Building a more flexible CMS for everyone

I’ve been working in marketing and driving growth for organizations for my entire career, so I am familiar with the challenge that faces every marketing leader: How to tap into the creativity of your team and move at the speed of change while still making sure that all the details of your CMS are in place. It’s a lot to ask, but it’s what Optimizely offers. And that’s the main reason I recently joined as CMO. Marketers need to hear about the technology we have to offer.

Written by:

Kirsten Allegri Williams

  • Chief Marketing Officer
  • Optimizely

But before marketers (myself included) can see just how powerful Optimizely’s solutions are, they’ve got to understand in detail the problems our tech was designed to solve.

For that, I turned to Optimizely’s Senior Director, Content Management Strategy, Deane Barker. In the interview below, he helped close the knowledge gap for me.

Kirsten: Can you help explain to me exactly what’s enabled Optimizely to be such a pioneer in CMS? 

Deane: Well, let’s take a half step back and clarify a common misconception that’s important to understanding where we are today: Content management and content delivery are not the same thing.

Kirsten: That makes sense. Content creation and management is what an editorial team does. It’s delivered to wherever customers consume it. So, it’s really content delivery that Optimizely has helped disrupt over the years. But, how exactly?

From decoupled to coupled CMS

Deane: It’s important to understand the timeline here. In the mid- to late-90s, a “decoupled” CMS was standard. It was decoupled in the sense that content management and content delivery were two separate environments. Editors would work on content; when they hit publish, a static html file would be generated and transmitted to a web server for delivery. Every user received the same package of content – there was no question of personalizing it – but it was possible to publish at scale. The content could be transmitted from the CMS to any number of servers or data centers.

Kirsten: But that was clunky and inefficient - and it wasn’t sustainable for growing technology companies.

Deane: Exactly. The limitations of a passive delivery layer prompted a switch in the early 2000s, to the “coupled” CMS model -- incorporating management and delivery in the same system as opposed to two different ones.

Kirsten: And why is that so critical for improving the content delivery experience?

Deane: Editors log in and manage content in the same environment in which it is consumed – take Optimizely.com, for example. You could vary the content based on who is consuming it, personalizing it, conducting A/B testing, adjusting content based on visitors’ permissions  – it completely elevated how all companies deliver content to their customers.

Kirsten: I’d imagine that’s the approach that guides most CMS solutions today.

Deane: Absolutely. On the one side, there’s content management; on the other side, multiple channels are requesting content through an API – for example, a website and a mobile app.

Kirsten: And the content side of the CMS is really turned into a content hub - a digital library of pure content, which can be delivered to one or many channels. That’s what Optimizely executes extremely well, in my mind.

Deane: Right. Any platform, whatever its technology, can request content and present it in a manner suitable to that channel. These delivery channels can be managed and modified without changes to the content hub, but of course the channels which are requesting content are no longer just requesting a static file, they’ve become significantly more intelligent.

Kirsten: But that begs the question -- if that’s how most CMSs are operating, how exactly is Optimizely different?

Considering a hybrid model

Deane: Most CMS solutions try to deliver a one-size-fits-all product. But that doesn’t always work well. Depending on the size of your company, the number of digital properties you have, the amount of content there is, etc., something simpler and more traditional might make sense -- that’s really where Optimizely comes in -- a platform for meeting the needs of all content platforms.

Consider this example: channels can request content by context, including properties relating specifically to the channel, device, customer, including user behavior and engagement history. In other words, it’s the delivery system that executes personalization through the manner in which it interrogates the content hub. But not all API calls are personalized, and it does require an extra degree of programming, which can be quite complex. Suddenly, the coupled approach is more debilitating than helpful.

Kirsten: Right. You need to be able to dial it up or dial it down.

Deane: Exactly, and we do that by offering both options -- or in many cases, a hybrid model. Many companies might just need a traditional, coupled CMS, especially if their dominant digital channel remains their website. But larger companies, which have many different digital presences, including mobile apps developed in different languages, have an increasing need for more diverse capabilities. That’s how Optimizely sets itself apart - delivering a completely customizable CMS that can be configured around your specific needs.

To learn more about why our customers choose Optimizely, click HERE.