John Scudder
Marketing Strategist

Getting Ready for dotCMS 3.5

Mar 29, 2016
By: John Scudder

Anytime there’s a major release of dotCMS software it’s good to take a moment and consider the implications of the new release. What impact, if any, will the new release have on our set-up? What new features do we plan to use? Do we need to prepare or make changes to use the new features? When should we upgrade? With the imminent release of dotCMS 3.5, we have a few ideas to help you prepare and get the most benefit from the new release.

From a technical perspective there isn’t anything out of the ordinary to do to prepare for the 3.5 upgrade. It should be straightforward technically and BTW we have a new video for help with upgrades in the dotCMS Video Library. However, from a business, user experience, front-end development, marketing and content perspective, there are definitely some things you can do to get ready for dotCMS 3.5.

Tags and Tagging Content - in dotCMS 3.5 the new content targeting and personalization features are tied closely to Tags and Tagging capabilities in dotCMS. In fact, the Tagging architecture in dotCMS has been robustified. (Editor's Note: robustified is a new word for some of us here at dotCMS, used with some regret and trepidation... plus, I just won $5 bucks because I used it in this post.) This means if you do not currently use Tags on your content, now is a good time to get started. Part of the definition of a Persona in dotCMS 3.5 is to assign Tags to each Persona, plus, Tags are assigned, scored and accrued as part of a user experience - what a Persona does on your site, thus, Tags play a critical role in personalization. You’ll need to work on your Tags in advance of building your Personas too since Personas require at minimum, a Key Tag to be assigned. You can work on this now before you start defining Personas in the 3.5 release.

Content Search Tune Up - As you can imagine since content can use tags, tags can also be used to tune search results based on Personas and Rules. Filtering Tags associated with a Persona is possible using content search and will provide a targeted search results page. (Remember it matters if your content is tagged too.) Simply… if Persona = X and content is tagged as X, then show that content higher in the results for that user. You can also assign Personas by detecting specific search terms and applying Rules based on those search terms and Personas. The bottom line here with content search and dotCMS 3.5 is that you can plan (and test using the beta software) the interaction between content, searching and Persona’s now, ahead of the release.

Persona Development - You don’t need to wait to discuss and build your Persona definitions with your digital team. Start that process now and when you do, consider that site taxonomy comes directly into play with dotCMS 3.5 and Personas. A review of your site taxonomy and related analytics will help to rationalize new Personas with the content, structure of your site and business goals for each Persona.

Because Personas are content types in dotCMS you can consider adding custom fields to a Persona. Think about aspects of a Persona on which you might like to report, then include a custom field for that. For example, a field called “Relative Value” could be used to rate and report on the value of one persona over another. You can add this value into your analytics suite and report on the actions and “Relative Value” of one Persona compared to another.

Remember with dotCMS multi-site capabilities, Personas can be totally unique or shared across properties and with that, keep in mind that your best practice is to start with a few Personas and gain understanding about the value they are creating. Later add more and refine them as you go. If you already have customer journey maps or UI/UX design stories, these are a great place to look for help with Persona definitions. Importantly, be on the lookout for gaps, unused or underused content. Both can signal opportunities and the need to develop new targeted content.

Targeted Content Development - With the added ability to better profile the users of your sites, apps etc., and the power to serve them more relevant and dynamic content, it means honestly that we all have the opportunity (need) to create more content that is specifically tuned to our Personas and the actions we want them to take. Bottom line is that if you are planning on using Rules, Targeted Content and Personalization, it’s not too soon to start developing and mapping out your targeted/personalized content. With Rules and Personas you can get quite granular in the experiences you create so this provides content managers and content developers with ample opportunity to create more and more content. Yikes.

Rules, Actions, Conditions - Best Practices - Technical discussion aside, the dotCMS Rule Builder is frankly, dangerously and wonderfully powerful. To be prepared for using this new found power responsibly, a’ la Spider Man’s Uncle “…with great power comes great responsibility,” you will want to consider how you will govern the administration, set-up and implementation of Rules in dotCMS.

With an unlimited number of rules, conditions and actions that can be applied to visitor behaviors, content, and Personas, Rules and the interactions they create can get complex. Best practice suggests that you start simple. Create rules with fine-grained, simple facts. Simple rules are more easily enabled and disabled and can be combined and recombined more easily. When applied in concert as a Rule Set, the results can be surprisingly complex so the best way go is to keep it simple as you get started. Be sure to identify ahead of time the person(s) that will be responsible for this key feature set. We recommend Rules be used and set up by your most trusted site admins… certainly to start. Rules are also by nature connected to “experiences,” so a collaborative approach to creating them is recommended… a great case for testing too;-)

Analytics - As we deliver more personalized content experiences it's only natural for digital marketing teams to want to track and measure the results. As you design your user experiences, you’ll want to identify the events, actions, behaviors that you’ll want to include in your analytics suite. That can take some time and testing. Accounting for analytics in your user stories will help keep your iterations/sprints in scope too. Jason Smith has a blog to get you going with tracking Personas in dotCMS with Google Analytics.

Upgrades and Agile Development - In any Agile/Lean development shop, you’ll have on your calendar/backlog placeholder stories for planned upgrades. That holds true with DotCMS 3.5. Beyond the technical upgrade though, you’ll want to work with your UX team members to create new stories that employ the new Targeted Content and Personalization features in front end user experience development and it’s likely you’ll want to consider integrations with other systems using the RESTful APIs for Rules and Personas.

We’re confident you did not need something else added to your to do list. Yet, a bit of preparation and forethought will go far in taking advantage of new technology. And that’s what you’ll be getting with dotCMS 3.5. We hope this gives you some solid ideas on how you can get ready for dotCMS 3.5. It’s coming very soon to a server near you.

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