Sunday, February 18, 2007

Digging deeper into CMS requirements (#3: End-user Requirements)

This is the third post about digging deeper into content management requirements. See also
Today I'm gonna run through two categories of requirements. They both have to do with how the CMS is portrayed towards the end-user, through translation and delivery.

Globalization

International companies need multilingual web-sites [Huang, 2001] with internationalization and localization features.

Internationalization

This is the concept of having country and language-specific content, essentially having the main content of the web-site translated to one or more languages [Iverson, 2002].

Translation of a WCMS can be divided into two parts. The most important one is how the content itself can be translated by the content managers. The other aspect is the language of the WCMS itself regarding internal interfaces for administration and management.

Localization

This refers to visual effects based on the visitor's locale, like country specific temperature, time, date and currency formats, one example being how certain countries use the 12-hour AM/PM style to define time, while others use 24-hour notation.


I would like to add the following:

Do not internationalize your site if you don't really really need to. If you can get away with it, stick to one language, either English or the local language. Doing i18n and l12n is easy to describe in principle, but oh-so-heavy and difficult to implement and maintain, both technically and content-wise.


Content Delivery

Syndication

To increase the availability of content, larger web-sites feature syndication, or off-site publishing. This can be approached by subscribing to receive new pages through e-mail (newsletters), or as the increasingly popular news-feed (RSS).

As an example, many news-sites have offered the option of subscribing via RSS-feeds. By subscribing to these feeds in RSS-readers or news-aggregators, the process of collecting news from these sites is turned from a pull-protocol, actively browsing for content, into a push-protocol where content is pushed to the reader.

This is related to the idea of the Semantic Web [Berners-Lee, 2001], a set of W3C standards created for enabling data sharing across the Web. One version of the RSS format (1.0) is actually a name-space within the Semantic Web's RDF specification.

Accessibility

Many developers associate accessibility with the extent on which disabled people can use computers. This could be because they lack motoric skills, or because their hearing or eyesight is impaired. For example, certain keyboard shortcuts would not be accessible for a one-handed person, and color-codes can be hard to read for the weak-sighted.

A more generic understanding of accessibility is the limitations readers have accessing content. These limitations can be lack of mouse or keyboard, small sized screen or lack of colors. Limited devices like mobile phones, PDAs and older computers lack the luxury of heavy graphical user interfaces.

Search

The importance of the this requirement is proportional with the size and maneuverability of the web-site. Although a very basic search-engine is sufficient for most sites, it is also possible to implement smarter searches that accord for miss-spelling, try different word ending(s), and use context specific dictionaries. A good search-engine also indexes your online binary files (PDF and Microsoft Office documents for instance).

The intelligence of a search engine increases by the work which is put into configuring it because there are a lot of context related parameters which must be sorted out. The engine must accord with language(s), location of where the searchable information is stored, possibilities for tracking content by URLs with spidering techniques and security. There are many issues which much be situationally decided, like whether hidden files should be search-accessible. Upon installation of the search engine, it will require hours of manual configuration to fit the context. It should be able to monitor the search patterns of the visitor to better tune the searches to yield usable results.

Communication

A powerful mean to further enable existing content is to give the consumer the opportunity to provide feedback to the web-site. This functionality can come in several shapes, including the ability to add comments to web-pages, participate in online surveys and discuss content in forums or chatting consoles.

If the goal is to make it easier for potential customers to contact the business, one could measure the number of visitors compared to the number of visitors who actually fill in some online contact form.

A way to generate income directly this way is to provide the visitor with the option to buy services through a web-shop. Having this channel makes it quite easy to measure how many sales are generated from the business' web front-end.

Feedback from visitors can collected to help improve the web-site, but some sort of incentive is normally required to tempt any visitors into actually completing such a form. If the web-site is of low value to the visitor, chances are slim that the visitor will aid improving the web-site.


References:

Berners-Lee, T., Hendler, J., Lassila, O. 2001, "The Semantic Web" Retrieved 29. April, 2006

Huang, S., Tilley, S. 2001, "Issues of Content and Structure for a Multilingual Web Site", conference proceedings from SIGDOC'01, ACM

Iverson, S. P. 2002, "Content Management Beyond English", conference proceedings from IPCC 2002, IEEE International