Making Friends with the Backend

You know who is one of your most valuable partners in content development? Your web developer. I’m a big believer in integrated teams, and the closer you can work with the web developer to understand the goals of your content initiatives, the more he or she can bake the structure and coding into your content that supports those goals.

Content strategist Rachel Lovinger, who has written extensively on the semantic web and the concept of making data meaningful, penned this post in advance of the inaugural Confab content strategy conference about how to make your content “nimble” and the benefits of doing so. (Relatedly, she also authored a report for Razorfish on this and other topics in digital publishing.)

…Content needs to be mobile-friendly, socially-enabled, and accessible on demand. At the same time, as content travels around in cyberspace, it also needs to retain some amount of context and meaning in order to be used properly. To succeed in this environment, content must be well structured, well defined, and well described.

Source: Make Your Content Nimble, Then Set It Free by Rachel Lovinger, Confab Blog, April 12, 2011

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About Georgy Cohen

Georgy Cohen is associate creative director, content strategy, at OHO Interactive in Cambridge, Mass.. Prior to OHO, she worked with a range of higher ed institutions, including stints at Tufts University and Suffolk University and as an independent consultant, on content strategy and digital communication initiatives. Keep going »


  1. J.D. Ross says:

    Very good point here, Georgy. At the end of the day, we’re all working for the same institution, and should all be steering the boat towards the same general goals – from the back-end and the front-end.

    I’m lucky in that where I work, we’ve always had an excellent relationship with the technical teams, and we’re more or less always on the same page for each others’ initiatives. What has helped this, I think, is that there is a clear line that divides content and technical – each team knows where their responsibilities lie, and when something needs to go to the other side.

    • Hey, J.D.! I’m jealous. Having a good working relationship between content folks and developers makes all the difference. I’m interested to hear where you draw the line between content and web development. It certainly helps having clearly defined responsibilities, but there isn’t always a clear line between these roles regarding content planning and governance. I know some content savvy developers and tech savvy content experts. Sometimes those interdisciplinary mindsets provide some stellar thinking.

      • J.D. Ross says:

        We try to draw the line at content vs. coding. All content – text, images, navigation decisions, information architecture, etc. is managed by the communications office. All coding, CMS work, database work, and web apps are handled by the technical team in our ITS office. It does help that a few of us on the communications side are tech savvy, so we know how to frame our requests and avoid the “scaling Mount Everest” issue that Georgy brings up below. With any cross-team solution, a good working relationship and open lines of communication are key to making this work. We always know what they’re up to, and they always know what’s on our plate – so we can help each other achieve our goals.

    • I work in a department that has three prongs — developers, content folks and project management. To me, this is a real ideal blend of skill sets in one department. My favorite meetings are the ones where we have a problem to solve and we all bring our ideas to the table and see how they fit together. I love seeing a developer not only bring my content vision to light but make it even better (our social media hub is a great example of this).

      I also feel that I have learned a LOT from the developers that helps me understand what is or isn’t possible, what is or isn’t easy. This means I have a better basis of understanding before I ask, “Hey, can we do X by tomorrow?” and X is the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest :-)

What do you think?