What’s Coming in Crafter CMS 2.5.2

If have been watching our open source Crafter CMS project on GitHub you know we’re just about to release Crafter CMS 2.5.2.  This release of Crafter delivers a number of exciting features as well as small enhancements and bug fixes that are sure to help your team create and deliver more engaging digital experiences! Here is a quick summary of what’s new:

version-diffVersion Display and Version “Diff”

Authors can now easily see the content of previous versions and visually compare or “Diff” two different versions without reverting the content!

crafter-marketplaceCrafter App Store

Implementing Crafter sites just got A WHOLE LOT EASIER!  We’ve added a Crafter App store where you can now download and install plug-ins for Crafter Studio, Crafter Engine and other Crafter components.

deps-in-dialogsSee Calculated Dependancies in Workflow and Publishing Dialogs

Crafter Studio has always calculated dependencies for authors to help make copies, moves, deletes and publishing simple.  Now authors can easily see what dependencies have been calculated.

Additional Updates of Note:

  • Crafter Studio notice on network/connectivity rather than sign out
  • Usability in content type editor
    - Warn user if they save content type with no template
    - Make it easier to get to general content type properties
    - Look and feel/usability improvements
  • Improved Browse for content in Crafter Studio
  • Timezone selection
  • May other small enhancements and bug fixes
  • All documentation moved to Github and Sphinx
  • Project issue tracking moved to Github issues

Crafter is the award-winning Web content and experience management solution that allows leading enterprises to build personalized digital experiences across all online channels. To learn more about the open source Crafter CMS project, connect with our community and download Crafter CMS here.

The Enterprise Edition of Crafter CMS, which includes commercial licenses, production support, cloud offerings and integration services, is available through Crafter Software and its certified partner network.

How to Use Crafter CMS: A Simple Guide for Marketers

“How can Crafter CMS help me achieve my marketing goals?” is a question I receive often. And if you’re like any digital marketer, you want a web content management system that is easy to use and can easily engage site visitors. A platform that you can update without involving the IT department, but advanced enough to allow you to create and modify digital content on your own.

Crafter CMS provides marketers with a platform to create and manage engaging websites, mobile applications, and multi-channel digital experiences, all through a modern suite of tools available both on-premise and in the cloud.

So, how do you make quick edits? And what does this mean for your marketing strategy? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

How to Use Crafter CMS

Ready to get started? We’ll walk you through a few basic steps for leveraging Crafter CMS and fill you in on some neat features along the way.

1) Log into Crafter CMS from any connected device.

login-screen
2) Click on the Preview link and we will update an event on our website together.

Below you will notice Crafter CMS lists all your websites in one location, and if you look closely at each site you will see the following links: Preview >> Dashboard >> Live site.

The Preview link allows you to view the live website and get access to your editing tools. Crafter’s Dashboard will reveal any activity or changes made and who made them, along with a complete set of modern editing tools. You see below we actually manage three different websites here at Crafter Software.

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3) Select Edit at the top of your screen

Here we have access to your editing tools located on the left and top of the page with a live view of our website. We will update our main website, http://craftersoftware.com.

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Next we show how to update the Events page on our site that has a listing of events, along with the content and metadata associated with each event.

4) Click the + sign next to Events

Events
A dropdown template will appear, where you can easily insert the title, date and link for your event. Select Save and Close at the bottom when you are finished.

Want to publish the event? Simply navigate back to the top of the page and click on Approve & Publish; Crafter allows you to either publish now or schedule it for a future date and time.

Pro Tip: You can add personalization at any time to your digital experiences by simply pressing on the wrench at the top of the page and selecting a persona to whom you can personalize the content and experience.

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Let’s now add a press release to the website.

5) First, we navigate to the press releases by locating the About section and clicking on News in the website view. Once there, we select Edit at the top of the page.

news

6) Let’s tap the HTML to edit

Here we can edit two different ways, either by a WYSIWYG editor (as shown below) or through an HTML editor.

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7) Edit your HTML in the source editor

We have added new HTML in green to show a new press release we want to publish. We edit the HTML code and once we are happy with it, we select Update and then click on Save and Close at the bottom.

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Result: A new press release for September 2016 and the preview view gives us a view of how it will look and function on our website.

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Happy with the press release edits? Now we can navigate to the top of the page and select Approve and Publish and select the time we would like the news to go live to our targeted audiences.

Congratulations you have learned how easy it is to update content, personalize experiences for particular site visitors and better engage your customers using Crafter CMS.

Are you experimenting with different ways to engage your targeted audiences? Want to learn how Crafter CMS platform can help your marketing efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments below or email us at info@craftersoftware.com.

 

The Power of Great Content APIs

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From Amazon and Twitter to Expedia and YouTube, large companies recognize the value of providing Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) to their systems and continue to invest big bucks in them.  These well-established APIs grant third parties controlled access to their functionality and content, which is essentially like allowing you into a candy shop filled with lollipops and candy bars (content and functionality) and giving you the key (API) to enjoy them anytime you want.

API Facts

Before explaining the value of API, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of these popular systems. The following are a few facts and figures to illustrate just how important APIs are and why so many companies are choosing to use them.

1. APIs allow businesses to build new platforms on scalable and accessible content much faster.

2. Once a maturing API becomes a core capability within a business, numerous opportunities begin to present themselves. Essentially, when it comes to API, it’s okay to start small, while thinking about the bigger picture.

3. Within the first 13 months, Netflix’s API usage grew 37x and currently boasts 33% of the US evening internet traffic.

4. Surprisingly, when building APIs, large teams are not required. Rather, small, flexible and dexterous development teams can equally create large returns on investment.  Simply put, APIs require vision, clear leadership and a story that resonates with stakeholders.

The Value of APIs

As you can easily see, APIs have a distinct value for large and small companies alike. The value of APIs begins with internal consumption use case, rather than the more commonly known public open APIs to attract others from outside. Beefing up the content accessible within your own organization will show benefits very quickly. Consider how easy your projects would be if you could access a system that gave you various kinds of content while using any possible dimension (language, profile, context, user, location, you name it!). The ability to have one simple yet standard and reliable option that gave you access to information would be pretty spectacular, wouldn’t it? The question then becomes, what value are you willing to place on that? The answer is priceless.

The capability to communicate and grant access to the controlled consumption of content both internally and externally within an enterprise is significant to the point that businesses are discovering they almost can’t function without APIs. With APIs as the programmatic stage for content, everything “backstage” is the outcome of the efforts invested in the “service providers” to make that content accessible. Meanwhile, the front stage or “service consumers” are able to focus their efforts on putting the content to the most effective use.

Linking it All Together

A robust content API delivers a definite separation of concerns between those backstage diligently working to structure and develop content, than from those at the front stage chomping at the bit to gain access to the content so they can creatively do amazing things with it.  Needless to say, APIs benefit both service providers and consumers with endless prospects for advancement on either side of the API.

The ultimate goal is to move beyond simply separating the content to effectively moving it so it can be utilized everywhere it needs to be. The benefits are endless and big brands are already seeing the profits. Your business can enjoy the same.

It’s important to keep in mind that APIs are going to get a lot more popular, but APIs require a solid infrastructure.  It’s a programmatic interface to your content.  So if you’re creating a content API, be sure to design a content model from the start that conveys the required level of structure and meaning.

Questions about where to start? Email info@craftersoftware.com and our experts will happily assist.

 

Avoiding Website Performance Bottlenecks

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In a world where multitasking is more prevalent than ever, enterprises are asking more and more from their websites. Unable to keep up, site functionality is exploding while optimization is falling flat. And it’s not only e-commerce sites that are failing at performance. Industries of all types are experiencing web performance bottlenecks caused by slow page load times and sluggish user interaction.

Whether it’s the hefty amount of images, plugins or JavaScript getting fancier, it is clear that some major factors are interrupting the flow of website optimization. With site functionality only continuing to get more complex, resource requests dramatically increasing, and the growing trend toward personalized experiences, performance is taking a huge hit.  Unfortunately, this trend is negatively affecting user retention – ultimately affecting your enterprise’s bottom line.

Yet considering how important a website can be for any given enterprise, it seems only natural to take the extra care to ensure the website is not only running fast from the desktop site but from a mobile perspective too. The number of websites still not optimized for a mobile experience is astounding.

People Are in a Hurry Even When They Are Sitting On Their Couch

In the fast-paced era we live in, anything more than three seconds for a page to load is too long. Studies show that potentially upwards of 50% of users click off the site if the page takes too long. Additionally, 30% will jump ship if a shopping cart isn’t optimized for mobile.

This leads to lost sales, competitors winning over your customers, and overall missed opportunities. When you consider the the number of visitors, your average revenue per customer taking into account your attainable conversion rate, and then subtract everything lost from a website bounce rate of 40% when your site loads slowly, you can quantify the amount of lost revenue pretty quickly.

Increase Brand Engagement

Your brand will be much more likable if you offer an equally satisfying, personalized experience for both mobile and desktop sites. Whether a user visits your site from their smartphone or desktop, the experience should be optimized for functionality and brand consistency, so it fosters trust and affinity with your users. Most users regularly go between devices so if you are not able to provide what they need than they are more likely to go to a competitor rather than wait until they get back to their desktop to make a purchase. Not optimizing your site results in lost opportunities and losing customers permanently to competitors.

Optimize Your Site, and Business will Grow

To keep your users engaged and continuously coming back, you need to optimize your site performance and a modern content delivery solution is the most effective way to pull this off. Despite many performance optimization techniques manually performed by developers, hand-coding pages for performance is specialized, time-consuming work. When it comes to intensely involved sites with hundreds to even thousands of dynamic components per page, this can be an eternal task. As both browser requirements and page requirements continue to develop the work can seem never ending.

Therefore, consistently faster page loads and a more reliable site starts with a blazing fast content delivery platform. We built the world’s fastest dynamic content delivery solution with Crafter Engine, which now serves some of the largest and fastest sites on the globe.

Think your website performance needs a boost? Contact us at info@craftersoftware.com for guidance or download our white paper Building and Optimizing Multi-Channel Web Experiences to learn more!

The Future is Now: Virtual Reality Transforming Retail

VR

When it comes to brick and mortar retail, every inch of retail space is crucial to keep the business booming. So it’s no wonder that Happy Family, an organic children’s food manufacturer, decided to turn to virtual reality to help them gather data from 800 shoppers. Turns out this method isn’t just working for them, but it’s working for many other retailers too. It’s quickly becoming the future of retail with an international reach.

While it may seem somewhat futuristic, the truth is scenarios in which using virtual reality are beneficial, isn’t that far reaching. Combining virtual and augmented reality are already transforming major retail locations in every way — from the aisles, to store design and signage.

The Difference Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Sometimes augmented reality and virtual reality are used interchangeably. However, there are significant differences that you need to know when using or discussing these technologies. Augmented reality is a blend of real life and virtual reality. In other words, the consumer is still in touch with the real world around them, yet interacts with virtual elements. Virtual reality, on the other hand, transforms the user into a different world. Goggles or some type of headset are required for experiencing virtual reality.

Virtual Reality is Here to Stay

Virtual reality is not just a hot technology item for gamers, and from the data, it doesn’t appear as if virtual reality is just a fad. While VR has been around for a long time, it has matured to something that benefits our work and home lives in addition to being fun for entertainment purposes.

With virtual reality constantly improving, it’s time for retailers to honestly consider adding the technology to the way they do business. It’s already been proven that brands who have embraced virtual reality have attracted a wider user base. In a world where technology is constantly evolving, consumers are continuously demanding more from brands. Keeping up with technology is how brands can stay among and ahead of their competition. Consumers are beginning to expect virtual and augmented reality as they do their online shopping.

V-Commerce is the Next Step

Clearly, a complete move to v-commerce is what lies ahead. Although the idea of new hardware may seem overwhelming to businesses, it really shouldn’t be. The concept is constantly evolving as is the equipment.  Because of this, there are multiple options with devices at different price points and even applications that allow smartphones to use augmented reality and virtual reality.

With this omni-channel strategy, consumers will be able to do everything from trying on clothes to looking at products or ingredients. With this technology, retailers will be able to deliver an in-store experience to users shopping online. The scenarios for using virtual reality are endless and the benefits for business success are priceless. From up-selling to cross-selling, virtual reality will allow consumers to engage more with the products and will help to create a much more personal experience. This will in turn, increase sales – a reality every business owner can get behind.

New Tool Tests Your Website for Mobile Friendliness

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A recent global mobile study has shown that, collectively, Americans check their smartphones 8 billion times per day. From shopping and checking social media to paying bills and responding to emails, that comes out to about 150 times a day per person. For those keeping tally, that’s up 33 more looks per day than last year. The frequency at which users look at their phones is a huge factor in the popularity of mobile-friendly sites. More than ever, companies are quickly discovering that their website speed and mobile-friendliness is a huge factor in sales and customer loyalty.

When things aren’t moving fast enough, users get frustrated and more than likely switch to a competitor’s site. In fact, according to Google, an average user will leave the site if it doesn’t load within three seconds. And, since more searchers occur on mobile devices than on computers, it has become excruciatingly clear that if a potential customer can’t get through to your company’s site in that timeframe, they are five times more likely to leave. Plainly, a good mobile design is crucial to the success of your business.

Because of this need, Google has come out with mobile speed testing tool to give enterprises an idea of just how fast (or slow) their site loads. They run all the numbers for you to help you take the guesswork out of it. You are even given a report showing where your site fails so you can upgrade your system.

The concept is simple. Using a scale of 1-100, the speed testing site takes your company’s URL and measures the loading speed and mobile-friendliness. Everything from HTML, CSS, and Javascript to how long it takes images to load (on both desktop and mobile) are considered. In addition to how well your site fares, you can also see the specific spots that need improvement. Knowing is half the battle, and seeking development in the inadequate areas as soon as possible will help you keep your company out in front of customers, and far ahead of your competitors.

Ironically, Google failed its own test receiving a 59/100 on mobile speed and a 66/100 on the desktop speed. Both are listed as “poor” ratings.  But these statistics are what Google will use to improve their site.  According to the tool, Google’s desktop speeds could be improved by optimizing images and prioritizing visible content. Certainly interesting (and no doubt humbling considering they got slapped on the wrist by their own site!).

In a mobile world, there’s no reason to have a slow, inadequate website. Allow your company to stand out by giving your users the mobile experience they are looking for – a fast, easy, user-friendly design.

If your company is one of the many out there that has a slow website or poor mobile support, rest assured, an upgrade to Crafter CMS will improve your website and make it mobile-friendly and blazingly fast.

Check out Google’s new tool here: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/

Rethinking the Content Management System for Media and Publishing in the Mobile Era

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Ask anyone from the staff at Buzzfeed to the owner of your neighborhood antique store, and they will agree: it’s time to reinvent the CMS so every publisher has the same tools to succeed in a mobile world. After all, in a world of smartphones, users have come to expect a better experience on mobile. Whether they are flipping through apps consuming content from left to right or experiencing rich magazine-like features, keeping the reader engaged is a top priority.

When it comes to moving beyond the desktop, “themeing” in the CMS is necessary to build these experiences across multiple screens. The goal of responsive design is a good starting point, but it doesn’t do the job completely. We need to take it a step further with the CMS being WYSIWYG and component-based. By doing so, any publisher can deliver a rich, touch-enabled experience regardless of the screen or device or wearable the reader uses.

Creating richer experiences on mobile enables engagement, and even monetization, to live within the CMS. Up until now, most CMSs had monetization relegated to the right rail of the page, but with so many users experiencing sites via mobile, it’s become necessary to shift to in-stream experiences. Dynamic experiences and monetization is now living symbiotically with the content. While many legacy CMS vendors have created bridge solutions, the real solution in the long-term is to make the CMS the place where native advertising is created and trafficked in sync with a publisher’s existing ad server. And this requires a CMS built for today’s era of mobile engagement.

Of course, every reader has different tastes and expectations for any given site so in order for native ads to be a success, personal relevance should be a major factor. Rather than a chronological feed, a personalized feed directed at the user’s own interests is needed.  Personalizing the user experience for each individual reader should be at the core of any given CMS. This provides a superior reading experience and users are much more likely to frequently engage with the site.

It isn’t just responsive design that has changed, users have changed their online activity as well. They are no longer simply reading content, leaving comments and moving on. Today, they are sharing more than ever and CMS for the mobile world needs to offer the seamless ability to connect with the online community.

Additionally, writers or anyone interested in creating content should have the option to write on mobile. Unfortunately, CMSs built a decade ago are not a viable option on mobile. Authors should be able to write content from their phone as effortlessly as they tweet.

While we aren’t totally there yet, this reinvention will surely happen. Publishing has drastically changed since the mobile shift and there’s no doubt that reinventing the corresponding CMS software will occur in the near future.

To learn how Crafter CMS was designed and built for the modern era of mobile engagement, contact us today for a personalized demonstration.

 

The Rise of Virtual Reality Experiences

Virtual-Reality

When Facebook bought virtual reality company Oculus in early 2014, virtual reality blew up. Now users can experience anything, anywhere through the power of this new medium. Whether they are painting a picture with a virtual reality paint brush, walking through a building that has not yet been built, or enjoying their favorite video game in a more realistic light, virtual reality has changed technology as we know it.

As it becomes more mainstream, the virtual reality trend is becoming more and more popular – especially among a core, technology savvy subset, namely gamers. And, they are willing to pay for it. A recent study done by Newzoo indicates that 11% of people in 12 western countries are considering purchasing virtual reality gear by the end of the year. Already, the awareness of consumer virtual reality is higher than the average consumer may even expect. With viral videos displaying the possibilities, and individuals discovering for themselves how user-friendly the hardware is, the response is growing.

According to the insights shared in the Newzoo report, consumers are willing and prepared to spend some serious dough on VR products. High-end virtual reality hardware ($600 and more) has been available since the beginning of the year for pre-order and sales will inevitably skyrocket towards the holidays. The Newzoo report suggests that an unexpected 16% of Spaniards, 12% of Americans and 10% of British are stating their interest to purchase VR equipment in the next six months.

This year, virtual reality has made its way into the consumer marketplace where even the most inexperienced user can test it out and get a feeling for this progressive medium. Although in most cases virtual reality hardware is pricey, eventually it will become more affordable and lend itself to create endless options for businesses and individuals alike. Much like the iPod or iPhone back in the early 2000s, new and affordable virtual reality options are on the horizon. The virtual reality hardware we have today is unquestionably the best and most affordable VR technology of its kind. Yet, the opportunities for what’s to come are even greater (with growing potential) than anything we have seen up to this point.

So what does this mean for your enterprise? Although, in some ways, virtual reality has just arrived, there are already countless opportunities for your company to jump on the prospects. We built Crafter CMS to deliver high-performance, unique digital experiences across all online channels. And we are certain that virtual reality is the next big digital channel.

If you are interested in learning more about the current state of virtual reality or how the award-winning Crafter CMS platform can help your enterprise create virtual reality experiences, give us a shout.

Four Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Mobile App

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With the rise of smartphone usage, the mobile app industry is as successful as ever. This growing trend has become attractive to many businesses as they become more aware of the impact an app can have on their business.

More specifically, mobile apps have quickly transformed the business community and companies are finding this medium to be the fastest and easiest way to reach existing customers and potentially new customers without invading their privacy.

The following are just a few points to consider when you are deciding upon a mobile app for your business.

1. Promoting: Marketing and promotion to get the word out about your company is crucial. With stiff competition in most industries, businesses are thinking up new and creative ways to promote themselves. Mobile apps not only support customer engagement, but they also allow companies to promote themselves and offer a variety of discounts, coupons and deals to their customers. Additionally, push notifications and location-based updates greatly enhance the effectiveness of each promotion.

2. Engagement: Most of us are extremely busy, so in order to reach your customer, you need to engage them in nonintrusive ways that peak their interest. Mobile apps are a way to do this with their potential to increase customer engagement by simply keeping them up-to-date on the latest products or services. Your customers can have updates at their fingertips – something that conventional marketing completely lacked.

3. Improves Sales: Mobile apps allow customers to make purchases right from their smartphones which helps to accelerate your business sales. Your potential customers can order products and services wherever they are rather than waiting until they are at a computer to visit your website and shop.

4. Customer Support and Service: With the app right on your customer’s’ smartphone, it is much easier for them to reach out for support and service. In turn, you can easily address their inquiries while providing support whenever it is required. Prior to the mobile app, the process for customers to get support was lengthy and time consuming.

When you’re ready to build your next enterprise mobile app, contact us at Crafter Software to learn how Crafter CMS enables rapid mobile app development, so you can create the ideal mobile app for your company, stay up with the competition, increase your sales, and ultimately watch your company grow.

Digital Customer Experience Is Your Enterprise’s Best Investment

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“By 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product when it comes to differentiating a brand.” (Biz Report)

Years back, price and product ruled the market. In many ways, the cheapest product sold the most and because communication was more difficult brands could even get away with customer complaints related to product/service shortcomings. However, this is no longer the case today. Customers expect that each and every time they interact with your brand, they will encounter a memorable experience. Something that attracts them, something that is different and at the same time seamless and effortless. Deliver on their expectations and they won’t worry if you happen to overcharge them. Because customers pay over the top knowing that you can deliver a great customer experience and engage them completely. Yes! Nowadays, ‘the experience’ just about triumphs everything else.

Successful enterprises not only know this but also understand that the best  customer experience investments their company can make are ones that focus on a strong digital customer experience.  Companies that consistently rely on modern technology to close gaps in performance, to offer a more personal experience and to build trust, regularly see happier customers, increase in sales, and more loyalty as a result. Yet, many companies longing to achieve these results struggle to identify the best plan of action for the perfect digital customer experience. This doesn’t have to be the case; it just takes a little knowledge and understanding of how to make the most of your investment.

Prioritize Your Outline Customer Experience
When it comes to an online experience, consumers are far less patient. A recent study by Nielsen concluded that a 10-second wait for a page to load can make almost 50% of consumers give up, leave, and search for a competitor. In fact, researchers at Microsoft found that if a website takes 250 milliseconds longer to load than a competitors, consumers will move on. Bottom line: when people have a less-than-favorable experience online, they immediately fault the company. In these times, there is no excuse for a bad digital experience.

Create Brand Loyalty Through Consistency
A consumer’s impression of a company is created by a variety of individual touch points. It’s when companies do not provide consistent digital experiences that the consumer ends up with a disjointed and poor impression of the business and brand. Over time, it’s the frustrations caused by these inconsistencies that can erode brand loyalty.  To avoid major issues, do your best to identify customers’ digital interactions and devices. Understand the goals of your customers, motivations, and strive for as much detail as possible. Research your customers so that every phase of their digital experience is accounted for and is unique to their individual needs throughout their customer journey.

Improving Customer Experience Can Also Improve Your Operations
Companies that specifically work towards improving the customer experience are also improving other parts of the business such as online support, mobile customer experience and personalized digital experiences. In this way, the company meets the site visitors where they are and in turns helps themselves through smoother interactions.   An obvious example can be found at any Apple store.  Apple changed how point-of-sale works.  No one waits at a register.  Any Apple employee can ring up your purchase.  The customer wins. Apple wins.  Look for these win-win opportunities that make your customers happy and at the same time, make doing business easier and faster.

Digital Experience Platforms Shape the Technology Investment
The best software platforms to invest in are those which targeted customer experiences, marketing and commerce on smartphones, tablets and computers – really any device where a customer will be interacting. Therefore, it is crucial to optimize the use of digital tools and technologies, so your customers are getting the fastest, most accurate, next level experiences every time they visit your site.

One technology platform that can help any large-scale enterprise with the challenges of digital customer experiences is a modern CMS platform. Modern multi-channel CMS platforms help companies digital customer experiences faster, create brand loyalty and increase revenue.