Structured Content Creation and Reuse
The energy landscape is extremely dynamic. With your content on energieschweiz.ch, you aim to mobilise, inform and motivate users. How has the new headless CMS made that easier for you?
Laura Curau: With the new content management system, we work more closely with the content. We focus on reusing content to cover different user journeys. For instance, we have frequently asked questions on the homepage which we also use on other pages. We created these formats and elements during the design phase.
The new headless CMS has also improved the integration of external systems. This has made it easier to link in the publication database that we share with the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.
With headless CMS systems, people often talk about advantages from a frontend and backend point of view. Where do you see the advantages for editors and content managers?
For me, structured content creation and the reusability of content are the biggest advantages. I also appreciate the option to generate different language versions of a single content item.
I was a fan of “what you see is what you get” in the frontend. As an editor, I enjoyed editing texts directly in the frontend of the CMS. We have to move on from this approach. This may sound like a disadvantage at first, but to me it is a great advantage. It makes us focus on the text first, not the design.
The Concept Influences the Flexibility of the Content Model
You mentioned that instead of pages, headless CMS systems consist of structured data. Did you find it hard to switch from thinking in pages to “content first”?
Yes, definitely, since we work with a URL focus, particularly for SEO reasons. We still think in terms of pages that we edit manually. Our page types and elements have a defined hierarchy, which we cannot change at will.
But what is more important for us is that we have shifted the focus away from the homepage towards subject areas, or “hubs” as we call them. Users don’t necessarily start their journey on our homepage. Somebody may be accessing a story or tool via social media or a news page from the newsletter. We want to provide users with relevant content in our hubs. There is still a lot of potential there. Right now, a user journey still ends at the end of a text paragraph. We want to change that across the site by adding related content to every page. For now, our content model is still a bit too rigid for that.
What do you mean by that? Had you hoped for more flexibility in the headless CMS?
We didn’t implement the necessary module in the initial concept. To make these changes to some page types now, we need to do a content model change. That in turn affects the code. This means that we need to go through the development and acceptance test (UAT) phases before we can roll out a change to the production environment. In cases like this one, I would love to work more with drag and drop.
At the beginning of the project, we wanted to define strict rules. Now, we would like to afford our content managers a little more freedom and flexibility to design and shape pages and subject areas. We will adapt and revise the content model to that effect. This is a complex process since the frontend needs to learn how to handle these changes. But this “clean-up” is not a big deal. The users won’t even notice.
Did the new CMS have an effect on your editorial processes?
The structured content approach is something many external editors are not familiar with yet. They just write an A4 page and expect that to go up on the website. But that is a thing of the past. We work with a template and use specific elements.
On our webpages, the accordion call-to-action elements are of particular relevance. We want to motivate readers to take action. Hence, we phrased these elements to encourage and inspire readers to conserve energy and use renewable energy. In a continuous text, that message would not come across as strongly.
Previews Exist – but Cannot Be Edited
For content creators, the preview of a page is essential. You’d think that a headless CMS wouldn’t have previews because the components are separate. Is that true?
You just have to build the preview. The preview is really important for us content managers because we need to ensure the quality of the content. The design may react differently sometimes. The headless CMS does provide a preview, but you cannot edit texts in the frontend. That is not a problem for us, it just takes a bit of patience. The preview build takes about 20 seconds and then we can check the preview. This is sufficient because, in 90 per cent of the cases, we know what the changes will look like.
Headless CMS and Storytelling Go Hand in Hand
A headless CMS enables central context management and cross-channel dissemination. Good storytelling, however, requires you to adapt the story to the channel and the target group. Is this a contradiction?
(Thinks for a moment) On the website, the nuances are so minor that the benefits of reusing the content outweigh the advantages of personalisation. You’ll find forms of personalisation wherever we disseminate the content.
For example: On our website, we address our readers with the more formal “Sie” in German. There are, however, some topics that would work wonderfully with the less formal “Du”. But it would be too much of an effort to maintain this variation in the CMS. In social media, however, we use the informal “Du” form when disseminating this content. But if you want to, it is possible to enter content that is specific to certain target groups in the system.
So no, it does not feel like a contradiction to me. Reusing content also doesn’t mean that you reuse the entire content. Sometimes it is just a number or a link. For instance, you could use a call to action on several pages but only create it once. Running text is least likely to be reused. We write it for one specific delivery.
With the headless CMS, you have created a basis that is highly expandable. What kind of content can we expect from EnergieSchweiz in the future?
We are using the system for exciting content, with stories and tips to better inform our readers about all things energy and to motivate them to adopt more energy-efficient behaviour. Interested readers can visit our website regularly to discover new content or subscribe to a monthly newsletter for news. Energy is a hot topic at the moment, and there is increasing competition for readers’ attention. Our content will help us stay ahead.
Incredibly short loading times and relevant content: Contentful, GatsbyJS with React and Kubernetes play seamlessly together on the headless platform we implemented.