Moving from WYSIWYG to Structured Content

Emily Nielsen
Emily Nielsen

December 2, 2020

Moving from WYSIWYG to Structured Content

WYSIWYG is one of the most common approaches to building websites, particularly for smaller teams. As teams grow and content becomes more complex, it may be time to switch to another approach that enables more flexibility and organization. Structured content solutions can scale with teams, and give content teams more flexibility and options for the future, rather than spending too much time on workarounds.

This is a brief introduction to the benefits of structured content, how you know it might be time to switch, and what tools can help.

Why move from WYSIWYG to structured content?

There are a wide range of benefits when moving from a WYSIWYG approach to content, to the structured content approach.

From a content editor's perspective, structured content gives teams more control over the design and final presentation of the content, saves time, and enables them to create content that is flexible and reusable.

Developers will notice that teams are able to manipulate content without needing to consult the development team and that it is much easier to quickly create new projects after the content has been properly modeled.

Better control of content

Teams will notice that once they have migrated to a structured approach to content, they will have more control over which things should be included in various presentations of the content. When working with structured content, it is possible to create a structured content hub that houses the relevant information in a modular way. This means that as new projects come to fruition teams will be able to call on existing content as a base before creating custom content for each new project.

As teams begin to iterate that content, the content will be much easier to edit as it is stored in a single place. Teams are able to access the model that stores information, such as value propositions, which are used throughout the final project, make changes, and have those changes reflected everywhere. Teams are able to easily refine their messages and correct mistakes without the need of the development team.

WYSIWYG showed content teams the power of being able to quickly create content; however, as content becomes more sophisticated and teams are working with presentation layers beyond just the web, teams need more power and control of their content to meet the needs of today.

Reduces repetitive work and saves time

Through the structured content hub approach, content editors no longer need to make changes to content over and over again throughout the project. This saves them time and makes it possible to allocate more time to creating new content or projects. Quick fixes truly become quick fixes. This improved workflow also enables teams to view content as iterative. When it is easy to update your project to reflect the strategies of the day, teams are able to experiment until they find the sweet spot of messaging and presentation. Content teams are able to bring more value to the business with less hassle. When typos or adjustments need to be made, it is simple to do and teams can get back to work quickly.

Creates Flexible and Reusable Content

One of the biggest drawbacks of WYSIWYG editing is that the content that is created is tied to the presentation layer and designed with the intention of being single-use in one context. It is true that editors are able to create content and understand exactly how it will appear in the web browser, but the digital world has evolved beyond just the web browser. While in some cases, single-use content makes sense, there are many instances in digital content where it is more helpful to create content that is flexible and reusable.

Using structured content, teams are no longer tied to their presentation layer. Teams are able to create a mixture of stable content which will be consistent throughout the project and single-use content which considers the specific presentation layer more carefully. This mixture saves time for teams and allows them to build content models that are flexible enough to become the backbone of an assorted group of projects.

Experiment with new presentation layers

Structured content allows teams to experiment with new presentation layers. As teams create a central structured content hub, it becomes easy to connect the presentation layer of their choice. Development times for new projects shrink as teams are working with familiar tools, content models, and workflows. This is a major improvement from siloed content that creates siloed projects and repetitive work. Suddenly teams are able to create MVPs of new presentation layers quickly using existing content models and content.

How do you know it is time to switch from WYSIWYG to structured content?

There are a couple of key indicators that will help you know that you have outgrown the WYSIWYG approach to content. While this list is by no means exhaustive, they highlight some of the most common problems that our customers face before moving to GraphCMS

Content team is limited by current tech stack

If the content team wants more flexibility to build new projects but the WYSIWYG approach only enables teams to build web-oriented projects it may be time to switch. Teams who want to reach a wider audience across platforms will have a hard time doing that with WYSIWYG editing. Instead of needing a variety of approaches to content for the various types of presentation layers, structured content allows teams to build a central hub of content. Once the initial model structure has been created, it is easy for teams to create content for several presentation layers by building off of existing content.

Performance issues were inhibiting development

As a brand develops, it is tempting to build sophisticated content using plugins that are common in WYSIWYG editing. A common problem with this approach, however, is that external plugins often are less secure and often require security updates. This can cause problems if your project is using an outdated version of the plugin and lead to performance issues.

Additionally, performance issues become increasingly common as the amount of content increases, becomes more diverse, or needs updating. Teams can be blocked by needing the assistance of a development team or websites not being able to handle new types of content quickly. If the development team is constantly addressing quick fixes for performance, they will not be able to prioritize new development.

Project code is becoming too complex and unorganized

Sometimes it is just better to start from scratch. With WYSIWYG approaches, they can lead to projects that lack organization and are unnecessarily complex. While they may still function, teams spend far too much time trying to debug the system, address quick fixes that no longer seem to have a purpose, or generally, make order out of chaos. This is very common for teams that have been using WYSIWYG for a long time and have developed throughout that time. Structured content helps prevent these issues because it is at its core a method of organization. Teams that are scaling quickly, often find that by moving to a structured content approach they are able to leverage their existing content while setting themselves up for greater organization and efficiency moving forward.

How to work with structured content

At the core, there should be a content hub, typically powered by an API-first, headless CMS, like GraphCMS, which will treat the content like data. These content models hold the structured content and organize the content into models that contain the most relevant information to that model but do not rely on the context in which this information will be viewed. When the rest of the project is being built out, relevant content can be used throughout the project while being stored in one place. In other words, make once, use everywhere.

Learn more about working with structured content here.


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