Julian Wraith

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Tag: Web Content Management

SDL Tridion 2011 Visual highlights

Recently I attended the bootcamp of the 2011 Community Technology Preview, a preview for existing partners and customers of the latest version of SDL’s WCMS, SDL Tridion 2011.

What has changed the most – or rather the most obvious change – is the Content Manager Explorer also known as the Tridion GUI. In 2011, apart from running on all the major browsers and also an iPad, it features a redesign that will be familiar to existing users but also taking on board lots of new usability features.

One of the nicest features of the new interface is the ribbon toolbar. On the current version of Tridion, the buttons on the toolbar are somewhat hard to see and can make it difficult to see what the particular button is supposed to do. The ribbon features a big icon and some text as well which should make finding the function you want easy.

If you don’t like the ribbon you can always collapse the ribbon down to the more traditional row of icons.

Two more features I would like to highlight. Gone are the tabs on the publishing queue and it now shows you all options in the same area. It’s common for me to forget that I have other options on the other tab, so having them all in one place is better for the old folk like myself.

And then lastly I want to show you another nice feature. Error messages in-line to the interface, so now the option to feed more back to the user about what is going on. If you missed a message, you can also get a list back of the message history.

Fall in love with SDL Tridion publishing

I try never to write about SDL Tridion related topics and whilst it is useful to the SDL Tridion Community, I want to write about other things. However, it has been too long since I have written and I had to do something soon…  so here I am again and I decided to look into publishing with SDL Tridion.

What is publishing?

In short, Publishing is the mechanism SDL Tridion uses to put content on a presentation environment. Content and Templates are rendered together and HTML, XML, JSP etc. comes out the other side. When you chose to publish something, you start a chain reaction that sees your content successfully published on your website. During that process SDL Tridion makes sure all your dependencies are taken care of. That single item you chose to publish might lead to a few more items being published so that the website has no errors or inconsistencies in the content.
There are a number of factors that influence how publishing behaves and how you, as a user, can get along with it. The basic factors are:

  • The implementation
  • The content
  • The hardware

So what do we want from publishing?

Mostly you want content there as soon as possible so you can move onto the next task. However, there are allot of other people doing the same thing and on large scale environments or environments with challenges on performance you might have to queue up.

So what can you do?

You need to publish content in a way that ensures the least stress and maximizes the available time for publishing. So I have gathered here some tips that might help you.

Publish Structure Groups

When you publish anything in SDL Tridion, the number of items you select in the Content Management Explorer equals the number of jobs in the publishing queue. Each job in the queue must be completed separately and therefore has all the overhead of being treated as a separate job. However, if you want to publish allot of pages, for example; part of your site, then it makes sense to publish the Structure Group rather than all the individual pages. It will take just as long to get the task done, just with less overhead. If you are worried about failures then use the failure tolerance setting on the Advanced tab of the publishing dialog.

Use priority publishing

Most users have found the priority option in the publishing dialog. It allows you to change the standard priority to change how the publisher will pick up your publishing job. High = it goes first, Low = it goes last. Normal is everything in between. Using Low priority is handy to be able to use the available publishing time of your servers without getting in the way of normal work. So for example, you need to roll out a future site to Staging; then use low priority publishing. It will get there as soon as the publishers have time to deal with it.

Publish on off peak hours

I looked at the number of items published per day for one of my customers recently. It went like this.

  • Wednesday: 16952
  • Thursday: 21829
  • Friday: 13279
  • Saturday: 1
  • Sunday: 14
  • Monday: 1527
  • Tuesday: 2681
  • Wednesday: 357

Notice anything? Many items that could have been published were not because they did not use the weekend. The servers were not turned off; they sat there wasting that publishing time for nothing. So, scheduling a task for the weekend (or even evening) could make better use of the time available.

Publish to staging or live but not to both

Too often I see publishing jobs in a queue that are the same item but going to two different places and those two places are often Staging and Live. The staging site does need to be up to date, but Live is much more important and the process should be that once you are satisfied with your content you publish it to live, so why republish it to staging? If you must publish to staging then make it low priority or maybe schedule a complete republish to Staging in the weekend (see above). To enable low priority publishing all the time you can set the default priority to low on a Publication Target. That way all jobs going to Staging would be low priority and you never need to remember to set it.

Check the details of what you are about to publish

Before you publish, take a look at what will publish and make sure it is what you expect. You can do this using the “See items to Publish” button in the bottom left of the publishing dialog.

Plan your roll outs

When rolling out websites, plan how you are going to do it and leave enough time to get everything done without impacting regular business.

A watched pot never boils

Refreshing the publishing queue frequently might give us the satisfaction that we know that the job was completed as soon as its status is changed to “success”, but in reality it does not make the job go quicker. You might also want to change the filtering options so you only see your own successful tasks.  And do not forget, if it is in the queue, it will get published; it just has to wait its turn.

Warming up to Content Management in 2010

dilbert_futureYesterday I decided it was about time I worked my way into a new year of WCM and the madness that surrounds it. Towards the end of last year my interest in blogging slowed and I had no inspiration to write anything. This year however, I am full of hope so off I went to see what people are predicting for 2010 and the world of WCM. After a bit of reading I decided to highlight some of the things that interested me.

First up, the mighty CMS Watch in the form of Jarrod Gingras’ post on 2010 Technology Predictions. If anyone can do a prediction it should be these guys, right?

CMS Watch prediction #1 “Multi-lingual requirements will rise to the fore”
Good news for SDL Tridion and anyone else the handles Multi-lingual well! “Many firms are now recognizing the need to localize applications and content across cultural and geographic boundaries“, hmmm weren’t firms supposed to have done this in already? But I agree, if they did not do this in 2009 they should do this in 2010. In fact they should have done this in 2008 but lets not split hairs. Factors such as economic crisis as well as growing competition from abroad will all factor and influence this. What is more, these organizations need to invest more heavily in efficient translation.

CMS Watch prediction #2 “Cloud alternatives will become pervasive”
Any talk of the cloud and I think of Jon Marks as in this I agree. And I think the CMS vendors should better read this too before declaring cloud capability. For most large organizations I deal with, this is not an option and I am certainly not a believer in the cloud for my customers. It is nice to think of everything being in a cloud but in reality it is not actually cloud based, it just is not in your network; the two things are not the same.

Next CMS Outlook and Matthew Johnson’s article.

CMS Outlook prediction #1 “Cloud Options”
There is the “c” word again! Both CMS Outlook and CMS Watch both cite economic downturn as the reason for using the cloud as a way of saving costs. If this is going to be the case only CMS Watch gets it right saying that vendors will invest in this area, but only towards the end of the year will customers and implementers actually take up the option of implementing it.

CMS Outlook prediction #2 “WCM + Analytics + Targeting + Testing”
I am looking forward to real advances in this. The technology is there to be integrated but the customers are not up to speed to the fact that they can actually do this, it is our job to teach them. Hopefully, 2010 will indeed see a massive increase in powerful targeting of content.

Next, the personal blog of John Newton.

John Newton prediction #1 “ECM in the developing world”
For some US vendors I feel that the developing world also includes Europe. There are literally tonnes of CMS vendors we have never heard of that operate in the developing world (and the developed for that matter). As their clients outgrow them we will see a move towards larger European and US vendors with their highly developed Content Management applications.

John Newton prediction #2 “CMIS”
I guess I have been talking about this longer and louder than anyone else out there, so you wouldn’t be surprised to see me say I think CMIS will have a significant impact in 2010.” With CMIS coming of age in Spring 2010 it will now be chance for CMS vendors to get their hands dirty and start releasing implementations with CMIS capabilities. How well this will be adopted by vendors remains to be seen, there are often long development cycles to go through before something is in a product. However, there will be allot of widget, plug-ins and extensions to satisfy the RFPs in the meantime.

And finally the personal blog of Stephane Croisier.

Stephane Croisier predicition #1 Standardized CM infrastructure, Content Composites Applications and Content Solutions are the three layers of next generation of CMS”
I like the sound of this but I got confused. As a specialist in infrastructure I am all for standardization of the infrastructure and anything that can be done in 2010 will be great. Standards, even as simple as inbuilt SNMP monitoring or standardized logging, can help massively when implementing large scale implementations. Sadly the infrastructure is often neglected both by vendors and by customers.

Stephane Croisier predicition #2 “The Semantic Web is NOT for 2010 but Semantic Lifting will become hot”
Both CMS Watch and Stephane picked up on this one. We know what we want but not we need a way to find it, show me the internet *I* want to see!

Do you have a nice Content Management 2010 prediction? I would love to hear it…

When Should you Not Use a WCM System?

I recently picked up a copy of a book on Web Content Management with a certain “leading” brand of WCM software. Now, I shall skip who the book was by and even which software it is talking about, but I was happily flicking through and I came across the section “When should you not use a WCM system?.” Now, I was already a little shocked by this title, but then on second thoughts I would not use a WCM system to make a cup of tea or direct a light opera. But, in the context of a business website – and especially when written in a book about a WCM system – I just did not get why you would not use a WCM system.

After closer inspection of the reasons when not to use a WCM system, I found the reasons were:

  1. When most of the data on the website is fairly static and less prone to updates
  2. You have neither the time nor the money for training of the employees
  3. There is not much content to be displayed on the site

Now I *am* really shocked. Now in the section of “When you should use a WCM” it just describes the one reason why you should use a WCM system; “when you update content allot”.

From this point on I flicked back to the front of the book to see when it was published, I was thinking maybe 2000 or 1995 but no, 2006. Did we really think this way in 2006? It can’t be.

So, what are reasons to use a WCM system? And when not? I cannot think of any reason why you would not want to use a WCM of _some sort_. Maybe you do not want a massive WCM implementation when WordPress would do, a small WCM system maybe but WordPress still is a WCM System. A small scale WCM system won’t need massive training not like the larger players, will it?

OK, so when should you use a WCM system?  Here are some of my reasons that may be applied to one or more size of WCM system as I am not going to categorise them:

  1. When you have frequent updates to your website (OK, I was handed this one)
  2. When you want to use a single source of content for multiple channels (brand consistency)
  3. When you want to localise the same single source of content for multiple country websites (translation)
  4. When you want to manage content from a single location (maintainability)
  5. When you don’t want (your editors) to have to learn HTML
  6. When you want to seperate content from layout

Of course my list is not complete and leans towards large WCM implementations – it is my stomping ground afterall. So, I ask, are there more reasons why you would use a WCM system? Anyone?

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