business manager at bt
28 January 2003 17:49pm
What is the best practice for content collection and publishing onto multiple devices.
Is it best to create completely separate content for each device e.g. mobile, PDA, TV etc... Or structure the content in such a way that it can be repurposed?
Director of User Experience at Isotoma
28 January 2003 20:20pm
The answer will firstly depend on what your aims are for the various channels you mention. Does it makes sense to deliver the same content to all of them? They may have entirely different communication goals, offering different services, with distinct content created for them, in which case it would certainly be separate.
In many cases, however, you would benefit from repurposing content across the channels. (Coherent message to the audience; better value for money.) Content within a CMS should always be structured with potential repurposing in mind. Even on one channel, the same information may already be presented in many different ways (e.g. a full article on a website or that article as a search engine result), each with different constraints. This means an appropriate degree of granularity for each content type -- title, abstract, full text, category, keywords, etc. Each use of that content, each channel, can use as much of that as appropriate.
To use PDAs as an example, the sites I peruse in both online and mobile forms tend to be news and similar text-based sites:
These are all cases where parallel content across both channels makes sense, and all these cases obviously come from the same data in the CMS.
I hope that goes some way towards answering your question, Tanya. If not, please clarify your situation further.
Technical Director at Box UK
28 January 2003 21:44pm
I think this is touching on two very important, but different topics - content storage and content delivery.
Even if content will not be delivered to multiple platforms, re-purposing is important for re-use within a large web site, or possibly syndication with partner sites. Therefore, I think content should always be _stored_ in a way that lends itself to repurposing; by this, I think that a standard, non-proprietary/open format is best suited (most commonly an XML standard, such as XHTML or DocBook).
'Delivery' of this content is then the next issue. This is where content stored in XML has a huge advantage - using XSLT or XSLFO (standard XML technologies), the same item of XML based content can be re-formatted/transformed dynamically to suit the delivery format; normal PC browser, PDA, Mobile phone, WebTV, Digital TV, Kiosk, PDF, CD-ROM etc.
So, technically, a common solution is to store all items of content once (in XML), and then transform them (with XSL) to suit whichever platform is requesting the content. This has obvious benefits; all 'platforms' have the most recent content (i.e. no cross-site changes are needed), less human effort/cost is needed to update content, and new delivery formats can be implemented through the simple addition of XSL templates.
However, this solution is not always preferable, depending on the type of content you plan on using. As these devices/platforms are so different in the way they display information to the user (compare inexpensive, large displays on a PC to relatively expensive, small displays on a phone), content is not always relevant across platforms. It is therefore sometimes wise (depending on the size/type of content) to write specific content per delivery platform; i.e. although the same item of XML content _could_ be viewed on a mobile and a PC, it doesn't mean that it should. With separate items for each platform, a one thousand word content item could then be delivered to the PC, and a shorter, condensed 50 word summary sent to the phone user.
Director at RnR
28 January 2003 22:06pm
The experience of 02's XDA has gone a long way to proving that, what works on the web won't necessarily be applicable on a handheld device (XDA sales have been pitiful). The navigation on a handheld and indeed on a TV screen needs to be much simpler than on the web for different reasons. On a handheld one must consider the environment in which content will be viewed (i.e. on the move, in comparably short user sessions and so on) while on TV the navigation should be as simple as possible to make the experience a comfortable one for users who are accustomed to viewing their TVs from a 'lean back' position as opposed to the l'ean forward' experience of the web. For these reasons I would imagine that a PDA and TV offering would be much closer in navigation than to web.
Where possible, it would be ideal to keep the layouts and content for mobile, PDA and TV fairly similar but possible provide larger (or more) images to suit the screen size and increase the font size/amount of text per screen accordingly.
One final consideration I would stress from my experiences with 3G Mobile (and after a great deal of market research), one can assume that the length of user session on mobile devices will dictate that any piece of content should only command around thirty seconds to one minute of a users time (excluding games).
I hope this goes some way to answering your questions.
On 17:49:32 28 January 2003 meadowt wrote:
>What is the best practice for content collection and
>publishing onto multiple devices.
>Is it best to create completely separate content for each
>device e.g. mobile, PDA, TV etc... Or structure the
>content in such a way that it can be repurposed?
CEO at Econsultancy
29 January 2003 10:18am
As you allude to, content management covers 3 key areas: content creation/collection, content management/storage and content delivery/publishing. Across all three sit things like versionsing and workflow.
I would say that best practice is to use the same system, same technical infrastructure, very similar processes, tools and ways of working whatever end device you are delivering content to. This maximises ROI on your CMS investment not just in terms of technology but in terms of productivity, process efficiencies, shared learnings etc.
As noted in a previous reply it is quite straight forward to deliver/publish content in a device-specific way using XSLT and the like.
So the big question, which I guess you're really asking, is to what degree the same content "repurposed" works across multiple digital channels (and I would add other channels such as print)? And, depending on the answer to this, how does this affect the way that content is created/collected and managed within the CMS?
As also already noted, ultimately it depends on your content, its target users and end purpose as to how far you can repurpose. However, in my experience, the degree to which content can be successfully repurposed with very little reworking is far lower than we might all like. And this is because the end devices, and the ways people consume content through them, (i.e. the overall "customer experience") is so different.
Imagine you had a database of content on skiing chalets and you wanted to make this available to mobile phones, iTV and web. What data fields do you currently have? Maybe:
- Chalet Name
- Full Description
- Price per week
- Contact details
These might work fine for the web. But how will the photo be rendered for TV? And which text do you use for the mobile phone or TV? Will the summary really be OK? Or do you take the first 160 characters of the full description? And what happens when MMS becomes more common place? And what happens when you want to add a 3D tour or video - is that just for web or for 3G mobile and/or TV too?
Best practice, in my view at least, would be to try and keep a single taxonomy (hierarchical structure of information) to work for all channels but create device-specific content that is tagged as such - which device the content is for becomes an attribute of the piece of content i.e. metadata within the CMS. This is very similar for how multi-language content and sites are handled - pretty much the same content but local language variants which the CMS serves up to the local template.
In simplified terms then, the above data fields would have device-attributes, and device-specific content, added to them where relevant e.g.
<web>web content version</web>
<phone>phone content version</phone>
<tv>tv content version</tv>
These might then become further refined e.g.
<web>web content version</web>
<narrowband>low res version</narrowband>
<broadband>high res version</broadband>
<phone>phone content version</phone>
<GSM>low res version</GSM>
<GPRS>high res version</GPRS>
<3G>high res version</3G>
This means that content creators, editors and those adding metadata need to be able to understand what content is suitable for what devices and enter that into the relevant form fields in the CMS. Once you have the right content in the CMS, with appropriate metadata, actually delivering it to the devices is relatively straightforwards.
There are some short cuts (e.g. in the above example you could create batch image processing routines to automatically repurpose a source image for display on different devices according to rules you set) but, as a rule, you are going to need to put in extra editorial effort to create device-targeted content.
All of which is probably a long way of saying that I believe best practice is not a question of either/or as you put the question. You need to do both - you do need to create device-specific content but you manage and structure it all 'under one roof' so that it can be cost-effectively repackaged, 'sliced and diced' as you wish to suit the end product you want to create.
Most companies who have a multi-channel offering that I have worked with tend to have separate systems for each channel which is good for making sure the end product is fit for the device but bad in terms of inefficiency, scalability, quality control, brand consistency and so on. So most are moving towards a central CMS platform. Another very powerful incentive to do this, of course, is the whole CRM/personalisation/user targeting thing. It is the same customer using different channels so the customer wants just one profile, one seamless experience irrespective of channel. This "360 degree view" is hard to achieve if your channel delivery is done in silos.
Group Manager at Infosys
29 January 2003 18:33pm
The problem with developing content management systems for a variety of devices can be divided into four main areas.
1. Different markup langauages - HTML, cHTML, WML etc
2. Diffferent screen factors - this includes screen orientation, colour vs. b & w and control rendering. These aspects can greatly affect content pagination and graphics generation.
3. Diffierent device functionality - can the device display images, does it use a mouse, stylus, or keypad. Navigating large amounts of content can vary from device to device.
In regards to best practice in dealing with these problems, well it depends. A number of factors needed to be considered.
- What technology platform is used?
- How is the content stored?
- How is the content rendered?
- Is the content dynamic or static.
Dan in a previous reply mentioned XML and XSLT transformation. In this case content rendering for devices is managed by server-side presentation logic. This means creating XSL files for each device or browser supported to transform XML.
This approach is fairly straight forward but not extremely scalable. It also may have performance cost, which is not relevant for static pages being generated then published. But dynamic content using XML generation from a database then XSL transformation can have an impact on performance.
A new approach is to use device adaptor on the application layer that detects HTTP requests from specific devices. Each device sends information about itself in a HTTP header.The adapter tells application objects used by the CMS what controls and content to render. i.e. DeviceA supports colour ,Device B doesn't support colour. The attributes of specific devices are storage as schemas or as properties on the CMS platform.
One software company that has spend considerable time developing this approach is Microsoft. Their .NET platfom allows programmers to build applications that will render controls or content for a number of devices without transformation.
For more information goto: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/techinfo/articles/clients/mobilewebforms.asp
29 January 2003 20:44pm
Following on from kris's point, an 'open' implementation of this 'device adaptor' approach is also in development by the W3C, called CC/PP (http://www.w3.org/Mobile/CCPP/). This not only uses the capabilities of the requesting device (i.e. screen resolution, colour depth, etc), but also the preferences of the requesting user (e.g. 'although my browser can support 32bit colour, I find it easier to read monochrome').
On 18:33:14 29 January 2003 kris wrote:
>On 17:49:32 28 January 2003 meadowt wrote:
>>What is the best practice for content collection and
>>publishing onto multiple devices.
>>Is it best to create completely separate content for
>>device e.g. mobile, PDA, TV etc... Or structure the
>>content in such a way that it can be repurposed?
>The problem with developing content management systems for
>a variety of devices can be divided into four main areas.
>1. Different markup langauages - HTML, cHTML, WML etc
>2. Diffferent screen factors - this includes screen
>orientation, colour vs. b & w and control rendering.
>These aspects can greatly affect content pagination and
>3. Diffierent device functionality - can the device
>display images, does it use a mouse, stylus, or keypad.
>Navigating large amounts of content can vary from device
>In regards to best practice in dealing with these
>problems, well it depends. A number of factors needed to
>- What technology platform is used?
>- How is the content stored?
>- How is the content rendered?
>- Is the content dynamic or static.
>Dan in a previous reply mentioned XML and XSLT
>transformation. In this case content rendering for devices
>is managed by server-side presentation logic. This means
>creating XSL files for each device or browser supported to
>This approach is fairly straight forward but not extremely
>scalable. It also may have performance cost, which is not
>relevant for static pages being generated then published.
>But dynamic content using XML generation from a database
>then XSL transformation can have an impact on performance.
>A new approach is to use device adaptor on the application
>layer that detects HTTP requests from specific devices.
>Each device sends information about itself in a HTTP
>header.The adapter tells application objects used by the
>CMS what controls and content to render. i.e. DeviceA
>supports colour ,Device B doesn't support colour. The
>attributes of specific devices are storage as schemas or
>as properties on the CMS platform.
>One software company that has spend considerable time
>developing this approach is Microsoft. Their .NET platfom
>allows programmers to build applications that will render
>controls or content for a number of devices without
>For more information goto: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstud-
Director/Owner at The Short Letter Company
30 January 2003 12:13pm
An interesting thread and indeed a thorny subject. Multi-channel content management is one that we cover regularly in CM Focus as it's such a challenge at every stage, from the editorial/content creation point to the many technology challenges.
I thought it might be useful to free up a couple of case studies we have on this subject on www.cmfocus.com to add to the discussion (they're usually only accessible to subscribers). One's from Teletext, who publishes content to pretty much every device imaginable: web, TV, digital TV, mobile, etc. The second's from Big Brother, which requires little introduction. If you have trouble finding the articles let me know. I hope they're useful.
I'm always looking for similar case studies, on all aspects of content management, so if you'd like to share your experiences, do get in touch.
30 January 2003 16:16pm
The topic of the next AIGA Experience Design meeting is quite relevant to this discussion (especially where the issue of appropriateness of content to particular channels is concerned). To quote:
"Event: Mass communication - Wednesday 12 February
From television and radio to newspapers and magazines, from mobile phones and PDAs to books and journals -- the possibilities for new forms of mass communication are growing exponentially. Attempts by corporations to address this potential have often overwhelmed or simply confused the people for whom they are intended, while email newsletters and Weblogging have been the unexpected innovations. We will investigate how can experience design approaches help deliver appropriate, imaginative and successful new forms of mass communication, and ask "Could experience design have made a difference to the fate of AOL Time Warner?" Come and have your say. "
I'm not affillated to AIGA in any way, but the events are always worthwhile. They're held at the Design Council in Covent Garden, and are free of charge. You can find out more here:
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