Monthly Archives: May 2006

New Content Entry System

We started today with the outsourcing company who will be developing our new content entry system. They took last week to do some planning and pre-design work and they came in with questions and a few simple diagrams.

After some discussion, it came up that they were trying to have a high abstraction of their data, to allow for new content types to be easily setup and defined. However, in order to do this, they were going to have all of the information about all of the content types in one table. This would not work very well with our current Content Display Application (CDA) because it uses an abstraction layer between the application and the database which requires a one-to-one relationship between the application varables and a field in the database.

We showed them our current database layout and discussed how the CDA works currently, as well as some of the things the Vignette systems does well and wrong. By the end, they had a much stronger grasp of what we were looking for – it was much more complex than they thought, but not too much more work coding-wise. We were concerned that they hadn’t fully grasped our programming concepts when they put together the proposal because they kept referring to all the content types as articles. We offered several times to give them a better overall view of the system, but they felt they understood it. I don’t think this is going to be a barrier, but I believe now they understand that they need to have our web programmer, just promoted to Web Systems Manager more involved in the layout and design.

We are meeting again on Wednesday – it will be interesting to see what they have come up with in the meantime.

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A New Direction

Starting tomorrow, my boss and I will be taking a new direction with the company. He is becoming the Online Development Director (yes, we tease him about the acronym), and my title is changing to Internet Manager. Together, we have a mission to help this company make a profit on the Internet. It won’t be possible to turn it completely around in the next 6 months, but we need to show a pretty drastic change. Question is, can we?

This is the job I was originally hired to do, but was not allowed to due to politics and a huge question of what the company should do online. There are a lot of low hanging fruit and many of the publishers have expressed interest in our help immediately after the CEO announcement went out. There is way too much to do, but as my boss catches his breath, I am gathering as much information as I can so we can get our feet underneath us.

My first order of business is to create a marketing channel (or channels) that we can get new information out to the salespeople and publishers and let them know what they can sell. We’re also working on putting together a formal strategic plan, but that takes a lot of information – which I am still in the process of gathering. We’ll also have to work out some packages which make things easier for the salespeople to sell…

Wish us both luck – we will need it. But these are exciting times!

Review – CrownPeak CMS

CrownPeak’s CMS heavily ties the view of content to its placement on the website. The system is based upon a proprietary API with ASP templates. Each content type has two required ASP files – output.asp which controls what the content looks like on the site, and input.asp which controls the content entry page. These asp templates are used to generate static pages which are then ftped to the web server. There are also some other types of asp pages which can be created, such as preview.asp for previewing the content and upload.asp for uploading files into the system.

Includes can be used to reuse parts of the webpage, such as the menus and header, etc., but in order to reuse templates across various placement paths on the site, or across multiple sites, the system has have all of the parts of the site (or sites) together which use a set of templates. This means the system will either be easy on the content entry people by structuring the site to make life easy for them (which makes life very difficult for the designers and developers) or vice versa.

The use of static files on any page devoted to the freshness of its content is frightening. Ignore any type of visitor interaction or the display of content based upon who or what the visitor wants (suggested reading such as Amazon.com, etc.). Plus factor in the bandwidth needed to move large portions of content regularly between CrownPeak’s hosted service and the web server which is elsewhere.

Custom development is extremely difficult with this system as all database calls are tied down in their API. Any changes to the API requires their involvement ($$). Again this makes it difficult to do anything but static pages.

Overall, CrownPeak’s system is probably extremely easy to use for non-technical people who don’t want anything spectacular out of their website. The technology is at least five years old, so do not expect to be able to integrate with new web technologies or to easily add new web services for your visitors. However, if all you want is to easily update your website from time to time, CrownPeak may be worth investigating, if you don’t mind paying a monthly fee for as long as you need the system. For smaller companies, there are many much better free systems, and for larger companies, this system would only be ok if you don’t want to do anything with your website other than serve your content.

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