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This is not a post about 5 cutting-edge technologies that may become relevant in 2014. This is a post about 5 technologies that are ready to be applied to your site today. However, not enough people are taking advantage of them and, most importantly, you simply cannot afford to ignore them any longer.

Deep Analytics - its not about the what but the why and how

A lot is being said about Big Data and a lot may sound irrelevant to most organizations. However, Big Data is not just about the volume of data, it is also about the depth and breadth of user behaviour it can provide insight to. Big Data, at its heart, is the process of driving business decisions on the basis of real-world user data collected in the digital world We cannot assume that users are rational automatons that carefully follow pre-ordained paths through a site. Analytics need to go beyond visitor numbers and page views (what most analytics software focus on unfortunately). Instead, we have to think in terms of goals met, paths followed and the context that surrounds them. It is not the absolute numbers that count but the ability to connect all the dots from interactions off your site (e.g. social media, marketing campaigns) to specific actions on your site. Subsequently, that data needs to actually reach the people that can act on it. At times this means the people creating content and dealing with the site daily. They cannot waste time trying to sift through reports in order to glean some knowledge. The decisions you make based on this deeper understanding of your business may be the single most important thing you do in 2014. In 2013 Bluespark helped its clients gain more knowledge about their users and their sites through the integration of data in custom content editor dashboards integrated with their Drupal CMS. This made it easier to react to changing user demands. We also built sophisticated tracking techniques that allow our clients to know not only how many times a page was visited but how many times a piece of content appeared in search results, at what positions and whether it was clicked or not.

Personalization, adaptive sites, experience management - oh my!

Armed with new knowledge about how people actually interact with your site, you can then begin the task of optimizing the site’s user experience to make it more relevant to the individual users. The dirty secret of personalization is that it is actually simpler than you think. This is not about complex techniques and sophisticated technologies. In fact, the tools are already here. The key is to think of the different types of users and the context that led them to a certain page and act accordingly. As is the mantra with Semantic Web technologies, "a little semantics can go a long way," so it is with personalization: "A little bit of personalization can convert a lot of users". Bluespark is developing tools that allow personalization algorithms to dynamically change the content of the page to the specific user context. And our clients (and us!) are already seeing positive user engagement results.

Invest in UX not just for end users but for the content creators of your site - Editor Experience

If anything, 2013 is the year people finally stopped arguing about whether good user experience is important or just a nice to have. Good news - we won! The new business software being created proves it. Good user experience leads to profit. In the CMS world, this means that it is worth your investment to make sure that the people working on your site's content and structure should have powerful tools that are also a pleasure to use. If you don’t, the result will be a site that is badly maintained with stale content. Which means that the initial investment to actually have a nice site is partially lost. A positive editor experience will make the entire organization participate in improving the site content and in turn improving the experience of potential customers on the site. Investing in UX and design is no longer a luxury few can afford; it is necessary for the success of your business. Bluespark has done extensive work in adapting the Drupal back-end to the specific needs of organizations to provide them with both a streamlined and pleasurable user experience.

Content Strategy - do you know what your content is saying tonight?

The words and pictures that are next to your logo, on your site and across the web via your social media presence, are ultimately what is going to convince a person to buy your product or embrace your cause. A complete content strategy should span the range from defining your organization’s voice to defining who curates content, with what tools, how that content is stored and how can it be delivered to any number of different devices seamlessly. The Internet of Things is coming - and soon those Things are going to be able to transmit a variety of rich messages. While “mobile first” is a great way to get started, really what we need to be thinking about is content everywhere. How is content on your site displayed on different devices, but also how is your voice and content represented on other websites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or wherever the people you want to reach actually are). If 2013 was the year UX finally got accepted as a key aspect of website development lets hope that 2014 is the year content strategy earns the same level of recognition.

Service-based architecture - APIs will rule the world

Software runs the world; ergo the ability to connect different software together to complete more complex tasks gives you an advantage. Think about the different bits of information you use to make decisions. Then think about the different tasks you perform to achieve your objectives. Can those processes be streamlined through the integration of disparate software services? If so, you’ve just given your company a huge advantage--to make better decisions faster, and to automate their implementation. Most modern services provide APis. If we can get our lights in the house to switch on from our mobile phone, why is it that our CRM is not integrated with our membership administration tool on our website. We’ve helped several clients to streamline their processes, reduce cost and reduce risk by building service-based architectures that were both more robust and less complex. Whether it is migrating 25,000 sites and 3 million pages in a phased manner to new infrastructure; integration of legacy membership systems with a modern membership-management solution or translation automation for an organization dealing with 26 different languages, a service-based architecture that makes use of APIs allows us to provide robust solutions.
So there you have it - 5 broad technologies that are ready to be exploited now. Taking advantage of them early on will provide you with an advantage. Drupal as a CMS is a great platform to build on and the wider Drupal community is already working on introducing easy solutions and tools for many of these issues. We at Bluespark are truly excited about 2014!

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