Webinar: In-Depth - Modular Web Design & CMS Integration Transcript

Modular web design will change the way you design and administrate your next website. Utilizing this methodology, marketers and content editors will have greater control over all aspects of their website, furthering the usefulness of their CMS platform and lowering their dependency on technical help.  Join us as we dig in-depth into modular web design, how to redesign your website utilizing this method with a focus on enabling you to finally control your website as you had imagined you could, all along.

Watch Webinar

Thank you very much for joining us today on our webinar. We have a great topic here today. I'm very excited about it, it's called Modular Web Design. It's something that at the NP Group we've been working on for quite some time. Now we're pretty much dedicated to, almost 100% of our projects in the web space are going to be built in a modular methodology. We've been working for three or four years at least and we practiced how we work through the process, it's very exciting.

Let me just get started here by going into what our agenda is going to be. First of all I must just introduce myself, and go on to the overview of what this topic is all about. We're going to talk about web templates, how those work. We'll talk about modular design in particular, the benefits, the tech considerations. Then we're going to go into a couple of examples that I have prepared to show you and from there, some Q&A and eventually we're going to wrap it up and send you all home.

Just to get started, I'll tell you who I am. My name is Peter Czech, CEO, co-founder of the New Possibilities Group. We're based in northern New Jersey, maybe about 15 miles out of Manhattan. I was a co-founder back in 2001 so I've doing this for about 15 years, and my personal background is custom web development, user experiences, user interfaces and digital marketing. Pretty much, I'm kind of like the CTO that you bring in, the mercenary, the CTO to solve your challenges and either I bring my team or I help you assemble a team of your own to be able solve those problems.

Basically what we do in a nutshell is we're experts in the development of safe and secure custom content management systems. We focus on custom web development and design to create websites and applications for clients with complex requirements. You don't see us working on a lot of simple restaurant websites or very simple informational websites, it's not really what we do here. We did start with that kind of background 15 years ago, but now we're focused on more complex problems that require custom solutions to be able to be solved.

Our experience, we work across a variety of different industries, we're not in any one particular industry in terms of the solutions that we bring, so you can see we have non-profits, telecom, healthcare, a lot of publishing companies. We have electronics and then banks so you know, and financial services, so we have worked in a variety of different places.

Who are you? Well hopefully you're here because you're tired of the old school web design methodology. For 15 years people have been, or even longer for 20 years, people have been making these websites the same way and maybe you're tired of that. Maybe you're an early adapter for new techniques and you want to know exactly what this modular stuff is all about, or maybe your about to undergo or are undergoing a new design project. There's also a good chance you were, just your inbox flooded because I emailed you 50 times saying to come by. Regardless, I'm happy you're here and that you can participate in this webinar about this great concept.

From an overview perspective, what is modular web design? It's a new way of looking at web design. It eliminates the template methodology that's prevalent with so many systems today. One of the benefits is it allows for faster, cheaper redesigns meaning you're going to get your project to market faster and there's also a longevity, when you build a framework around this type of methodology, you can count on what you've set up to last you for quite some time, because you're going to building things in a logical way. You're not going to be based or building on a basis of what someone is telling you to do like a WordPress or a group that are kind of rigid in how they're set up, so this new methodology is going to give you a longevity.

A little bit of background about the theory. According to Wikipedia, I've put the definition here, modular design or modularity in design is a design approach that subdivides a system into smaller parts called modules or skids, that can be independently created and then used in different systems. At a top level the focus is reusable parts not templates, so think Legos, Legos are a great example. We've all been taught modular design from a very young age, and as a kid Legos were my favorite toys. I spend time with my daughter, I've gotten her a lot of Legos for Christmas. It puts your mind, it helps you condition your mind to be predisposed, to appreciate the concept of modular design.

Right now this prevalent in industry and you may not even know it. Auto making, construction and furniture, three examples I'm going to go through today, but in a ton of other places as well. Just take a look at automobile manufacturing. Volkswagen Group is, despite their problems with diesel engines of late, these guys have done a really great job acquiring brands and then molding them into their manufacturing workflow. Basically, the VW Group has all these different brands that you see right here. Some of you might not be familiar with but obviously you know VW, Audi, you know Bentley, you know Porsche, Lamborghini, they also have some of these other European manufacturers such as Skoda, which is actually I believe it's Czech, so it should be appropriate for me.

Also, I'm not sure how you, is it Seat? I don't know. All these different manufacturers are now, or brands, are now under one manufacturer and they're using a commonality. Their universal platform is increasing profitability and it's streamlining the manufacturing process. One example that most of us here in the US would know about is these three different models of cars. On the low end you have the Volkswagen Touareg, in the middle of the line you have the Audi Q7 and at the top of line you have the Porsche, and I believe it's Cayenne, and if I'm wrong somebody can tell me about it. Feel free to do that by the way in the question section.

These three are completely, they're different vehicles, different brands, different price points obviously, but they use modular parts, they're all based on the same chassis, they're all, they might use the same engine from one company to another. I happen to be an Audi driver myself so I'm a little bit, I'm not exactly impartial to the conversation about cars but I can tell you that in my Audi, there are parts with VW logos. I also have an old Volkswagen Golf that I keep around just for the sake of having something with a stick shift to drive for fun, and that car has Audi logos in it.

I'm not familiar with Porsche, a little bit outside my range right now, but I'm pretty sure that if you look inside a Porsche you're going to see parts that are coming from Audi or Volkswagen, which I guess if you're buying the top of the line, you don't want to see those logos but you know, this is the reality of their manufacturing process.

Another example is construction. You see this everywhere now, I saw, in my neighborhood somebody built a house, it was done in like two weeks. They brought it on trucks and they would take these pre-fabricated parts made, there were wood beams and wood framing and with a crane they put them together and the house is, it's a beautiful house, it's huge. This house is probably like 4,000 or 5,000 square feet on top of a hill and you couldn't even tell it came in parts.

Interesting, I wonder if they even tell the people who buy it that it came in parts? Why would it matter, it's still a wood framed house, the same as us, if it was built there in fact the manufacturing quality is probably better which is a benefit of doing this. Pre-fabricated parts as I said here mean faster construction, lower labor costs, quicker time to market. In China they're doing this with commercial buildings and I think this is amazing. This is the Mini Sky City, that's the name of this building, it's in Changsha in the Hunan province, so there you go.

I'm not going to go through the whole corridor but basically, they are building three floors a day. This building is 57 stories and was built in 19 days which I think is absolutely incredible. It's the tallest structure I think, well definitely in the next picture here, but I believe in the town itself. Again, think about this for a second, 19 days for 57 stories. A 57 story building, you can imagine how long that takes here with traditional manufacturing methods. That's construction as I say we see it in home building, we see it commercial buildings.

Another company here, I know that here in northern New Jersey, I'm not sure if they're national or not but they're based at the mall, you go to the mall and they have these really comfy bean bag type things that you, they throw you into it when you're at the store, literally, and you fall into and you're like oh man it's the most comfortable thing ever. Basically, it's low cost, super comfortable furniture as I said, and it's modular for the consumer.

The consumer can go and buy the parts and assemble it any way they want with this new thing they call a sectional, which is based on their original bean bag concept. You see this in furniture pretty much everywhere. You see it with Ikea which is one of the most profitable companies in the world, and I know at one point they're founder was one of the richest men in the world, I think he was in the top three. I'd have to look back again, I need some fact checkers on these things, but I do believe that he was in the top three.

Ikea's making hand over fist a tremendous amount of profit with the systems that they have, and it's not even that, the only thing about the modular, Ikea's actually doing it two ways, they're doing it both in that they're giving you modular parts to build out your office furniture or dining room or bedroom or whatever, but they're also doing it modularly on the construction site as well with a lot of interchangeable parts. You know, Ikea only sells the stuff that they're making, so all those brand names are their own brands, and there are commonalities between the different manufacturing processes.

A very interesting thing that I did hear about Ikea is how the price point has actually gone down overtime dramatically. We're talking like 80%. There was one chair and a table that they made that if you look at an Ikea catalogue from the '90s, and I believe that's about the time it was starting to be popular, and here in northern New Jersey they were planning the Newark Airport, you see Ikea.

That was the ultra right wing there, that was the first one that came and I think it came in the late '90s. Anyway, these parts the chair was something like $80, $90 when it first came out, now you can get it for 20, and the table is something like, I think it's 9.99, it's like a coffee table, and when it first came out it was somewhere like in the 40's. These are all rough numbers, but the point is they have been able to solidify their manufacturing process and lower the prices for the consumer, all by using this modularity and also scale, which is very interesting.

These are three different industries, where the modular concept is in use, whether it benefits the consumer or the manufacturer. Again the commonality is highly efficient, Volkswagen are one of the most profitable, when they're not paying fines, the most profitable auto makers in the world, highly profitable on the consumer side. There's also a frugality to buying these modular systems.

The other, the great thing that will apply to web design, in a second I'm going to make a segue back in a minute, is that there's limited input, you have a limited amount of parts, but those parts can create an amazing combination of outputs, and that's directly going to relate to what we're going to talk about with web design. How do you apply the concept to web design? Basically web design is two methodologies in the post-CMS world. To take a step back, watch it, we'll do that in a second, because I know my next slide is going to talk about that.

Let me just define what a template versus a module is. A template as I define it is a pre-defined page structure that when populated with content either dynamically or statically, constitutes a compiled web page. On this example you have a top nav a bottom nav, a right menu, and maybe a left bucket of content. Anyone who's worked with WordPress in the past 10 years is probably familiar with that broad concept of a template. On the right, and this is the way we need to start thinking, is the modular approach.

Which is a reusable component that in combination with other modules can be constructed into a complete web page. This is a very different philosophy, and we're going to take about those in a second. Let me just take a step back and tell you a little bit about template-based design and how we got to where we are. Back in the day, this me aging myself a little bit, when I started in the web design business in '97, '98, and one of my first jobs was actually working for a mechanical engineering consultant and we had some intranet sites that we maintained for companies like IBM and Dasso and AutoCad, AutoGraphs, whatever.

These were basically places that did competitive analysis, and there was a ton of documents, we're talking, 50-60,000 documents. He hired me as a webmaster because what I would do was, we would take press releases and put them into this portal that we'd developed for each of those customers. Basically what I would do is, find this press release some place, put it into HTML, link an image to my file, upload a VIPP, go back to a directory listing, link back to that, and this was all a manual process.

Before I got there, the header and the footer of each file was actually in the file. One of the things I figured out right away was, hey we have to create some level of a template structure, so we put a footer in and a header as an include, which was a pain because back then stripping was not as advanced as today. Here's an example of many documents lived in, all by themselves, and then CMS came out. This, I think there were plays on CMS's probably going back into the early, yeah late 90's is when they really started. Some of the big ones today didn't start to come out until later.

The CMS's were great, because from my perspective, at that point I mean this is amazing, I can go and change thousands of files with one edit or a template. That was great, so the methodology back then was really, it was ground-breaking stuff. Sites with tens of thousands of pages could have a couple of templates that power it, it changed my life dramatically. Getting it at first to move into a CMS was a real pain, trying to get the content in, but after that it was a great thing to have.

The sad thing is that over 15, 16 years, nothing has really changed. Yes, technology has gotten better, and there's some new approaches, but the established CMS's are still utilizing the template method. I'm looking directly in the face of WordPress and Drupal as on the open source side as being great examples of places that are template driven, WordPress being the key offender. The pros of this, as I said already, it allowed for large websites to be CMS driven relatively easily, it gave administrators options for page layouts, you could have more than one template to choose from.

Templates really tied in to almost every single CMS system because it was the methodology at the time, and they would go for it to handle that. With pros come negatives, and the negatives started to mount as these systems got more sophisticated. Today, I mean templates are really an old concept, and the reason at a top level is that these CMS systems, we really have to start breaking them out into being web content management systems.

These systems control web pages, they don't control content, and this is, I'm going to talk about this again in a little bit, this is a very important philosophical difference that we have to, that we have to speak about. Then there's the difference between a content management and a web content management system. Because web content management systems are not set up to be content focused, they're actually set up just to be editor focused, and editors of websites. We're going to go into this in a little bit.

When I'm onboarding new customers and going through the sales process, one of the leading causes of customer dissatisfaction is how rigid templates are. They're rigid by design, that's what they're meant to do, they're meant to, they're meant to have ... A template is a template for a reason. It's something that you fill in later. They're not really meant to be flexible. They're highly dependent. One template file is going to be dependent on an overall theme. All this ties together, especially, and I'm a little bit WordPress biased in how I go talking about this, simply because I think WordPress is a major threat in a lot of ways, and it's slowly infecting the enterprise environment. So that's why I'm going to bring it up.

Basically templates are going to be highly dependent on the theme that they're associated with, and that's a problem if you want to make changes, along the line in the future. My business, which is, I guess you could say this is an opinion more than a fact, but I think a lot of people would agree, that templates have actually been, what I believe is a state of sameness across the internet, a lot of sites look the same, behave the same, it's because these templates are out there, you can buy them for $50, $60, people are inserting them into WordPress, and so many people, and I'm going to talk about this again in a second, but so many people are passing themselves off as designers and developers when they're really just theme-ers.

These are all things that have been created out of the theming and templating concept. Again they're rigid, these systems are extremely rigid to work with, here's an example of a screenshot from a customer of ours, where you would choose a type of page, so maybe an events page, and when you pick that template the website or the WordPress area is obviously going to show you a bunch of input boxes for each of those particular areas. There's no flexibility to say, well I want to put this one, this part of our effort, or I want to remove this part, or I want ... You can't do that with the way that most WordPress sites are set up.

Again going back to the templates and some of the negatives about it, I've lived with that for the web in general. The ease of downloading and installing them has ushered this era of sameness, and I have a great blog post about this, search on my blog for it. It's also commoditized web design to a certain extent, which does actually not help the consumer, which is the marketer or the business owner. Why hire a designer if you can get a theme? Is the developer really a developer? Is the person telling you that they're going to custom-build your site really custom-building it, or are they picking a theme?

Is the person adept enough as a developer that they can get past the inevitable roadblocks that are going to be created by the template system? It's a very, it's a messy situation, and I feel like the industry, we have no oversight, we have no regulation. I'm not really sure if that's necessary, but I do feel like a lot of people get burned in hiring creative professionals or developers that really don't know what they're doing, and this has all been ushered in by the fact that these systems are out there, and while they do make life easier, as a professional developer, I don't need my life easier, I'm going to ... I have the right tools to use the right, to come up with the right solution.

Again we've come to the end of all that, and that's my state of the industry rant for today. At the worst it's flawed and it's rigid and it's unwavering, and by the way the image on the right there is just showing you if you type in website template, this is what you're going to come up with, all these various different solutions that are going to give you very restrictive templates to be able to put your website up, and eventually you're going to be frustrated.

Let's talk about modular, let's stop talking about negatives, right. Imagine having parts, pieces with a near limitless potential, and I'm know that sounds like a crazy type of promise, but that's the way you have to look at it. There will always be limits of technology or this or that, but you have start to look a this as being the way that you can get much more control than you could get before.

Here's a little screenshot or wire-frame that we did for a customer, showing a couple of different modules. We have a calendar module, we have top navigation module, we have on the right side a hero with side stories and we have a two column module. These are parts, these part are interchangeable. The benefits, I'm going to go through about six points of benefits, and why you should consider doing this. The first is, continuous improvement is where it's at, and I'm going to talk about that again in a little bit, but it's not, the cycle of building every two years for the sake of building, that's going away.

If you have a rigid template-based platform, continuous improvement is going to be difficult. Now what do I mean by continuous improvement? Anybody who's a marketer knows what I'm talking about, you look at statistics, you look at user flows, user behavior and you take these insights and then you make actionable change. That is very difficult to do with template-based systems. With these new modular systems you could flip a module, change the ordering, it changes very easily and quickly to be able to actually do quantifiable tests.

One of the other things is that you can quickly, in a digital sense, enhance controls, you can quickly prototype new pages. Today to prototype new pages might involve talking to five different people to be able to do it. Now a marketer know that they can build a page on their live CMS that's hidden from the world, and they can set it up in a matter of minutes with all the modules that they need. This all means less dependence on developers, which it's a mixed bag for me, because I've been a developer at heart, but I'm also a marketer.

I know there's nothing more frustrating, being the CEO of this company, and I do most of our marketing, there's nothing more frustrating than trying to make a simple change and I can't do it, I have to ask my developer to do it. That's a horrible feeling, so this approach has empowered me to be able to make the changes I need to make on a regular basis. Again it means quicker development and deployment of pages, we're talking minutes. Another thing that we've seen is this amount of products out there for making landing pages.

It's actually pretty remarkable to me how many SAAS Bots make landing pages, Leadpages, HubSpot, Marketo, all these different tools that make landing pages. While I understand from a marketing automation perspective how that tool is important and as part of a sleeve, I mean a service like Leadpages is built specifically because CMS's can't handle the task. You pay $100 a month, or $200 whatever it is dollars per month to Leadpages to make landing pages in a couple of minutes. Well I mean let's face it, customers know that a landing page that looks nothing like the website, is like a disingenuous method of lead generation, at least I believe it.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to make landing pages that actually fit into your website in a matter of minutes, as opposed to using an outside service? That's something that you can do with this new control. I just want ... This is a great exercise to do, I recommend everybody try it. Take your site today, and print out the individual pieces. Now a good way to do this is to take a site like a home page or a landing page, because these pages have a lot of natural breaks, and the chances are if you've designed your site in the past three years it's going to look like one the clean websites, because everybody that comes to us asks for a clean website, which by the way, you have to stop asking for that, because everybody asks for it.

It doesn't really matter, but in essence if everybody has these clean long pages, this is an easy exercise, print up your page, cut up those pieces and make some modules. Put them on a desk and contemplate the freedom you would have if you were able to move these things around yourself, and change the content within the module. Here's an example of my custom CMS page. We split it up, we printed it and split it up into pieces. We feel we can do this, because this is how we think. We can sit down in a conference room, and all work together and try to figure out how a new landing page should look, what modules we use. It's a really fun exercise to do.

This is a nice graphic, it summarizes this whole thing in terms of control. You can have less modules, and have so much more output, like I said before, less input, more output. Seven modules here can make these 12 different combinations of pages, but really there could be so many more. When you have those modules on the desk in front of you, going back to that exercise, you can start to understand the power of this system, because it's as simple as what you're doing on that desk, you're just moving pieces around and populating with content. Then when we talk about technology we're going to talk about how you populate the content, because you can do it statically or dynamically, which is extremely interesting as well.

Benefit 2, it's easier to maintain, maintaining pieces is aways easier than maintaining templates. Templates again, you have this dependency on each other, and I'm going to skip to the third point, modules are not dependent on each other as much as templates are. There's less coding dependencies and there's less technical debt. Now technical debt, everybody know this, after, when you first start your website, and it's been built for you, and it's online in terms of the content is working great, and then a couple of months later you want to add a feature, and you do a little hack, and then three months later you do another hack. Slowly over time, you hack, hack, hack until suddenly things start to slow down and maybe an update breaks, and it's still not doing exactly what you want, so you have to do all that again, but you can't figure it out because now the code is too complex.

This is technical debt, this is just building, it's like rolling a snowball down the hill in the cartoons, and it gets bigger, bigger, bigger. A great visual to think about what technical debt is. Again just skipping back to point two, instead it's going to be easier to maintain. A lot of times people spend a good amount of time trying to figure out how to change navigation, or changing footers or things like that, well those are parts too, these are all parts. If you want to change your navigation, if you want to globally change what your top navigation looks like, just swap out the part.

I know I'm making it sound a little bit simpler, because I mean it's still quite a little bit of work, but it's going to be like a tenth of the work you're going to do versus hiring a designer, a developer, a QA guy, a project manager, all these people to do one simple change for you. It's frustrating. Easier to maintain, this is a huge benefit, and if you're undergoing a web design project now or if you have, internal company politics is huge when it comes to web design. A lot of times we come in and we have to, it's almost a circus to get a team together to like get through an approval process, because everybody is scared of this concept of permanence.

Basically approvals and revisions are the biggest unknown factor in a design project. If you want easier buy-ins for management, get rid of permanent decisions, get rid of things that are going to stay for ever. This, on the right there you see an old print template, that is a scary concept to a manager who thinks, I have to approve this now, and it has to be right for ever. I'm just going to make it pause, think about that for a second. How often have you dealt with that situation? The new cycle is, hey we're building parts, and we're going to put the parts live, and we all know if it's going to be better than perfect, and we're going to revise it, and it's going to be easy to do.

I assure you management it's going to be much more interested in that philosophy versus the idea of, oh I have to sign off on this, and this is the way it's going to be, I'm never going to be able to change it. It's a very, very scary process for them, and not only for management, but for people along the line, who let's face it, when you're in an ongoing design project, that's a major initiative, that's going to mean a lot for you career. A lot of people are going to be so afraid of making a mistake that they're going to paralyzed by it.

Again, modularity equals freedom to change things later, quickly, easily, you're never going to be handcuffed, and let's face it, every website is, every website is a learning experience in that the are theories, you throw them out there, you use the best practices, but then based on feedback, analytics, user behavior, that's when you move to the next step of making positive improvements. I think that this is a really big benefit for a lot of people, as being politically, it's just a better process, it's politically expedient. 

Benefit 4, cheaper to iterate. In line with the other benefits that we spoke about, but it's not just cheaper to iterate, actually really just, I mean it's cheaper in general because form a budget perspective you can go live, you can have a 10,000 page website go live with five or six modules, and you can add to it over time. You have a faster turnaround market and use cheaper budgets to be able to roll it out. Ongoing maintenance, you want to add a new page. Use the existing modules or create a new one, but making a new module for a designer or a developer, and you will probably need them to make modules that you want, it's going to be fast, because there's so few dependencies.

It's going to be something that should take a third of the time to do versus when you did it the first time. It's not building a template, and I think people are so scared, because in the past, as I have here, if you make a new template, well hire a designer, do a mock-up, hire developer, work on the thing, go through deployment, QA, all those projects that you have to do. Well now drop in a new module into your system, and put that, in conjunction with the other modules together to make a pitch. It's a totally different process.

Again, and these benefits are all very much related in a lot of ways, but it's quicker development, and even for the designer and developer that you do have to bring in, it means that instead of looking at so much curb that's there, they can just look at the overall curb style guide and come up with a new module and drop it into the system. They could prototype these things near instantly, it could be very fast to do. Because of the flexibility of how these modules operate, it's going to completely change your ongoing development lifecycle. We know this because, again like I said at the beginning of the call, we've been doing this for years, so we had actual tangible proof that this is the way it works.

A huge, huge raw benefit here, no more redesigns. Before I get into the points, this thing on the right, look at this little model that we have here. It shows what the normal mode is. You work for three months, and I'm being very generous by the way, you work for three months to go through redesign and then your site sits for a year and a half to two years, then you repeat the process. In reality, I mean a redesign could take some companies a year. It could take it six months or a year, three months is pretty aggressive.

This is process is, it's not sustainable. It's not the way that we want to move. We want to move into a mold of hey, for your next redesign it's going to be a project and we're going to get through it quickly, quicker than we would because of the modular methodology, but after that you're not going to have to do a global redesign, you're going to iterate, and we call that continuous improvement. That means in the future you're not going to globally redesign, you're going to have a targeted redesign. If you want to change your top and bottom navigation, change those two modules, push it live.

If you want to change certain color schemes, well go to modules and make a global, find a replacement on the color schemes in the code. If you were really wise about how you built up a CMS, make than option there. I mean there's so many ways that you can do it, but make minor targeted redesigns and changes based of off statistics, do it based of off information. Don't do it based of off, oh well I guess it's time to redo the site, which is pretty much what every old school manager would say. Oh it's been three years, and I looked at my competitors, and their website is pretty good, so I guess well go and spend 100 grand on a new site, and we'll do it over again in three years.

That's not the way to look at it, you really have to look at it as an ongoing commitment, which should mean lower up front costs, but will mean more ongoing costs in terms of client agency relationship. Again, why wait three years to analyze results? Why not wait three weeks and see how it's doing? How our new website is doing, and then iterate on that. This is something that I think everyone has to focus on, get through your first project, build in the modular style, and then from there work continuously improving, based on the objectives of your company, and based on analytics and where you see room for improvement.

Modular requirements. This is a new approach, and it does require special tools. Not necessarily special tools, but the proper tools. It reminds me of a story, and this is completely unrelated, a friend of mine got locked out of his car, and Triple-A comes, and the guy says, do you want me to break the window or do you want me to use special tools? Huh, what do you think? We'll talk about this really quick, this is the, what I call is the ideal content management architecture. It goes back to the line that I had at the beginning, when I said, hey you know you have to do content first. Everybody needs to start thinking about this, the old school methodology is an integration of content management and display.

The CMS of the future is going to break out content from display, because display is going to happen in a lot of different ways. Basically this chart is telling you, on the left you have your content management system which controls your content, which is blogs, images, videos, people, like a CRM, like ideally it is people, data, it could be products, it could be services, it could be anything, locations, this is all types of content. This needs to be stored in one centralized place, and then from there it needs to be communicated out to different displays. In the future, and I'm going to really work hard to make sure people understand this difference, content management and web content management are two different things.

The focus of our talk today is on the modularity in terms of display, and that happens in the orange ball here, which is your web CMS or your web experience manager, or your digital experience manager, or any other name or acronym that you want to give it. We have to start looking at that as being the web experience, and separate that from the content management, because in the example I'm going to show you in a little bit, it's a news publisher, videos is their number one key piece of content, that should never be build in a WordPress or a Drupal or something like that, it should always built in something that's more customized and focuses on that type of content first.

By doing that we're making these content management systems, not into content management only, but also into content creation systems. We use these systems to actually build the content, not just to store it. From there you distribute it via API, to a mobile app, or maybe some other type of mobile type of app, or maybe you distribute it to partners or to other types of feeds over OTP devices. Then the web is of course one particular part of that process, so the focus of today is on the web content management system, or the web experience manager, that's where you really would focus on modular. We're going to talk about this in a little bit how you tie your content to you modules.

Do we have a CMS Problem? The CMS problems today are, and I see questions coming in, cool, the CMS platforms of today, they're heavily focused on templates. These are the WordPress', the Drupal's the Sikor's, these DNN's, these systems are based on integrating your admin portal with your front end into one comprehensive unit, and there are tons of reasons not to do this. Security is a major one, and we're going to our next webinar about that, and I'll preview that in a little bit.

That's how they focused, they're focused on templates. There are modular plugins, and I see another question coming up, there are, and I will get to those later. Modular plugins do exist, there's Divi for WordPress, but then they're not native, these are plugins, and plugins introduce a whole other world of problems. Divi for example, and I know a little bit about it, is making this broad claim that they can make any theme into a modular format. I have no idea how you can do that.

To do modular, design the link, it starts with the content, then design and the technology follows. That's why custom solutions make the most sense for this methodology. I'm not going to push on that because that's primarily what we do, but that's just the reality of the situation. You're always going to be trying to fit what is a square peg into a round hole, if you're doing it the other way, in reverse. Again plugins they are there, they work the wrong way, they're looking at technology first, not content first. Also some of these CMS's are as they say, part of the problem, they're built with a pre-determined notion of content and what it means.

WordPress focus on pages and posts, now they have these custom data types now and they're even trying to make themselves into a headless decoupled type of platform. They're still based on this framework that is 10, 15 years old or that, where posting pages are the only content that matters. That's why they're not built for the future. Again I pick on WordPress the most, everybody know it, it is creeping into the enterprise in places where I don't think it belongs, it is good for certain things, my personal blog runs on it, I do not recommend putting it into an enterprise situation, and when I preview the security webinar, I'll tell you a little bit about it.

This graphic I use it a lot, basically it summarizes my feeling about most of the CMS's out there. You have your admin and your experience, that's your user experience, plugged into one unit, and then they're held together, or these plugins are installed and held together with tape. It pretty much summarizes how these systems work. What's the ideal CMS? It organizes content into logical, understandable groups. It understands that the website is just one possible method of distribution. It allows for content to be integrated into modules both, this is very important, both statically and dynamically. Which means that you can edit your module and put content in manually, statically, or you can dynamically set a rule to fill it.

Now I'm going to go to questions, so I will refer to Drupal in this case. Drupal does a pretty good job with blocks, they've been able to do this function which is populating statically or dynamically, but again it's not based on the same methodology that we have in terms of content and design. A good CMS is going to allow you, and this is especially on a web CMS site, it's going to allow you to drag and drop and manipulate the modules. We think that that's very important for non-technical people to be able to use. The CMS has to be more visual than it is today, most of the people that are working on websites are going to be marketers, and these are visual people, so you need to have a tool set that allows for that.

In order to have creative, unique front-end experiences decoupling is really going to be the future of the CMS, and we have a whole webinar about it, we've referred to it five times I'm sure while I'm talking to you. It is the future for a variety of reasons, but you have to look at how front-end versus back-end technology works. Front-end technology iterates and advances much quicker than back-end. I mean back-end, 2001 I was working on MapStacks which is Linux Apache, my Seibold PhD, we're still using pretty much the same software, it's been iterated, but it's the same software. Maybe we're moving away from IC core a little bit with some of the new databases out there.

On the front-end the technology available today is not even close, not even related at the least to what we were using back then. I mean we had HTML, but back then I don't even know what the version number was. The front-need is moving much faster, and there is a really great chance that your next front-end design, you'll be able to keep the modules on the font-end for a while, but you'll find you're going to have to update the modules to react, and to make change as time goes on. Whereas on the back-end you're CMS is going to last you five, six, seven, I have a client whose, his CMS was 10 years old, it's the same one, but we've been focusing on this ideal CMS methodology for a while.

This is what the ideal CMS would do. Now think about your website for a second, it's the only front-end experience that really, this is where you place to tie your content to the user. This where you make the connection. It's a merger of content and user experience. You've got a modular interface, the web CMS, again this is the glue, this is where you put these concepts together.

A quick review of where we've been, we know that modular design will eliminate massive future redesigns. We know the focus is on reusable parts versus templates. We know the problem is limitations of CMS's, but we do believe there are definitely ways to do it. How do you go modular? First you can find plugins that can integrate into the CMS's that you have. Again, I think they fall short, I don't think it's completely in line with the methodology that we're espousing here, but there are things out there like Divi and there are a host of other ones as well. You could definitely try to do that to get some of the benefits of this approach.

I prefer Option 2, which is build a customized solution, because plugins fill the gaps for native functionality that's missing, they're never native. They're plugins, that's why they're called plugins. To try to do this methodology, it's like a marriage that, I don't know, it's not destined to last. I just don't think that it's the elegant way to do it. A customized solution will take you a lot further. The ideal customized solution right now is to have those in a couple of concepts.

I'd do encourage you to watch our webcast CMS of the future, where we talk heavily just about the decoupled philosophy and some of the benefits of it. So with that I'm going to dig in a little bit to some examples. This is one of our customers, Newsy.com a great website for news. Actually it's all right I said great, and I see a picture of the president there, great, it's the greatest .. Go to this website, have a look and you'll see how it's a modular layout. On this particular page we have a top navigation module, and we have this hero image with three items on the right module and and then their new top stories, again a module.

Now in their admin they have the ability to control what the order of the modules are, and what type of module, so again we have top stories, the type here is 3-across. We're back here, and obviously top stories is underneath. The have it as separated as a hero, you can see there's the 3-across. Now underneath that they have an ad, and then maybe another 3-across, and an ad and a 3-across, each are different topics. Now the power of this is when they click on one they can go in and set where the content is coming from, either statically or dynamically.

Their content is primarily video. In this case they say, okay, video of the presidential inauguration module, and link it to this particular topic, it's going to be 3-across. It will automatically pull everything that's the video associate with the topic of presidential inauguration, and on the bottom they have a quick way to generate what the module looks like to get a preview. This is how, in their particular instance this has been built, there's a lot of different ways to do it, every solution is different, again this isn't a product approach, this is the approach of, this is building out something customized for you.

Here's some other examples of modules, the 3-across, the inauguration that we saw, he have, there's an ad, there's a 3 by 2 under their ad. There's another, what do you call it? A hero image, sorry about that, a little brain lapse there, there's a hero, which by the way is the same hero image you might use at the top of the page, they're using it in the middle of the page in this example. That's flexibility, so this is a great example of modular design connecting to a decoupled system that knows that it's focus is video as a piece of content.

Here's another example, which is a customer, it's an informational marketing site, but they like to change out landing pages very often. Modular for them makes a lot sense, so you have a left image with right text, left text right image, all of them through a WYSYWIG editor, you don't need any technical knowledge to do it. On the right we have a simple text editor of one column, and then another left right, and then another two column. In this case it has an embedded form because you can definitely do that as well. Why not make modules recursive? So they contain each other.

This is a quick screenshot we took of an admin interface that we built for a customer. This one allows you to choose a module through this overlay, so you might say, I want this module, and then what will happen is it will integrate into a draggable content management screen here on the next page. In this particular case they have a hero image, which is right now one module, 100% of the page. Underneath that they have a content area where they have a left right type of module arrangement, and the one on the right is a social featured tweet, and the one on the left is featured blog post. All things that they can set themselves.

Again very flexible, it gives them the freedom to create pages on the fly in a very quick way. I see a couple of questions, if anyone has any questions, send it through right now. I'm just taking a drink of my water here, and then go through what we have. Okay, so the first one is, and this was back when we were talking about, this was back when we were talking about the modular, I made a note of this. Doesn't WordPress do this already? That was Bill. Again, WordPress tries to do these things, I believe we were talking at this point about, yeah we were taking about modules or pieces, it does it with plugins, but again I think I've said enough about WordPress and plugins and all that great stuff, and how it doesn't necessarily work perfectly together.

Anthony, will this be recorded? Yeah, it's recorded, and it's going to go online shortly after. What else, another question, doesn't WordPress do this? Yeah, everyone's so hung up on WordPress, let it go. Like Elsa would say, let it go. Again it doesn't to it natively, it's built on a methodology 10 or 15 years old, and I'm not going to spend all my time criticizing WordPress like crazy, but it's just, it's not built to do this, it's built for one particular set of content and one particular distribution method, which is the web. That might work great if you have a simplistic business, and I'm not calling your business simple, but I'm saying if you have a business that just needs an informational website, or a site that doesn't change a lot, then yeah by all means then WordPress might work for you. I would say, be very concerned about security.

The last one is how can you tell if you have web CMS versus a content management system? Yeah, that's a great question, Soph. I don't even know how to answer that to be honest, because it's so complex. That might be a topic of a whole new webinar. I mean first of all if you can't tell, you've got to get a little bit educated about the differences so you can. I mean this is really, if you're on this webinar you're a high-end enough user, or you're going to be a client or a service, I think you have to do a little bit of education. I'd go for a little bit of education on the topic.

I would say check out a lot of the resources that we have, look at the blog, look at, we have the webinars, look at download it with ebooks, dig into that, on top of a way of looking at anything that focuses on content, creation of web pages, is a web CMS, and that's going to be probably 95% of the stuff you're going to see out there. Everything is web-based. If you're starting a video distribution channel, or image database, certain type of SAAS apps, I mean all those things have to happen with content management systems, and they're going to be done in a better scalable way by having a custom solution where the focus is on the content right.

I hope that helps out a little bit. Any more? I don't see any more. Real quickly we'll mark that, let me just tell you about the next one, a really important topic, it's going to be how to design and deploy a secure CMS. Real quick, I'm just going to summarize. It was in the news two weeks ago, Rudy Giuliani, he owned a cyber security consulting company, and he got appointed by the new administration to be the cyber security, I guess you could say czar, although I don't know if they use that term any more, and very quickly, the internet, sometimes you've got to love the internet, like a bunch of vigilantes went out there and found out that his website wasn't so secure, it was four years old, it was running on an old Joomla, the back-end wasn't secure, there was no firewall, I think someone found 41 different vulnerabilities.

This got me to thinking, if he doesn't get it right, and he's selling cyber security consulting services, how many other cyber security companies have this problem? We had our intern over here go through and audit 500 sites, the top 500 cyber security companies, according to a 2016 listing, and we found 298 out of 500 have some level of vulnerability in their platform, and I would say 99% of those are WordPress. A little Drupal, a little Joomla, but most were WordPress, and I think that this is scary and this is something that it's indicative of a problem in our industry, that the companies out there, speaking about cyber security, can't even get it right themselves, and they're choosing insecure platforms.

That's another topic, it will be the 28th of February, we're going to do it at 2:00 PM. I hope to see you there, you'll be able to ... Someone was asking me how do you sign up? You're going to be seeing a ton of emails, and we're going to be adding some new features to the website, for sign-ups. We will definitely look forward to seeing you there, that will the fifth, the fifth, I didn't know what we're doing, this is the fourth so pretty exciting stuff. In the meantime I'm going to talk quick, because I'm using up all the time. Any other resources that you should look at include our blog, take a look at our blog, tons of great content going up there.

I did a post yesterday about the modular methodology, a nice long post, it talks about everything I spoke about today, if you want a little bit of background. There's a video section, we have an archive of this up there, the other webinars are there, some other cool animated videos as well, and of course the main resource, this page will take you to ebooks that are available for download, I highly recommend The CMS of the Future.

Not having any more questions, I'm going to let everybody go, so from a cloudy New Jersey, and by the way, this is where we are, Little Falls New Jersey, about 15 miles out of Manhattan, so from a cloudy and cold and rainy New Jersey, I hope everyone has a great day, and we'll see you on the 28th 2:00 PM, talking about security, so take care everybody.

 

Watch Webinar
Our team is available to answer questions you may have.  Contact us today!

Our team is available to answer questions you may have.  Contact us today!

We're happy to help!

get in touch