Status Report on Sustainability and the Buzzword Bingo From Boye 22

Categories: Event Report Created by Mathias Bolt Lesniak
The CMS Experts met in Aarhus, Denmark, 9 November 2022. Photo: Ib Sørensen
Notes from the CMS Experts track of the Boye 22 digital leadership conference in Aarhus, Denmark, 9 November 2022.

TYPO3 is a member of Boye & Co’s CMS Experts group. This is a forum where CMS analysts, thinkers, practitioners, experts, and vendors meet to discuss and share thoughts and ideas. I joined the group’s one-day track at the Aarhus conference.

The day left me with many new thoughts and questions. What do you think about them?

 Mathias Bolt Lesniak visited the Boye 22 digital leadership conference in Aarhus, Denmark, 9 November 2022, as part of the Meet TYPO3 initiative. Mathias is a member of the TYPO3 Association Board. See upcoming Meet TYPO3 events.

Environmental Sustainability Isn’t Just Cycling—It’s UX Too

If website owners aren’t asking for it today, they soon will be. Environmental sustainability is moving from a nice-to-have to being a dealbreaker. Seeing the environmental perspective can be a sobering exercise for website creators, and far from every CMS and agency is ready.

Denmark being a flat country, it was maybe not a surprise that Boye & Co. had chosen Danish Cyclists' Federation president Jens Peter Hansen to set the tone for the day. It was a good choice, as the bicycle represents the way we need to think when choosing sustainable solutions. It’s not always about finding direct replacements, but about asking how we can best organize our lives to live sustainably.

It was a perfect segue to Sustainable UX—or how UX can Save the World, the keynote by Thorsten Jonas. He represents the Sustainable UX Network, an initiative that takes a different approach to answering UX questions. To them, UX is not only about the user, but about helping the user make sustainable decisions.

Sustainable UX (SUX) relates the user to the UN’s sustainability goals, and moves from a human to a humanity and environmental design approach. It could mean making the most environmentally-friendly form of delivery the default choice in a web shop or offering a leaner website version, without sliders (Why deliver content nobody looks at?) or unnecessary imagery (Use low resolution initially or show only when needed).

Lack of Structure Eats Editors for Breakfast

One of the things I really appreciate about the CMS Experts forum, is the good conversations about sometimes controversial questions. The next 90-minute session made me ask these questions:

  • Do the buzzwords we hear represent real differentiators for content management, or are they just attempts at creating a notion of differentness? 
  • Are so-called modern content management platforms serving users’ needs or are they just expressions of unattainable software design ideals?

The session started with a presentation by Wim Van Horen, a director of sales at the CMS Contentstack. He presented research about how retailers handle the rapidly increasing complexity in digital sales. (It’s going to be really hard for many.)

To me, the presentation highlighted the difference between two types of content that are easily mixed up: Content as entities of product data and content as hierarchically structured information on a website. While a product can have any priority on a site, a page-based CMS like TYPO3 helps organize the content by complexity level (overview on a Home page and more detail on supages, for example).

A lack of structure can be a challenge in headless systems. We had an interesting discussion about how there is a need for a common taxonomy. Though it might be a software design ideal to allow any structure and taxonomy, we shouldn’t forget that defining a clear structure in the UI is a great help to editors. I think TYPO3’s page tree is a good example of this.

User’s Needs Create a Converging Market

Second up was Sebastian Winslow, CTO from the digital agency Valtech’s Danish branch. Titled Towards a Modern Architecture and Mindset, the presentation was a good argument for putting an end to many of the big discussions of the last few years. 

Sebastian had researched the Digital Experience Platform (DXP) market, and his findings were interesting to discuss. I think buzzwords have often become weapons of a rather meaningless marketing battle, fueled by a need to create differentiations. Assumptions like: 

  • Monolith means you’re stuck in the past. 
  • DXP is way more futuristic than CMS
  • If you’re not Composable you’re not really flexible.

Who are the true DXP monoliths today? Those that were hard-to-maintain monoliths some years ago are heading towards more interconnected and modular designs, built on a cloud infrastructure.

Are there any pure composable DXPs left? Running a large number of individual services turned out to be not only a maintenance, but also a data privacy and accounting nightmare.  Also the composables are internalizing functionality.

In the end, the users want neither an inflexible prison nor an empty void they have to fill themselves. The monolith and composable products are slowly converging on a center ground, with features from both worlds.

Reality Check—Helping WHO Europe

After lunch, the CMS Experts met with Natalia Sterlikova-Loehr and Vinca Eppendahl from the World Health Organization’s European division. Their website had just moved to a new CMS, from Squiz to Sitefinity, and they spoke about the project and asked for feedback and ideas about some frontend implementation improvements.

With 39 languages, nearly 5000 pages, and 6145 news articles, it would have fitted TYPO3’s features excellently. But, I guess we can’t have it all, so it was interesting to have a look into a different world.

Since the questions were related to frontend and editor-related tasks, the experts around the table could all chip in with their best advice, unencumbered by CMS-specific practice. Maybe it would be good to promote the search as a way to navigate such a large website? (Menus just aren’t enough.) The experts also recommended looking at page size and load times. What do you think?

A good example of collegial support for an organization that proved to be very important during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Real Why of Content Management

After a 50-minute intermezzo of roundtable discussions on diverse topics, it was time for a presentation by someone involved in our own community: Jeffrey A. “jam” McGuire from Open Strategy Partners spoke about Audience Experience: The real WHY of Content Management.

He brought the conversation back to the core of the CMS business: Content management and how to produce the content best suited to communicate your message to the website’s audience. By thinking content strategy and content management as intertwined, your CMS should not only passively serve content, but be used actively as a tool to reach your strategic communication goals.

A refreshing thought in a world where the configurability of the CMS backend and content production often plays second fiddle to other concerns.

Awarding the Best Little Feature

The day ended with the Small Feature Award, a small award for “the small features that make all the difference”.

TYPO3 has never won this award, and it didn’t go our way this time either. “[It’s open source, so] you can 
take it with you when you leave” lost to Plotteriet’s Scrap Pad: Physical paper notebooks created from different kinds of leftover paper. Even though I love my TYPO3 note book, this felt like the right kind of winner for a sustainability-themed conference day.

What are your views on these new perspectives? Join the discussion below.

Additional contributors for this article
  • Proofreader : Felicity Brand
  • Content Publisher : Mathias Bolt Lesniak