Separating design from content in your digital strategy

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A client recently raised, in a meeting, the concept of content management being separate from design.

multidevicesFor many brand owners, this may be an alien, geeky thing that is best left to the nerds in the IT department. Understanding it is important, though, because modern marketing is now a multi-platform, multi-device discipline.

Marketers have always had multiple channels at their disposal – print media, broadcast media, billboards and ambient spaces as well as ‘online’.

Now, online is no longer just the internet. It has morphed into ‘digital marketing’ – covering the traditional web, email, web-enabled devices and broadband services.

Digital has also encroached into ambient media. It is possible, for example, to trigger a push offer to a consumer who walks past a poster.

Imagine a customer looking at a poster for a movie on the Underground, then a day or two later they start to see ads for the movie and receive an email or text with a discount offer.

A digital marketing strategy that separates content from design

For a brand owner, creating multiple versions of the same content is expensive. Having to repurpose images and articles for web, email, mobile etc is time consuming.

If resources allow, it is better to manage content independently from presentation. The client in my meeting was making the point that it is better to think of content management separate from design.

The problem most companies have is that content management systems (CMS) are usually integral to the publishing process.

Well known CMS systems like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress go some way to allowing the separation of content and design, because you can apply multiple theme layouts to your CMS, hence changing the way the content is presented.

That is not a true separation because the CMS is very much tied to the website. The form and the function are still tied together.

As digital marketing tools evolve, we will probably see more of a move to agnostic CMS – where a brand owner is able to manage content independent from a website, with the ability to publish that content in different ways, to different platforms at different times.

This becomes important when designing digital products for the whole user journey. You could serve content to customers in a chatbot interface, through your website, dynamically in email newsletters, or even through audio, thanks to technology like Siri and Alexa.

We’ve moved from the days when a web page was a fixed blend of content and design. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allowed us to take design out of the page and manage it centrally.

We now have HTML5 offering amazing opportunities for multi-device publishing.

Steve Masters profile picture
Steve Masters

Steve (RIP) was Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing.

More articles by Steve
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