Cloud Connected

Thoughts and Ideas from the Gitana Development Team

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Cloud CMS Web and Mobile Forms

One of the things that Cloud CMS does really well is forms - specifically, web and mobile forms.

If you’ve ever worked with the development of forms before, you know they’re pretty tricky to put together. You typically have back-end code that is responsible for taking a data structure, validating it and writing it to a database. And you also have front-end code which does user-facing data validation that is cosmetically appealing (pretty red boxes) and helpful. You need to think about customizing the front-end controls (using JavaScript typically) to offer a compelling end-user experience while also offering an intuitive layout. Form elements need to interact together such that changes to one part of a form automatically update or validate with other parts of the form.

It gets more interesting as the requirements grow. For example, you may be asked to have your form work across multiple pages. Perhaps there is a need for a wizard with previous, next and submit buttons. Or perhaps there is conditional logic such that certain sections of a form only appear if a user selects something. Or perhaps the next button should take you to a different set of pages depending on your form’s data (such as having to fill out certain income schedules for a tax payment submission).

And across all of that, there is the question of validation and making the user interface intuitive to end users as data changes. End users should be informed of when they are allowed to proceed to the next step in a form and be shown what updates are required or how they can fix things.

All of this is usually very challenging to deliver, particularly since it requires so much front-end and back-end code that needs to be kept in sync. As such, it has been a hard problem to generalize until very recently.

In the past few years, we’ve seen some new innovations that have made this easier.

One of these innovations is JSON schema which provides a descriptive way to structure your content. You can use JSON Schema to express forms, their data attributes and how they should be validated. With JSON Schema, you can singularly describe the constraints and validation logic of your form and then have that validation run on both the client and server side. You just write it once and it applies in both places.

Other technical innovations include modularized JavaScript and JSON document databases. Modularized JavaScript and other improvements to JavaScript (including EcmaScript 5 and the pending EcmaScript 6) allow for flexible development of intelligent controls that run in the browser. This effectively allows the browser to be much more intelligent about it’s rendering and enables it to make late decisions about how to lay out the controls onto the page or bind them into wizards. This process can be driven entirely from configuration (also a JSON document) while still allowing for JS controllers and methods (packaged up into AMD modules).

Using HTML injection to build user interfaces or forms has really grown up in the world. Popular frameworks like Angular.js or Ember.js work this way. Instead of generating HTML on the back-end and passing it over to be shown in the browser, the front-end generates its own HTML using JSON data retrieved from the back-end. This allows for really beautiful user interfaces that are customized on-the-fly, per user and per device.

Cloud CMS builds on all of this to deliver really intuitive and easy web and mobile forms. We provide an open-source, JavaScript-based Cloud Forms engine that runs entirely on JSON Schema. It builds forms for you on-the-fly, using a configuration-driven approach. And it saves your form data right into Cloud CMS so that you can collaborate around it, report on it and leverage it within your business.

Several years ago, we decided to open-source our forms engine under the Apache 2.0 license so that anyone could use it within their projects. No strings attached and no funny stuff. We’re big believers in open-source. It’s not just that we want to give back, but we also believe that the open-source process is the best way to build a fantastic product.

The result was Alpaca Forms. We put a web site up and promoted releases, along with documentation, examples and community forums. The result has been amazing! We’ve watched as Alpaca has been used in all sorts of interesting projects, ranging from education and government to the entertainment and medical worlds. We’re so glad that it has helped people to deliver amazing applications!

And beyond that, we’ve really enjoyed working with the community. Such great people with interesting ideas and lots of feedback. We’ve greatly enjoyed being in touch with such a great community!

Cloud CMS continues to build and offer Cloud CMS Forms as part of its offering. Each Cloud CMS subscription comes with a fully-engaged content management system that naturally works with Alpaca’s web forms. We offer technical support, bug fixes and production-level SLA’s for Alpaca within live applications.

If you’d like to learn more about Cloud CMS forms, visit our web site or Sign up for a Free Trial.

Thanks for being part of our community!

Content as a Service

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a series of blogs that talk about the merits of Content as a Service and what it means in terms of driving a Content First approach to mobile and web application design at Cloud CMS. We’ll dive into how it enables our customers to get serious about the value of content within their business. We’ll also touch on industry trends and where we think it’s all heading.

Cloud Content Platform

Imagine all of your mobile and web applications connected to a fast and secure content backend that provides real-time publishing and instant insight into how your customers use your applications.

Imagine not having to build that. Instead, you’d sign up for it as a service in the same way that you’d sign up for SalesForce, GitHub or ZenDesk. It’s cost effective and it scales really nicely across all of your apps.

It’s content as a service. It provides a backend with all of the tools and applications needed so that your business users can create, manage and publish content to your mobile and web apps. It lets you get serious about your content, modeling it once so that you can create things once and publish them everywhere.

In the end, this makes it possible for a business of any size to manage 2, 3 or 100 sites worth of content… all from one place.

Today this is reality.

That’s what we’re up to at Cloud CMS.

At Cloud CMS, our goal is to provide all of the backend hard stuff that enterprise content management software has been doing for years… but at only 5% of the cost.

To us, that’s content as a service. It’s taking CMS – everything from web content management to document management, from records management to content analytics – and packaging it up behind a cloud service so that small businesses can use it to bring value to their customers.

We’re innovating in the cloud to do things that were never possible before. In doing so, we let small businesses get their hands on amazing tools to create content once and publish it across all of their applications.

Why the Cloud?

We’ve been at the cloud for a few years and so we know about the value it delivers. At its core, the cloud is a mechanism for reducing costs and giving your business better repeatability and reliability for its business infrastructure and processes.

You can think of this like a utility. Kind of like the electricity that flows into your home. You don’t really have to worry about how it works behind the scenes. The utility company might completely rearrange how they manufacture or distribute energy. As long as it works when you plug your lamp into the wall, it’s fairly transparent to you.

Software that is designed for the cloud is less expensive. It is elastic in nature which means that it can run on a single server sometimes and more servers at other times depending on your traffic needs. You only pay for what you use.

Cloud-based software, when properly implemented, can be priced much lower than traditional enterprise software. That’s why HelpScout, MailChimp, Cloud CMS and many others are able to offer the same features as older enterprise companies but at a fraction of the price.

In addition, software that is well designed for the cloud has the potential to span data centers all around the world. In fact, you can think of it running everywhere, all at once. Your mobile and web applications can simply request content, at any time, from anywhere and the infrastructure responds. 24/7. Anywhere in the world. And in any language.

The conclusion here is a simple one. Don’t spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for enterprise software. You’re being taken advantage of. Instead, go with modern software that was built for the cloud. Not just installed in the cloud. But instead, designed to provide you these advantages. You’ll not only get more features, but you’ll pay much, much less.

More to Come

That’s it for now. In our next blog entry, we’ll dive further into Content First and take a look at the impact to mobile devices and responsive design. We’ll also dive into cloud-connected applications and look at how content as a service is used to deliver amazing experiences that span multiple devices.

If you’d like to check out how all of this works in action, please visit Cloud CMS and sign up for a free trial. We’d love to know what you think.

5 Reasons why Cloud CMS is Totally Awesome

Cloud CMS is the only Content Management System that was built from the ground up for the needs of mobile devices and applications.  Our goal is to provide the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective way for businesses to curate and deliver content to their applications, running anywhere in the world, in any language and at any time.

In the last article, I talked about the general lack of mobile strategy within the business world.  Mobile apps are so new that most businesses have had to react to get something/anything out quickly.  As a result, there are a lot silo and standalone applications out there.  There are some disadvantages to this:

  • The cost of building standalone applications is paid in full.  Ideally, the cost of building the “next” application is lower or incremental provided that you’ve utilized a good technology and content platform.

  • The correlation of marketing information from one app to the next is low.  They often have different data stores, different data models and so any data collection is highly manual and costly.  Thus, there is lower value to marketing.  And almost no real-time value.

  • There is poor content reuse between apps.  The content you build for application #1 may not be deployable to application #2.  Or, to do so would require additional integration costs (data conversions, copying, etc).

  • The back-end infrastructure and authoring tools need to be rebuilt each time.  For example, the approval process for new content needs to be replicated and reimplemented each time.

If you find yourself in this situation, then chances are that Cloud CMS is a good fit for your business.

With Cloud CMS, we give you the authoring and publishing tools you need so that you can just plug right into your existing apps and go.  Our authoring tools let you control the full content lifecycle from creation through approval and publication out to one or multiple applications or channels.

We are unique in our ability to do this.  By going back to the drawing board several years ago, we sought to build a CMS for Mobile which worked really well, kept costs low and simply got the job done.

Here are 5 reasons why Cloud CMS is totally awesome:

No Coding

With Cloud CMS, you don’t have to hire developers or write Java/C#/PHP classes to extend your platform.  Things are just easier.  You don’t have to traverse an endless number of XML files or pull your hair out trying to customize the user interface.

Alpaca Forms for jQuery

Our platform is entirely built using JSON and JSON schema for content modeling.  We use the jQuery Alpaca Forms engine so that your forms are clean,crisp and instantly adjustable by anyone.  We also provide a forms builder so that building new content types is a visual pleasure.  Drag and drop.  Click and deploy.

No Restarts

Cloud CMS lets you deploy your content without server restarts.  In fact, you don’t have to worry about servers at all.  We handle all of the IT infrastructure for you.  You just click on the “publish” button to deploy your content, your UI changes, your new content type definitions and much more.  Everything is completely dynamic.

We want you to think about your content.  Think about your end user.  Don’t waste your time suffering through the technical nightmare of legacy CMS systems.

No Schema Required

You can toss any kind of content you want into Cloud CMS.  Drag and drop it in.  Or create some JSON and plug in any properties you want.  Cloud CMS will deal with it.  It’ll index everything for full-text search and instant query.  It’ll extract text from your PDFs, images and Word documents so you can quickly find things.

No headaches.  You don’t have to worry about managing schemas.  Cloud CMS can be used in a completely painless, schema-free way.  Why?  Because we are all-in on JSON.  From the REST controllers through to the database.  We use MongoDB as our JSON data store under the hood.  So we’re lean.  Speedy.  And ideally suited for mobile.

Of course, we do have schema support.  You can elect to introduce it anytime you want.  You simply model your types, properties, constraints, validation logic and even cross-cutting aspects using JSON and JSON Schema.  You can plug in custom behaviors for your content with server-side JavaScript.  It’s all at your leisure.

In a nutshell, we don’t force you to know 100% of everything about your system up front and then penalize you when you need to make changes.  After all, there are new content sources and new schemas every day.  Yes, life moves pretty fast.

Curate and Collaborate

Last century, the main idea with Content Management Systems was to “push” content from the business out the consumers.  Well, all of that has changed.  Today, the consumers “pull” the content they want down onto their mobile devices.  They choose what apps to install, what to read, and so forth.

Oh, and they also write.  A lot.  The so-called consumer is no longer listening.  They’re talking.

In Cloud CMS, curation is the process by which content originated from outside the business is brought in, cleaned up, rejected or approved, put to use and acted upon.  Cloud CMS lets you pull in content from a variety of third-party sources including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GitHub, Vimeo, YouTube, Quora and SalesForce.

You might, for example, set up an ingestion process that queries for Tweets around a specific topic.  They get pulled in and Cloud CMS rules run on top of them, filtering for, say, a certain zip code or demographic.  Any matches are routed to your team via workflow so that you can manage the process.  You take action.  You might write to those authors, invite them to collaborate alongside you, or use their information to produce your own content that you then publish out.

Cloud CMS lets you collaborate with the world.  We turn CMS upside down and displace the assumption that those who know best are working for you.  They probably aren’t.  They’re somewhere out there.  Cloud CMS lets you collaborate with them to produce better content for a better application experience.

Publish to your Apps

Cloud CMS provides all of the infrastructure needed to power your mobile applications.  We are a fully-loaded Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) complete with pre-integrated CMS, user/group management, real-time analytics, personalization, backup/restore and much more.

As such, within the Cloud CMS authoring experience, we let you pick from the mobile applications you’ve configured and deploy to them by clicking “Publish”.  Your content is routed into delivery channels and made available to the selected mobile apps.

As those mobile applications are used, real-time information flows back into Cloud CMS to inform you of the user experience.  What content is working?  How are people experiencing your content within the applications?  What leads are being generated and how are user sessions flowing within your business, app by app?

In addition, Cloud CMS lets you connect to a variety of third-party systems including Twitter, Facebook, GitHub, Vimeo, YouTube, Quora and SalesForce.  This lets you publish your content out to where the users are.  Into the right communities and into the right audiences.

All with the click of a button.

Get Started

We invite you to visit our web site and take a look at Cloud CMS today.  Sign up for a free trial or register for our Newsletter.

Keep your eye on this space for more exciting news!