Instead of focusing on present-day features, what will CMSs look like four years down the road? Rasmus Skjoldan, designer of Typo3 CMS, asked several experts about the future of web content management, and many CMS experts answered to this challenge, such as Karen McGrane and Janus Boye. Many of the experts mentioned the need for better experience management and content targeting, but also many other interesting views were mentioned.

The leading CMS publication, CMSWire, picked up the issue and wrote an article about the challenge. CMSWire seemed to like especially my predictions, but also other experts were quoted. CMSWire article: WCM Insights: What Web Content Management Will Look Like by 2017.

Here is my original prediction in full:

“I believe that the future of Web Content Management is more about moderation capabilities than about content management. It’s clear from today’s trends that we should have a system that helps us control, filter and moderate our content feeds from different sources. I believe that in the future our “content management system” will have dozens of different pieces (for photos, for videos, for publications, for people, for projects, for services) and the purpose of our “strategic web content management system” is more about moderating those different sources and streams between different sites than managing the master content for those services.

Another major feature set for our future “strategic web content management system” is going to be preview capabilities. We have to have a system that helps us understand the different content sets and how they are displayed in different devices and platforms. It makes sense to have a system that creates these “illusions of previews” so that we feel that we are in control of our “web experience” (as we like to call it in 2013). In short: I believe that the future of web content management is not about master content management, it is about moderation of streams and creating preview illusions.”

The background for my prediction is that I see a future where different social media platforms become ever more strategic places to store, publish and interact with our content. We can then compile our “web content management system” from these different pieces. I think that many groups and organisations already do this in a smaller scale when they use SlideShare to publish their presentations, Flickr to publish their images, YouTube to publish their videos and to publish their blogs (blogs which mainly just embed content from those other services).

Our websites will become more like “hubs” that just enable easy browsing and searching through content that is actually stored in many different places.

This kind of development will require more capabilities to manage and moderate the streams from different services. Therefore I think that one key role for CMSs will be giving us these moderation capabilities.

In addition, we need better capabilities to preview how our content items and streams will appear in different devices. This smarter previewing will definitely be the biggest challenge, but those smarter previews will also be a key factor in understanding how our streams work together.

Together with stream management capabilities and better previews we have our new core elements of the CMS of 2017.

Karen McGrains’s prediction is actually pretty well aligned with my prediction. Karen just expresses her view a little bit more traditionally, emphasising that the content storage place should still be the CMS – but the CMS would just be more simpler and would be more of a back-end system than active publishing system.

Personally I really like Karen’s prediction since it would make sense for many of my clients. But I fear that this kind of development is not really what CMS developers are aiming – at least not when it comes to commercial products. Big products want to become even bigger. It will be hard fight if we want to convince clients to demand less. But it still makes it a worthy goal.

Karen’s prediction in full:

“In the next 3-5 years, I think two key trends will dominate the CMS space. First, organizations will realize that WCMS doesn’t always support true multi-channel publishing. They will need to invest in new systems to decouple the authoring and storage layer from the presentation and publishing layer. This might mean adding in middleware, developing new APIs or even choosing an entirely new CMS. Second, as a result of decoupling, organizations will also recognize that they can focus on improving the author experience separate from the front end. This will change the way organizations think about creating structured content, because the content model and author experience won’t be designed for a specific output format—the content will be expected to serve multiple presentations. Organizations will be able to afford to refine the author experience, because they won’t have to throw out all that work every time they redesign the front end.”

The future of CMSs is looking pretty interesting. In four years we will see who had the best crystal ball.