I’ve been with Ephox for 6 years but back in 2000 I was working for Vignette, a leading content management system vendor. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen the process of authoring content change dramatically along with the tools used. In 2000, content management systems were just coming into their own and while they had many features of the modern CMS, the focus was less on authoring and more on the “management” of content via workflows and dynamic content delivery.
Content management systems went to great lengths to ensure that the author couldn’t insert HTML into the content. In the early days, authors were restricted to entering textual content only – formatting was part of the publication/display process.
Authors often represented a small group within businesses. Content authoring was seen as necessary, but not essential. The tools for high powered authoring simply did not exist.
When I joined Ephox, we set out to be the “editor people” and our focus was on making the authoring experience simple and intuitive. We created tools like EditLive! that allow authors to create standards-compliant HTML without writing a line of code. This also gave authors some control over the display of their content for the first time.
Many CMS vendors started recognizing that authoring was much more than just the creation of textual content. The display of content was just as important to conveying the information as the actual words. Content authoring started becoming less restrictive and more decentralized.
Businesses now saw their online presence as crucial to their success. So there was an increase in the number of people who were responsible for content creation within the business. This, however, raised challenges.
There was now the need to embrace a collaborative approach to authoring which was not possible before. Understanding the authoring process within the business (where is content being created, who is creating it and what are the bottlenecks in the process?) also became crucial.
But what about the next 10 years?
The decentralization of authoring has added more layers into the authoring process. There is now a need for corporate standards to be integrated into the authoring process to maintain uniformity in the content. Increases in HTML standards like accessibility has also added another layer to this process.
These layers may tempt us to move back to a time when authoring was a restricted part of the business. The danger with that is losing the ability to create quality content.
So how do we avoid this step backward? We need an increase in tools available to facilitate the different layers of authoring (like adherence to business standards on published content) without oppressing the authoring process. These tools also need to be a simple and intuitive part of the process much like rich text editors are today. That will be one step towards The New Road to Content.