Media Coverage

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Multimedia Hub for American Gods Built on Headless CMS

November 08, 2017

By Venus Tamturk

Content Management System, Exclusive Interviews, Headless CMS, kentico, user experience, Web Content Management

If you follow the web content management market at all, then you must have read a few if not a dozen articles on whether organizations should go with headless or they should stick with a traditional Content Management System (CMS). In my opinion, there will be cases when a pure headless CMS may serve you better as long as you have the necessary skill-sets at your disposal, or a traditional CMS can provide great value when there is not necessarily added value in a headless or decoupled CMS. Knowing many companies and digital agencies are experimenting with the cloud-based solutions to see what it can do, we wanted to have a deeper understanding of the headless CMS use cases. To that point, in this article, I will dive into a project for creating a visually focused and streamlined multimedia hub for a TV show called American Gods based on the novel by celebrated fantasy fiction writer Neil Gaiman.

An Overview of the Project

To be able to understand the content requirements of this project, first, let’s take a closer look at what the show is about and what is it that FremantleMedia, the producer of the show, is trying to accomplish by creating a central hub for the fans of the show.

American Gods was filmed across locations in the US and Canada during 2016 and hit our screens in May 2017. The show follows the events of the award-winning novel of the same title, American Gods, by expanding the point of view to go above and beyond Shadow Moon, an ex-con who becomes a bodyguard and travelling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman but in reality one of the older Gods, on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities. Here's a brief background story by the writer of the novel:

With the plot of the show in mind, it is a no-brainer to understand how important it is to have an interactive, dynamic, and visually focused website with a mobile-first design as a fan engagement platform, where the producing company can share exclusive videos, character profiles, and interviews with the cast as well as showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, and author of the American Gods novel, Neil Gaiman.

As the content was on a timed release for each new character reveal and episode airing, the creators of the show needed a technology that would allow content to be uploaded and edited quickly and easily to keep up with the constantly-evolving nature of the site. To that point, FremantleMedia chose Kentico Cloud, a cloud-first headless CMS and digital experience platform. The entire concept of the site is based around Kentico Cloud’s modular content functionality. The functional aspect of the site was built using ASP.NET MVC hosted on Amazon EC2 instance for maximum scalability.

To build a website acting as a multimedia hub with image-moving content took only two months. As far as the types of content go, this media-rich website has so many different assets, from the five variations of video to the immersive 360 tours of the set. Not only did the team need to make sure these unique sets of visual content flow seamlessly on a single page; but they also had to pay special attention to how the site performs on mobile devices, considering the sheer volume of their audience was expected to engage with the multimedia hub on their mobile devices. To make it flow better, subtle parallax effects were also used when scrolling between “cards”, a format in which all content on the site is presented to the user.

Since the show has been known for being a visual feast throughout, the website had to live up to that so the online presence would match with the brand equity. On top of these, the frequency-modified, content-heavy nature of the site eventually drove the team to take a content-first approach to development. As a result, the content itself and its presentation could go hand in hand which made it easy to pinpoint the best-fit design without wasting time on experimenting and modifying.  

A Headless CMS from a User Standpoint

To get an inside scoop, I reached out to Steve Wright, Director of Oxfordshire, England-based Syndicut, and he explained his team’s experiences with headless CMS in general and Kentico Cloud in particular throughout the project of building a website as a Multimedia Hub for American Gods.

Can you tell the audience about American Gods?


Wright: American Gods is based on the books by Neil Gaiman. The creators of the show (Fremantle Media and Amazon Prime) needed a way of introducing the characters and their backgrounds to their eager audience.

Comprised of cast interviews, character profiles, exclusive character, and episode-specific media, the site has a distinct mobile-first design. Particular care was placed on tailoring a simple yet engaging user experience.

What was the business rationale for using the Kentico Cloud product to build the website for the American Gods show?


Wright: The entire concept of the site is based on Kentico Cloud’s modular content functionality. All content on the site, from character bios to behind-the-scenes videos and trailers, is all presented to the user in a ‘card’ format. Each card has its own unique set of visual content in the form of image galleries, looping MP4s, backgrounds, and inline Youtube videos.

American Gods was our first adventure with Kentico Cloud. The site was designed to provide up-to-date news and content as new episodes became available. Using Kentico Cloud allowed content to be uploaded and edited quickly and easily, which perfectly suited the constantly-evolving nature of the site.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when building the website?


Wright: Having all of this media on a single page and expecting a large number of users to be on mobile devices, special attention had to be placed on performance to ensure the site didn't grind to a halt and worked smoothly on these lower powered devices. A lot of effort went into optimizing and lazy loading assets as well as memory management to prevent devices from crashing. To help aid the media-rich site, subtle parallax effects were also used when scrolling between cards.

Kentico Cloud is an omnichannel product. Were there any other elements of American Gods developed with Kentico Cloud i.e. delivery to smartphones, tablets, other IoT devices?


Wright: Kentico Cloud proved beneficial from an internal standpoint. The internal teams were able to collaborate more effectively with development and design running concurrently. This more agile approach allowed Syndicut to stick to the given timeline set by the client.

How long did the project take?


Wright: Working with TV and production companies always involves a quick turnaround time and American Gods was no different. From start to finish, the site took 2 months to bring together and launch in time for the shows release date.

What kind of traffic is the American Gods website generating?


Wright: The results for American Gods are strictly confidential so, unfortunately, we’re not allowed to share them. Many of the people reading this story will likely never have used a headless CMS system before.

Any words of wisdom for those who never have used a headless CMS system before? 


Wright: Moving to a cloud-based CMS has proved a success. Our words of wisdom would be to take the jump! It’s not ideal for every project out there but the benefits are never ending in some cases.

Have any future projects for Kentico Cloud in mind?


Wright: Since launching American Gods, we’ve already launched another project using Kentico Cloud. Whilst working with Little Dot Studios (A digital content studio and broadcaster based in London) we decided that Kentico Cloud would be the best solution for their company.

The site needed to highlight and focus on the video content and imagery. The Vimeo integration needed to be the main focus on every page as most projects are light on content due to confidentiality. The site had a quick turnaround time, Kentico cloud allowed both Syndicut and Little Dot Studios to work concurrently with adding the content and videos to the CMS whilst designing the site at the same time.

The modular approach of Kentico Cloud allows the production company to build pages based on the amount of content they’re allowed to show. This approach kept the time between kick off and launch to the absolute minimum. Meaning the site was designed, built and launched within 1 month.

Kentico Cloud also helped us manage the content for a Game of Thrones project we launched with Sky UK earlier this year.

My POV

While some say a headless CMS approach is a game changer approach, others believe it may seem more groundbreaking than it is. As the vendors keep debating whether it is an either-or situation, digital businesses are testing the waters with cloud-based solutions to leverage all of the traditional benefits of the cloud such as increased reliability, scalability, and flexibility in a more secure manner. Speaking to CMS-Connected, Karol Jarkovsky had stressed that Kentico’s platform is built as a native cloud solution, meaning that it provides not only all the benefits that come with the cloud technology but also the benefits that come with an API-first CMS.

To me, one of the most important advantages of a headless CMS is scalability because having the back-end and front-end separated can speed up the response time of the site by shifting display logic to the client-side and streamlining the back-end, but this also depends on the front-end implementation. It is a prominent factor, as studies have shown that if your website takes more than 4 seconds to load, your conversion rate declines by 40%.

In our conversation, Karol Jarkovsky had also explained how Kentico’s comprehensive cloud-first CMS and digital experience platform could help organizations create new content projects more frequently and quickly: “Once developers have a static prototype ready, they want to deploy it. Unlike traditional CMS, they don’t need to transfer static elements to CMS as with the Kentico Cloud. Developers take the prototype they have and replace a small fraction of static codes with codes to API that brings dynamic content to the website, then they go live immediately. It means that the platform allows them to shorten the time-to-market.”

Creating a multimedia hub with a distinct mobile-first design for the American Gods fans seems to make a great use case for a headless CMS approach, considering the constantly-evolving nature of the site.  

It’s important to note that all the platforms and approaches come with their own pros and cons but, at the end of the day, it is a matter of your priorities and what you could compromise on to get those priorities done in a timely fashion.

VENUS TAMTURK

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.

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GDPR and the hotel sector: what you need to know today

November 07, 2017

By Wayne Jasek | November 7th, 2017

For example, when a consumer signs-up for Spotify and they want to use their Facebook login for ease, Spotify receives their contact info, who their friends are, location, and other details. And in return Facebook receives details on the consumers’ music tastes. However, this unchecked spread of personal information will soon be in for a change. According to GDPR, all businesses; including hotels, will soon need to know exactly where they get data from, to whom they send it, and what they do with it internally.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is an acronym for General Data Protection Regulation. It is an EU regulation that will come into effect on May 25, 2018, and generate the biggest changes in data protection in the EU since 1995. GDPR was created to bring as much uniformity into data protection as possible and is a regulation far better suited to the challenges today’s digital world poses.

But what does this mean for hotels?

Currently, the rules around collecting guest (or potential guest) data are somewhat flexible. Hoteliers can be smart with wording and use “opt-outs” and implicit consent to swiftly enrol customers up to various newsletters and email campaigns. Generalised consent requests can be used to sign people up to any number of subscriber lists, resulting in multiple ways that a hotel group can reach potential guests.

That is all changing under the GDPR. Explicit consent means that hotels must: explain to the customer what data you are capturing (the nature of the data), explain to the customer why you are capturing that data (the purpose of the data) and explain to the customer who is requesting that data (the identity of the Data Controller) and who else will have access to this data. The end result is that the person you are seeking to collect data from completely understands what data you want and what you plan on doing with it. The customer can then give you unambiguous consent.

However, the tricky part for hoteliers is that the consent someone gives you only applies to the purpose you have explicitly declared. In the past, hotel marketers could source the email address once and then reuse it across campaigns and newsletters alike. However, with the new GDPR laws coming into place, this is no longer the case. If you have captured the email for a newsletter, then you have to ask for explicit consent again for the email campaign, and so on.

All of which makes marketing to EU residents, or people in the EU more challenging which could restrict the number of guests you get through the door. However, on the positive side, those who do give consent are likely to be more engaged guests.

What does GDPR mean for non-EU hotels?

Consider this: If you are a Singapore-based hotel but selling to EU travel agents and third-party wholesalers based in Europe, you will fall under GDPR. Even more confusingly, what about if you are US hotel company not directly selling through partnerships with EU based companies, but do collect analytics data on EU located visitors?

It is true that non-EU based hoteliers process personal data according to their local data protection regulations. However, there are specific situations in which non-EU companies will have to comply with GDPR requirements.

From a hotel digital marketing perspective, if you are monitoring the behaviour of users that takes place within the EU, such as booking trends out of Germany, you have to comply with the requirements of GDPR. This affects the use of different types of web analytics tools, as well as tracking for personalisation and retargeting purposes. It applies to website visits from users that are in the EU, regardless of whether they are EU citizens or not.

As in many cases, GDPR will apply to hoteliers even outside of the EU, having systems such as a CMS that can distinguish between visitors based within and outside the EU is of great benefit. This means that, based on geolocation, they do not use analytics on those EU-based visitors without obtaining their consent stating they agree for the site to track their web behaviour.

What does GDPR mean for your marketing efforts?

GDPR will have an impact on a number of ways in which hotels seek to attract guests from the EU. The first area for consideration is user experience. Explicit consent isn’t something that can be casually slipped in. It will have a big impact on user experience design.

Hotels in the future won’t be able to use simple, general statements or links off to other pages. They will have to be explicit and clear, which means presenting the customer with large datasets of information before they give you the consent. They shouldn’t have to work to find the information. It needs to be upfront and clearly presented.

The challenge from a digital marketing perspective is that hotels have to be completely transparent with the customer, but this can lead to bloated copy being displayed on websites and other critical marketing platforms, ultimately detracting from the user experience. The shift from implicit consent and opt-outs to explicit consent will bring some disruption to the typical user experience design patterns. The challenge is to cover compliance while ensuring that simplicity of navigation is retained from the customers’ perspective.

Creating the best possible user experience, while being GDPR compliant will require some work. The starting point is to identify areas of your hotel’s website where you are requesting consent from the guest, e.g., sign up for the newsletter, or special deals. Each area can then be discussed in detail to understand why you are collating that information and how it will be used, which can then, in turn, inform both the copy and the user experience design.

The questions you need to ask

With the imminent introduction of GDPR, are you aware how the laws will impact the way in which your hotel operates? Even if you are based in Asia or North America, are you aware that the laws could influence your ability to collect data and attract guests from the EU? All hoteliers have the potential to be impacted in some way by GDPR, regardless of size, or location. It is those properties that move to understand the law and become compliant today, that will see them succeed in the new digital world tomorrow.

About the author

Wayne Jasek is Director of APAC Operations for Kentico. He specializes in helping hoteliers deliver exceptional online experiences that turn visitors into customers. http://www.kentico.com

 

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Kentico Content & Commerce in the Clouds

November 02, 2017

By Laura Myers

Last week I was on location at one of the many stops the Kentico Roadshow is making around the globe in 2017. This time, Kentico team members, partners and customers came together on the top floor of the third tallest building in Chicago, the Aon Center. We were in the clouds but Kentico Cloud was only one of the important topics being discussed that day. Throughout the sessions and the many interviews I engaged in with members of the Kentico community, the release of Kentico 11 was top of mind for discussion, along with news in the world of Kentico cloud, commerce and the highly anticipated integration with the Denmark based, rising juggernaut in the commerce space, Ucommerce. 

Commerce within Kentico 11 itself has gone through what Michal Kadak, Product Owner at Kentico, described, in an interview with me, as a Renaissance:  “Renaissance is sort of like being reborn, similar to the Phoenix, rising from the ashes and that is exactly what we did with ecommerce within Kentico 11. All the old code that we had in Kentico before in 10, 9, 8, we just replaced it with a completely new one. Basically eCommerce with Kentico 11 is reborn.” 

There was such great insight put forth in all of my interviews from this one day event, which we will be releasing on our platform in the coming weeks, but here, I will caption some important insights from the event on the overall conversation, the position Kentico has on the impending GDPR regulation and different perspectives on the Ucommerce integration.

Bryan Soltis Shows Kentico 11 from His Perspective 

To kick things off, I have my discussion with Bryan Soltis, Technical Evangelist at Kentico ready to view as he goes in-depth on the major improvements we will see in Kentico 11, how those will allow for more robust marketing campaigns for Kentico users and the buzz around the connectors newly available in the upcoming release: 

The Responsibility of Vendors for the GDPR

Back in October, I spoke with Tim Walters, of the Content Advisory about the GDPR and asked him in an interview, his thoughts on the responsibility of agencies to educate their customers on GDPR compliance. Turns out, that very thought is on the mind of vendors as well, as Karol Jarkovksy, VP of Product for Kentico emphasized that point in our interview at the Roadshow. 

To start off, he highlighted how Kentico 11 has been developed to assist in many facets of compliance: “What we see as our role as a CMS vendor is to basically help organizations with their efforts to comply with the GDPR, there is never going to be a magic button that you can press and that’s it but as a vendor we can help those businesses fulfill the rights of the data subjects, to help businesses prove to authorities that they took all the necessary steps to comply with the GDPR, basically that is what Kentico 11 is going to help with.  There are obviously many parts to that, what we are going to provide is a privacy application that is going to be part of the EMS suite and it’s going to help with content management, with rights for access, rights to be forgotten, rights to data portability, it will also help to provide evidence that organizations took all the necessary organizational and technical measures to comply with the GDPR.”

Giving organizations and agencies the tools to ensure compliance is fantastic, but I was curious if Karol saw a responsibility of Kentico beyond that, here is what he had to say: “Absolutely, and in doing a roadshow around the world, the one thing we realized is that GDPR is not the only data privacy regulation that is introducing the concepts that are a game changer in that area. It seems like it’s happening all around the world slowly, there are many countries that are considering similar legislations, implementing and so on, but at the same time, there are many organizations that are not aware or they think that it doesn’t impact them. A couple of months ago we started a blog that is related specifically to the GDPR and we try to walk customers and partners through the different requirements and what their role is, what they will have to deal with and so on. At the same time, we are providing the tool that is going to help them. The one thing concerning me a little is that not many other vendors are doing that and I am not saying this with just CMS vendors. This is not something that just involves them, if you look at the typical digital marketing technology stack, every one of these nodes that are part of that stack, vendors behind those tools should be educating on their part and their role in the whole GDPR compliance and that I don’t think is happening, I just hope over time more and more vendors will step forward to ensure the GDPR is not going to be the scarecrow for years to come.” 

Kentico and Ucommerce Come Together

The integration between Kentico and Ucommerce is a topic we have thoroughly covered, most recently with my colleague Venus’ wonderfully poignant article, Integrating Content-First and Commerce-First Approaches but when I had the chance to host a panel with Petr Palas, CEO of Kentico, Soren Spelling Lund of Ucommerce and Michal Kadak, Product Owner at Kentico I was eager to hear the strategy behind the integration from each CEO.

With both being global brands, I was curious to hear Soren’s thoughts on how they would help Kentico customers in varying regions address their common problems with content and commerce: “The marriage of a commerce platform and a content platform is interesting, coming from this specific angle because if you look at the Asian markets, it’s pretty common not to have an actual computer to deal with the online shopping, it happens from a phone and via multiple devices, and this is exactly what Petr is talking about when he mentions, how they’re addressing the ‘multichannel nightmare’ I think he calls it. The CMS actually helps us deal with market specific situations like this exact one where the mobile phone is the primary use case for commerce and maybe not even in web context but in a chatbot context or something like that. For a market like Europe, it is interesting because it is a large market but Europe is not just one market, its lots of different markets and lots of fragmentation so our ability to actually address those differences is what makes us useful there.”

Pairing well with that branch of conversation, was posing the question to Petr of what this integration will mean for the content and commerce marketplace, here is what he had to say:  “With the Kentico and Ucommerce integration, we are bringing to the market a very powerful combination. In the past we had a very strong content management, and digital marketing and a solid eCommerce history but now we will really have a winning combination of super powerful content management, digital marketing and ecommerce, which is something very few vendors can offer. Plus, what is important to say is that Ucommerce is really, fully integrated within Kentico, within our digital marketing and content management functionalities so it’s not just a marketing integration, that we see with many other vendors. We really provide a solution that looks like a single product from the user perspective and from the developer perspective so I believe this is a big game changer and it will allow us to provide a much better solution to customers who want powerful content management, digital marketing and ecommerce.”

Along these same lines, in my interview with Bryan Soltis, he added to this widespread thought process by shedding light on what the user experience would be for Kentico customers utilizing the new commerce options within the platform: “Ucommerce is a best of breed eCommerce solution, they do some fantastic work obviously in the online sales space, they already have integrations with several other platforms so these guys know how to do eCommerce right, and they’re a very powerful, capable system. While we know that some people will still want to use Kentico eCommerce and that’s why we put a lot of features inside of that particular aspect of the platform, we know that others will already be using Ucommerce or they just want to have another system because of some capability that aligns with their business goals and requirements. We partnered with Ucommerce because we know they have such a great best-of-breed solution and these new capabilities and what’s really interesting, is the Ucommerce interface, everything Ucommerce does, things like refunds and really complex management of products, I think they have over 500,000 that you can manage inside of an online store, these really powerful eCommerce capabilities we’ve integrated it into our Kentico platform meaning, if you were to stand this up, and you decide you're going to use Ucommerce for your eCommerce implementation with Kentico EMS, you’ll stay inside of Kentico”

My POV

Karol’s stance on their educational responsibility really stood out for me. There is still a staggering amount of organizations who are unprepared and even unaware of what the GDPR is asking of them as of May 25, 2018 and we all know you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink the same as you can give an organization education but you can’t make them comply. At the very least vendors can take the opportunity to be thought leaders in providing insight and knowledge on something as complex and impactful as the GDPR. Especially in reference to a point made by numerous authorities on the topic: the GDPR is not and will not be the first of its kind, there will be plenty more compliance needs from every part of the world moving forward. 

Further to that, I can really appreciate Kentico’s view on connectors. They know there are numerous vendors who are excelling in their fields of CRM, eCommerce, and PIM to name a few and they see it as advantageous to ensure their platform integrates well with these other platforms so users don’t have to choose and, can continue to use the Kentico UI they are used to while leveraging the expert capabilities of other platforms. 

As for the integration between Kentico and Ucommerce, some might take a look from the outside in and think Kentico is adding Ucommerce as a way to avoid amping up their own commerce capabilities, which would be incorrect. Not only will Ucommerce be added in as an option for Kentico users, Kentico, as Michal pointed out, completely rebuilt their commerce capabilities from the ground-up with consideration for customer needs every step of the way, so it looks as though Kentico achieved the win-win, not only did they choose to cultivate their own capabilities, they are also offering users an established, extensible commerce engine in Ucommerce. 

LAURA MYERS

A digital business, marketing and social media enthusiast, Laura thrives on asking unique, insightful questions to ignite conversation. At an event or remotely, she enjoys any opportunity to connect with like-minded people in the industry.

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