What business hasn’t been tantalized by the prospect of open source software? It’s low cost, easy to access, and adaptable. And with hundreds of thousands of open source products downloadable with the click of a button, there’s no shortage of open source options for enterprise users.
But is open source software the right route for enterprise? Can an enterprise with unique requirements, specific needs, and complex projects adopt open source successfully?
In short, the answer is yes. But there are a few caveats to this, a few exceptions, and a few essential steps that need to be taken to make open source software enterprise-ready. We’ll cover all that in this post.
Enterprises today are only as good as the software that powers them. But with business applications come a number of costs and challenges:
Maintenance – both development and vendor management – is more time-consuming and costly
New feature development – can be inefficient if you’re running it internally
Siloed data – information can be difficult to share, even in the world of APIs
What can organizations do?
Build robust business applications on top of existing CMSs.
Here are four primary benefits to building on the back of a CMS instead of from the ground up, and why major enterprises should be thinking about their content management systems as more than an easy way to keep their blog up to date.
1. Commercially supported
Regardless of whether you build or buy your enterprise application, you’re going to have to maintain it. Security updates, feature requests and updates, fixes, patches, testing, and the huge variety of functions DevOps fills, are all going to come out of your pocket.
But by building on top of a CMS, much of that work is already being paid for. For example, if you’re using a commercially-supported CMS like Advantage CMS, maintenance costs are already being paid to keep your site up and running. Adding a small increase to those costs to expand that maintenance to a business app is far less costly because there’s just less work to do.
2. Efficient development
No matter how good your business application is, you’re always going to get new feature requests. It’s a fact of software life – as soon as you build it one way, someone, somewhere, wants it another way.
With a traditional build-or-buy business application model, the cost of new feature development is extraordinarily high and/or time consuming.
Which is why most enterprise software feels about 10 years behind consumer-facing products.
Even with libraries like those provided by Java or .NET frameworks, the CMS world is still legions ahead in terms of plugins available.
There are literally millions of plugins for most popular CMS platforms, making it remarkably fast and simple for developers (internal or external) to respond to feature requests.
3. Better content integration
We can’t talk about content management systems without talking about content. With a CMS-powered business application, content integration just comes as standard. Which, for content-driven or content-dense organizations, makes their life a lot easier.
Specifically, by using a hybrid ‘headless CMS’ such as Advantage CMS or Sitefinity to power your business application, you can take content stored in the CMS that powers your traditional website, and dynamically deliver it to your second-screen experience – be it an app, a kiosk, or something else entirely.
For example, we worked with 9Story to develop an iPad app to showcase its video library. All of the videos are managed the same CMS that powers their traditional website, but are dynamically delivered and showcased in an experience unique to the iPad.
Similarly, we deployed a CMS-integrated mobile app for Mylan that draws on information from their content management system to provide a seamless experience to the end-user, helping patients stick to their medication routine and rewarding medication adherence.
The ability to keep fresh content constantly flowing from a single source is absolutely critical. With traditional business applications, updating content is often a time-consuming and clunky job. Software updates, for example, are often held up by technical writers not being able to update existing help documentation readily enough.
But with a CMS-based business application, managing content is far easier for the simple fact that managing content is what content management systems do best. Content can easily be swapped in and out for multiple user end-points, from a single repository.
Better management means the most up-to-date content goes to the right place at the right time – without hours of additional work.
4. Easier systems integration
Finally, we get to systems integration. The last and arguably most significant benefit of a CMS-driven business application is that integration is far, far easier.
Most of the popular CMSs on the market have robust APIs that are designed to make integration easy. For example:
Advantage CMS and Sitefinity work with all major APIs
Drupal is capable of fully integrating with a range of products
WordPress can connect to Zapier, giving it a world of potential consumer and business integrations
Essentially, CMSs have been designed to work well in a larger digital ecosystem. By contrast, many business applications, whether for security concerns or simply a lack of emphasis on integration, fail to play well with a range of software. It might be that your business application doesn’t work with your contact management tool. Or your email marketing software doesn’t talk to your internal content system, requiring someone to duplicate relevant content.
Whatever the case, you want a tool that will work the way you want, not one that’s going to shape how you work. Building on a CMS is a quick way to achieve that goal.
Every organization is different. But at the same time, regardless of what your business does and what you want from your software, there’s often some common, basic functionality you’re looking to achieve.
By building business applications on the back of your CMS, and specifically a hybrid headless CMS, you bring those core objectives closer, without burning through IT resources and without running up a huge implementation bill. You can unite business data in one place, push content exactly where it needs to go, and you can rely on all your systems playing nicely together.
But mostly, building on a CMS gives you peace of mind that your business application will work each time, every time, no matter what you throw at it.
You might have heard the term ‘headless’ CMS kicking around the development world lately. It’s certainly become popular these days: as users make the switch from looking for content on a single device to juggling multiple devices all day long, companies are looking for a way to deliver their content effectively to multiple mediums across many screens. A headless CMS is one tool that can help with that task.
In this post, we’ll cover what a headless CMS is, and why it’s increasingly popular. We’ll take a look at how it stacks up against a traditional CMS, so you can weigh which kind of CMS is right for your business needs.
How is a ‘headless’ CMS different?
A headless CMS is similar to a traditional CMS, but with one key difference: the headless CMS doesn’t have a frontend, and it doesn’t handle the display component of your website for you.
A CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) user interface
A variety of ways to display the data (a ‘front-end’).
Number three on that list – the data display function – is the traditional front-end user interface, and the ‘head’ that gets lopped off in a headless CMS. When you remove the data display function of a CMS, you’re left with a backend that handles content storage and distribution, along with a user interface for site administrators and editors to upload, edit, and manage content.
Instead of the display function, a headless CMS delivers your content through an API. So the key components of a headless CMS are:
A way to store your content
A CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) user interface
An API to the data
What does this look like in practice?
So what happens when you take away the front-end of a CMS? The biggest difference is that a website can’t be built with a headless CMS on its own. With a traditional CMS, everything happens in one place: you can upload and edit your content, play around with how it’s displayed, click ‘publish’ and have your site appear before your eyes like magic.
A headless CMS doesn’t have the features that let you build your site. It doesn’t have site themes or templates. To use a headless CMS, you have to build a site, or app, or other experience first, then use the CMS’s API to plug your content into it.
Why are people going headless?
A headless CMS comes with a hefty dose of flexibility. Because it delivers content through an API, a headless CMS will deliver your content seamlessly to any device, in any context. When you go headless, the same backend can deliver content to an Android or iOS app, a kiosk, a virtual reality (VR) experience, or any other medium your business may require.
A headless CMS also gives you and your developers the ability to innovate quickly. With a traditional CMS, change can be clunky and time-consuming – to refresh your site, you generally need to re-implement the entire CMS. With a headless CMS, you can tweak your front-end without tweaking the backend, saving yourself time and resources.
Traditional vs. Headless CMS: The Pros and Cons
It can be tricky to choose between a headless and a traditional CMS. The truth is, they both have potential benefits and drawbacks.
Traditional CMS Pros:
They serve your entire site with one solid system that couples your content and its presentations.
Your container isn’t fixed – in terms of a desktop experience, it allows for customizable and resizable zones, and the ability to create unique presentations from dynamic content blocks
They give you the opportunity to play around more with how your content is displayed; without templates and themes, developers and designers can generate unique user experiences, and easily swap content in and out
They make it easy to plug your content into any second- or third-screen experience, like mobile apps, kiosk, VR experiences, and other mediums.
Headless CMS Cons:
With a second-screen experience, your medium is fixed; unlike websites that allow for customizable zones and the ability to resize and rearrange dynamic content, a fixed medium (like a mobile app container or kiosk) is restricted to present dynamic content in a fixed zone. This means you can swap in and swap out content, but can’t customize placement or presentation much beyond that.
They give you another piece of the puzzle to manage – you’ll need infrastructure to set up and manage the presentation component of your site, app, or other experience.
They can be more expensive to implement, and the costs can get complicated (you’ll need to pay separately for the CMS, the developer, and infrastructure to run your site, app, etc.).
Wrap Up: Context is Key
As you probably noticed, the pros of one kind CMS tend to be the cons of the other, and vice versa. So the choice between a traditional and a headless CMS really comes down to your business needs.
Likewise, a headless CMS will serve you well if you’re creating an ecosystem of apps and websites. In this case, a headless CMS will let you deliver your content to the entire ecosystem efficienty, making it a great tool for cross-platform publishing.
But if you’re building a stand-alone website for your business, you might be best served by a traditional CMS that’ll let you quickly get your site up and running.
Your professional association’s website is the centrepiece of your customer communication. First impressions will be based on it. Having one that reflects your brand in a refined and designed way is an absolute must.
Here are six features to implement in order to get the most from your digital dollars.
1. Mobile optimized
In 2015, around 36% of traffic to websites came from mobile devices.
Professional association websites are usually chock full of information, so navigation is a key issue. Generally, simple options are better for main menus, with sub-menus where necessary for additional information.
As with navigation for other websites, make button labels consistent with:
Audience expectations (for example, ‘news’, ‘tools’, ‘events and more’)
Each other – consistent menus and page layouts confirm audience expectations
Other websites – users have become accosted to a way that websites work. The more you comply with existing norms, the better your website will be.
It’s also a good idea to include quick links for your most requested web services, either on the home page or available no matter where visitors are on your site.
3. Powerful SEO
There’s no point in having an amazing website if no one can find it.
Simple SEO practices like using target keywords for posts and ensuring you have readable, friendly URLs will help you make yourself easy to find for your target audience. Even if your users are motivated to get to your specific website, most will probably type the organization name into Google to get there.
You need to make sure that you’re at the top of page one.
4. Strong call to action (CTA)
For any website, even professional associations, driving users to specific actions is critical to a great experience.
You need to make it clear what you want users to do and easy for them to do it.
It’s a good idea to include an audience funnel on your homepage as well. This will prevent visitors from getting lost and makes them more likely to stay around.
5. Images and video
Humans are fundamentally visual creatures. We can process information in a picture of video at a phenomenal speed compared to reading. What’s more, video and images are increasingly popular mediums – and ones that you should be considering as part of your core messaging strategy.
6. Use a content management tool (CMS)
We tend to focus on what visitors see when we talk about websites.
The most active professional associations are always releasing new content:
It reinforces their leadership position within the industry
Drives organizational value and encourages user sign up
A CMS makes the processes around content production and organization easy. You can create and publish content to your digital properties quickly and efficiency, without needing to contact webmasters every time you write a blog post.
When it comes to web design and functionality, we could go on forever. But we won’t. Use the features above as a starting point for creating an exciting, dynamic web presence that your visitors and association members will love and new prospects can’t wait to check out.
Almost every single website has one or two design elements that don’t add much, but the designer/developer/approval committee/stakeholders absolutely loved. A big part of making a great site is paring back elements that don’t add much at all, so the ones that do can really shine.
A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t explain why something is on a page, then it shouldn’t be included on that page.
For example, imagine you’re designing a features page, and you want an icon at the top because it looks nice.
While it might look nice, that’s not a specific function (unless, of course, your target audience doesn’t know what features are but understands intricate iconography. Then, by all means.)
Which means it should be cut.
This sort of ruthless element assassination keeps your site lean, fast, and easy to understand – no fluff, no nonsense.
Remember: your users are people. And as a rule, people don’t have a lot of spare time. They’re busy with all sorts of other things. That’s why if you look at a graph of load time vs visitor retention, there’s a huge drop off after three seconds – people will move on to something else.
Which means your copy needs to convey exactly why they should give you the time of day, right at the very start.
Take, for example, the headline for Trello, a project management tool:
Trello lets you work more collaboratively and get more done.
Instantly, they tell the user:
What they do
How they do it
What the benefit is
All your website copy should aim to be as focused, concise, and as user-orientated as Trello’s headline.
Value-add or protected content, where you get your users to give up something (usually contact information) to access it, is usually seen as a marketing trick.
And one that users tolerate, but don’t love.
The key to getting your users to love your site is to create content (even protected content) that’s so useful they’re lining up to get it.
For example, if you produce an amazing, long, and detailed guide to solving a precise and technical problem, your users will be so grateful they’ll love your site forever, regardless of the fact they’re on your email list now.
5. Make your processes easy
Finally, the best possible thing you can do for your users is make your processes easy.
It’s as simple as that.
Whether it’s an onboarding process, an inbound sales process, or finding contact information so they can give you a call, make it easy for your users.
That’s what unites incredible user experiences and sets them apart from mediocre ones: they’re easy.
For example, if you have some value-add content, focus on what you’re asking for in exchange. How much value does it really add to ask who people work for? If it doesn’t offer much for your purposes, that’s a field you can get rid of.
This sort of micro-optimization will make your overall site easier to use, and thus, your users happier overall.
You don’t have to be Apple, or have a team of UX/UI designers on staff, to make your users love your site.
Just be refining, streamlining, and optimizing and testing over time, you can build a website that is simple, elegant, and great at what it does.
If you do that, your users are sure to love it. Guaranteed.
Have you got a thorny website that your users just can’t seem to get behind? Get in touch! We might be able to help.
Every new website owner knows the pain of trying to get the domain that they want. It can be frustrating to enter option after option into your hosting provider’s search bar but having all of your preferred domains rejected because someone else owns it.
With Whois.net, you can save yourself a lot of that pain. It lets you know immediately if a domain is available and, more importantly, who owns it if it’s not. You might not want to shell out for the perfect .com domain, but with Whois, at least it’s an option.
One of the biggest challenges for new website owners is getting your site ranked and found in organic search.
Screaming Frog SEO can help. Their free tool, SEO Spider, gives you incredible insight into any website (including your own). Essentially, it lets you see what Google’s web crawlers see, which lets you identify your SEO weaknesses and iterate on your strengths to propel yourself to the top of the Google rankings.
Even if you’re not running any PPC campaigns, you can still reap major benefits from using AdWords as a prospecting tool.
With plenty of campaign explorer and design tools, it’s a great way to get a snapshot of what people are searching for around your business, which keywords have the most competition, and where there might be opportunity for you.
If you’re launching a new site, you’re unlikely to rank for competitive keywords. But by looking at high volume, low cost keywords in AdWords, you can find holes in the market to fill.
Another free tool from Google, Trends lets you look at search volume changes over time and compare different terms. For more established companies and websites, it’s a good way to identify how people are engaging with your brand.
But for new website owners, there are two core functions.
1. Identifying new opportunities
Using Google trends, you can look for search terms and ideas and how their search volume has changed over time. This gives you amazing insight into what trends on the up and up and what’s declining.
For example, if we look at search volumes of responsive design over five years:
You can see that there was a peak and now there’s declining interest.
But when we look at the search term native app, we see the opposite trend:
So we can deduce that in recent years, people have become much more interested in mobile apps than in responsive design, so that’s what we should be talking about.
This sort of research can help you narrow your website content strategy early so you’re always talking about rising trends, not falling one.
2. Finding related topics/keyword ideas
Using the related terms function, you can get ideas for where your customers’ heads are at. Running searches on key competitors, ideas, keywords, and industry-specific trending topics will give you lots of insight into what connections and being made. Then, you can tailor your website to exploit them.
If you’re running an ecommerce website, choosing how you’re going to accept payments is one of the biggest decisions you’re going to make. A lot goes into it, like user experience, your own experience, what metrics you can generate, functionality, and of course, cost.
And one that should be on your shortlist? Stripe.
With an awesome interface and super easy implementation, you can start accepting payments right away. And with a focus on design and user flows, you can drive more profit from your site with less drop off and abandonment.
Finally, as a new website owner you’re going to quickly run into the problem of lots to do and no time to do it.
Asana is a free project management tool that can help you keep a handle on your towering workstack. And as you realize you’re not equipped to do everything you need to, it’s easy to add freelancers and keep everyone on the website project on the same page.
Turning your fledging website or ecommerce store into the next unicorn might not be easy (or, frankly, very realistic). But with these six tools, the path towards runaway success is a whole lot easier to trod down.
Have you got a favourite website tool that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Financial institutions (“FI”) are not often early adopters of technology.
However, they are quick followers. And with digital transformation the latest trend hitting FIs, there’s plenty to be excited about going forward.
As consumers continue to demand better digital experiences from their banks, we’re seeing serious investment to improve the customer experience.
Here are 7 major trends and features we can expected to see firmly take hold of FIs in the next few years.
1. Improved security
More transactions are going digital. Mortgages, savings, retirement, pensions – there are even banks that are completely digital now.
This was inconceivable even 10 years ago.
The flipside, however, is that security is even more important for the simple reason banks have more to protect. Protecting against both intrusion (SQL injection) and interruption (DDoS attack) requires protection at both the server and application level.
And since 2016, there’s been a spotlight on institutional security at a consumer and regulatory level.
FIs will need to keep their websites and their institutions protected using new technologies like blockchain to garner and keep consumer trust.
2. Chatbot customer service
Robotics and automation have both come a long way in the last few years, and FIs are not immune. Early adopters have started strategic partnerships with incubators and startups to automate customer service functionality.
This makes a lot of sense for banks.
While finances are complicated, most customer support is going to be the same questions. Unlike other industries which might change the situation creating the customer confusion, FIs are often restricted by regulation and their own legacy systems from doing so, creating a clear niche for chatbots.
3. Mobile apps
Most major banks now have mobile apps. We can expect to see a continued investment in this web tool for banks in the form of:
Expanded in-app functionality
Improved app experiences
But it’s not just banks. Fintech services now offer financial services like budgeting, investment, stocks, retirement plans, and savings through apps. Digital-only banks are increasingly common, and app-based banks are not far away.
The takeaway is that the financial industry is increasingly one that can existing entirely within an app infrastructure, and increasingly, that’s the preferred mechanism for user engagement.
4. Digital first Digital only
As we’ve mentioned, digital first has come and gone for banks. And other FIs are soon following. For some perspective on this, the fintech industry was worth a reported $20 billion in 2015, up 66% from the previous year.
The message is clear: digital and money go together like bagels and cream cheese.
So what’s next?
Already, products and services are cutting their costs by moving more and more things to the digital side. But increasingly, companies are opting for digital only. Apps are the most popular example of this, but there are plenty of robust product offerings like Alliant, a credit union without any physical branches, or Tangerine, Scotiabank’s newly acquired digital-only bank aimed at millennials.
5. Consumer tools
The evolution of consumer tools hasn’t happened overnight. It’s been driven for a few years now by two key factors:
Consumer desire for self service
Consumer impatience with jargon-filled, technical forms.
Combined, these have created dozens of digital tools to help consumers better understand what they’re buying (or borrowing), where their money goes, and when bills are due.
Even if it’s just a starting point, they give users a chance to inform themselves before they talk to an expert.
Automated processes are being deployed to supplement expert advice. More of the buying cycle for something like a mortgage is being handled by consumers and computers than by consumers and experts.
With that in mind, tools are no longer simple conversion mechanisms.
Instead, they’re doing real work to help consumers through the buying cycle.
As this trend persists, we can expect to see big integrations with complex data structures and these tools becoming smarter, more accurate, and a more integral part of the buying process.
Over time, we’ll see the consumer/expert relationship take up less and less time as tools like this work better and better.
6. Gamification of services
Games and fun are not really the first things that leap to mind when you think about financial services.
But FIs are starting to use these techniques to drive customer engagement. Acorns, for example, is an app that automatically rounds off your transactions to the nearest dollar and saves that money for you. There’s plenty of classic gamification techniques like goal setting present throughout the app to drive positive user behavior.
And Acorns is hardly alone.
Apps like Mint and plenty of banks have begun to build in savings rewards programs, progress trackers, and even push notifications to their apps to gamify saving for the future.
Finally, one web trend that we can expect to see transfer over to FIs in a big way is putting less information on every page.
Currently, financial services websites are dense with information, relying on ageing navigation and search principles to help users find their way.
But the real solution is to simply streamline the content itself.
We can expect fewer navigation menus and less content per page to encourage a positive mobile experience and keep users laser focused on what they need. And as apps and other digital journey tools continue to be developed, FIs will simply need less content to serve their customer – something their groaning information architecture is sure to be thankful for.
Do you see another major design or development innovation in banking and technology that you think is on the horizon? Let us know in the comments below!
The complexity, regulatory restrictions, conservative nature of the healthcare industry, and a truly staggering diversity in needs and capabilities of organizations and patients has made healthcare slow to undergo digital transformation.
Below are seven key features for making sure a healthcare website stays healthy in 2017.
1. User Experience is critical to a healthy website
It’s easy to forget that most patients are only patients a tiny fraction of the time.
The rest of the time they’re just people – and they use apps like Facebook, websites like Amazon, book Ubers and get food delivered from their smartphone.
These companies have spent years curating great user experiences. Whether we like it or not, that’s the standard we’re all held to.
That’s why a positive UX is so important for healthcare institutions: at this point, it’s expected from all of our digital touch-points. And people are unwilling to compromise on UX. They’ll either avoid using the service at all, or take their business elsewhere.
2. Make your website mobile friendly
This can be wrapped up under user experience, but it’s so important it’s worth calling out.
Four in five Americans have a smartphone now. If anything, that ratio is even higher in Canada.
While laptops and desktops might be used to make complex purchases, an increasing number of user journeys are starting on a phone or tablet.
Essentially, the mobile device is the new gatekeeper. If you want your patients, potential patients, and staff to use your website, it must be easy to use on the smallest screen available.
3. Create a wide range of content for patients and other healthcare end users
The wave of self-service that has swept through other industries is hitting healthcare. We live in an increasingly patient-centric world, where self-service and patient involvement is a key component to the overall healthcare system.
And your website is the sharp edge of this transformation.
That’s why creating content specifically for patients is critical:
There’s already demand for it. People want to learn more about their healthcare from a reputable source they trust
The more informed the consumer, the lower the overall cost of healthcare. With burgeoning expenses, cost reductions that don’t cut care are essential
Personalization is the standard in website marketing now. Amazon, for example, highlights items you’ve previously looked at and items you might like on their homepage.
These types of recommendations could translate well for healthcare websites, provided it complies with HIPAA and PIPEDA, and the patient opts in to it. Particularly for organizations that have patients log into a customer portal, that sort of customization is something to be considered.
For example, imagine you ran a small practice with a customer portal. A patient who is trying to quit smoking logs in to make a regular appointment. That could be an opportunity to serve them content about smoking cessation from within your system.
Using data to drive behavior change is old news. But personalizing to the individual level is one of the best ways to connect with patients online.
5. Systems integration
Healthcare systems are notoriously complex. Part of this is a requirement – it’s a highly specific system and a highly specific use-case. Plus, there are multiple security, privacy, and ethical concerns over data sharing and transparency.
Regardless, the benefit of having data all in one place are too good to pass up.
Not only would this make back-end systems smoother, faster, and cheaper to run, but it would facilitate developments like:
With costs a constant discussion and the healthcare field increasingly populated with disparate organizations, any website design or redesign needs to consider how it’s going to talk to legacy systems.
6. Avoid designing by committee
Whatever their size, hospitals are run by committees. Between the board of directors, shareholders, benefactors and community engagement managers, trying to appease every agenda and mission can result in a bad website experience.
The solution is to design by community, not committee.
Focus on your current and future patients and their families first and foremost.
Let the patient narratives lead the way to create a more authentic user experience – user retention and satisfaction will follow.
7. Develop secure communication channels
Private enterprises, particularly service providers, have moved beyond simple phone support to include other channels like ticketing systems, live chat, chatbots, and social media-powered help.
Healthcare providers will need to do the same.
Whether it’s a secure system routed through a third party like Twitter or Messenger or it’s a custom-built solution, customers are going to be confused on your site – it’s inevitable.
But, if you can provide timely support in a channel the customer wants (which, incidentally, is a lot cheaper per contact), you can make huge improvements to overall patient satisfaction.