. This allows developers to change the code without disrupting the content layer, making it easier to execute projects such as redesigns and content migrations.

For example, Esa and her team are migrating the Contentful blog to Gatsby. Since the content is in Contentful, they won’t need to go through the usual grunt work of copying and pasting, cleaning content, doing data entry from spreadsheets, formatting markdown and checking SEO.

Learn more about how Contentful can make your editors, marketers, product owners and developers happy.

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