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WebReference.com - Chapter 1 of Content Management Systems, from glasshaus (6/9)

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Content Management Systems, Chapter 1: Foundations of CMS

Defining Content Management

Most people encountering the term content management for the first time are confused by the various definitions. In some ways the expression has completely lost meaning, because it's used by so many different products to mean (often) completely different things.

It is probably best to think of content management as a broad concept that covers all aspects of publishing content with digital tools. But a 'broad concept' does not begin to approach a definition that we can understand and use.

The Activities of Content Management

Content management can be defined more precisely in terms of activity: it is appropriate to ask, "What do I need to do to manage my content?"

In its simplest form, content management does just three things:

Personally, I call each unit of content an asset. Day in and day out, we create and manage these assets. In order to get those bits that seem worth broadcasting to a wider audience published, we submit them to a process I call asset management, which formalizes and prepares the assets for the next steps.

Don't confuse asset management as used here with Digital Asset Management (DAM), which usually refers to the cataloging and storage of multimedia – movies, audio, and high quality photographs.

Once we have some content assets available, we then make choices about how to present that content. Usually we have some sort of design, and we attempt to shoehorn our content into those design templates. Indeed, most people refer to this process as templating, but I prefer the words content transformation. "Clothes make the man", the saying goes, and I think that the right application of design to content does more than just make it look attractive; it enhances its effectiveness and impact.

Once we have created the right content, and dressed it properly, all that remains is to deliver the message. This publishing step considers our audience and makes sure that the content is available to them, in whatever formats they may need (HTML, WAP, database feeds, for example) for various devices (browsers, wireless devices, or legacy systems). This phase is primarily technical and logistical. It deals with getting the transformed content out to the intended audience. This might mean deploying static web pages, or updating a content database for an application server. The publishing phase is heavily impacted by the choices made in the previous two activities: we either enjoy the fruits of our labor or learn from our mistakes.

While the focus of this book is on web site development, content management has benefits for all possible output formats. A well-implemented content management tool can become a company's primary system for publishing to print, web, CD-ROM, and wireless platforms.

One thing to note: as you progress from asset management to transformation and finally to publishing, progressively fewer and fewer people are involved in the process, while at the same time the level of technical knowledge needed by these individuals increases.

These three activities will form the basis of the following three chapters (Chapters 2, 3, and 4), where we will explore them in more depth.

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Created: August 22, 2002
Revised: August 22, 2002

URL: http://webreference.com/authoring/languages/html/cmsystems/chap1/6.html