Language-like problems, language-like systems: using structured content to create a design paradigm

Fraser Doig 27 Oct 2023 4 mins
In the world of digital content, the adoption of structured content and design systems has revolutionized the way organizations manage and communicate information. However, with these innovative tools come new challenges that require creative solutions. In this article, we delve into the key insights shared by industry experts from our new Tridion partner, Autogram, during their discussion with the wider Tridion team.

Structured Content's Expanding Role

Structured content, once the domain of document publishing, has found its way into the broader world of web development. Organizations are increasingly recognizing its value in creating web pages and delivering content across various platforms. However, as the concept of structured content expands, it brings along a fresh set of challenges.
The Challenges of Structured Content Implementation
As organizations embrace structured content, they encounter unique issues and problems. The adoption of structured content is no longer limited to predefined templates; it's now venturing into uncharted territory. This shift necessitates innovative solutions to tackle these unfamiliar challenges.
Common Challenges and Hurdles
Autogram, an industry leader, provided an overview of the typical challenges that organizations face when dealing with structured content. These include content replatforming, design system integration, organizational silos, and the rising demands for personalization and AI. Let's explore these in more detail.
Content Replatforming
Content replatforming often becomes necessary due to evolving technical requirements or the need to modernize content systems. However, as organizations progress through multiple generations of replatforming, they realize the existing structure needs to change. Managing these transitions can be complex and resource-intensive.
The Headless Content Dilemma
Headless content management systems, while gaining popularity, can lead organizations to underestimate development costs and the need to rebuild functionality. Transitioning from monolithic systems to headless ones can be more demanding than expected.
Balancing Content and Presentation
Aligning content with design components poses a significant challenge. As design updates are conducted, content becomes closely tied to specific presentations. Untangling these relationships and ensuring effective collaboration between the content management system and the design system can be daunting.
Overcoming Organizational Silos
Internal organizational silos can create barriers to consistency. High-volume dynamic publishing necessitates content structures, taxonomies, and metadata that work seamlessly across all business units. However, achieving this consistency can be a considerable challenge when teams don't collaborate effectively.
The Promise of Personalization and AI
The age of personalization and AI is upon us, but many organizations embark on expensive experiments without laying the necessary foundations in semantic structures, taxonomies, and metadata. These experiments often fall short of their goals due to inadequate preparation.

Embracing Design Systems and Modular Content

Ethan Marcotte, co-founder of Autogram and originator of the term ‘responsive web design’, shared insights into design systems and the move towards modular design. Organizations are increasingly adopting design patterns and pattern libraries as the foundation for effective design systems. This approach allows for the creation, deployment, and maintenance of design components consistently, resulting in more cohesive and scalable communication.
Pattern Libraries in Practice
Well-known examples such as Mailchimp and IBM's Carbon Design System illustrate how pattern libraries operate. They provide comprehensive inventories of design patterns, guidelines for usage, examples, and code snippets. These libraries ensure the consistent and effective use of design patterns.
Design Systems as Ecosystems
Design systems go beyond mere pattern libraries; they evolve into ecosystems. Teams can use design patterns, identify gaps, and contribute new patterns to the system collaboratively. This approach ensures that the design system remains adaptable and aligned with organizational needs.
Balancing Structured Content and Design Systems
The discussion underscored the challenges that arise from mixing layout components with conceptual components within structured content systems. While this approach allows users to create visually appealing pages, it can lead to complexities and duplications. Finding the right balance between structured content and design systems is essential.
Concluding Thoughts
The dialogue among experts at Autogram and RWS Tridion offered valuable insights into the evolving landscape of structured content and design systems. In an ever-changing digital world, Autogram's expertise plays a crucial role in helping organizations navigate the complexities of content management and communication.
The challenges posed by structured content and design systems may be substantial, but with the right guidance, organizations can transform these obstacles into opportunities for innovation and improved content delivery.
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Fraser Doig

Fraser Doig

Senior Associate Product Marketing Manager
Fraser Doig is a Senior Associate Product Marketing Manager specializing in helping companies of all industries understand how structured content can elevate their business. At RWS, Fraser works in the Language and Content Technology division, always on the lookout for the latest and greatest developments in the market. He is a regular contributor to publications such as KMWorld and Customer Service Manager Magazine.
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