CMS Expert Group Europe met in Basel in October. Issues on the table covered CMS usability issues, performance and optimization in web projects and we also took a look at CMS related marketing buzzwords like WEM and other new acronyms.

This time participants were mainly consultants and vendors (eg. Magnolia, Oracle, Onion.net), only Dan Jackson from London University College representing a customer with timely CMS challenges.

I will next outline my three main takeaways from the meeting. The takeaways are not direct observations from the meeting discussions, but more about my personal insights that got reinforced during the trip.

1) The “web marketing machine” is definitely one possible “Web CMS 2.0” concept direction, but currently vendors are quite lost in executing this vision in practice. And it also isn’t really clear that how much you can do in terms of productization in that area. Personalization, content targeting and suggestion profiles are areas which are very customer-specific. You can have “rules engine” and “content targeting based on dynamic groups”, but setting these areas up requires quite lot of work every time. Also vendors are painting a very rosy picture about that future direction but don’t want to mention that keeping this sort of “big marketing machine” running smoothly requires dedicated resources for managing the website.

2) User interfaces for CMSs are ripe for redesign. And right now tablets and other touch devices are a good reason to redesign your CMS user interface. Magnolia gave a good example of how you can completely rethink the user interface for a CMS. For example, Magnolia’s upcoming version 5 has a UI that can be used with tablets, smartphones and desktop computers. The UI has a lot of similarities to Apple’s iOS in the sense that all the features are packaged as applications within the CMS. And moving between those different applications has a lot of similarities to iOS world. Perhaps having a CMS user interface in your tablet is not a reality for many organizations quite yet, but this is the direction where things are going.

3) Application store ideology is taking over the world of CMSs. Many customers are using tools like Google Analytics, but doing extensions for 3rd party applications is something that is often not very reasonable to do as a core feature of the CMS. However, other sectors are learning that becoming a platform for other parties to do extensions also benefits CMS vendors. Most importantly because these extensions can be usually updated more often and more easily than the core features of the CMS. However, this development direction has not been easy for CMS vendors, and many are struggling with it. Even popular vendors like EPiServer have not been very fast to adapt to this kind of “standardized extension model”. Fortunately it seems that right now many CMS vendors are becoming forced to enable this kind of development. One major reason for vendors to do this is naturally Drupal. Drupal has been gaining ground fast all over Europe and Drupal’s widely popular extension model has quite long been something that the other vendors just haven’t had.

The development direction towards application stores for CMSs is something that can also have wider implications. It could be even argued that competing future direction in regards of “Web CMS 2.0” is the rise of the application stores. This move could benefit CMSs that are very good in offering their core services and extending that core with a strong offering of useful extensions. This development direction is popular especially on open source markets, but there really isn’t good reasons why commercial products could not take advantage of this development direction as well.

CMS Expert Group Europe will meet next time in London in February 2013.