GatherContent: Another marketing technology review
If you’re working on a pretty large-scale (3+ collaborators and/or 60+ pages) web content project, GatherContent just might rock your world.
(This is the fifth of our marketing technology reviews. For the others, see the bottom of the post.)
I first learned about GatherContent from the Content Strategy Google Group. Then Doug dropped the team an email asking whether we should use it (and suggesting we review it). Consider it “on the radar”!
The product’s only been around a year, but – if you can believe their own copy – they’re in the midst of a very active public beta. It’s a small team and a highly specialized tool, but does it kill the specific job it was made for?
These are my takes on the product, after kicking the tyres and giving it a spin.
What was the problem GatherContent seemed to be made for?
Large website content projects need a better workflow tool than most popular content management systems (Read: WordPress or ExpressionEngine) can provide.
What does GatherContent do, in one sentence?
GatherContent allows editors of website content to manage the creation, review and publication of lots of content simultaneously with multiple collaborators through one slick and easy online interface.
Wait, isn’t that just a CMS?
To a CMS, the website/webmaster is the boss. To a product like GatherContent, the content team is the boss. Different focus, different approach.
So, this is the bastard child of what?
Basecamp and WordPress.
What does it feel like?
What’s the ideal use case?
Building content for a large, brand-new site, involving collaboration between one or more agencies and multiple client-side stakeholders (each contributing content – at their own pace – and reviewing and signing off content).
Here are some lovely little details:
Guiderails. Within the WYSIWYG editor, you can drag and drop new content elements, ranging from single lines of copy to radio buttons to file attachments. What set this apart for me was the option to enter microcopy (a guiderail for content creators) and character/word limits. When editors are working on the page, mousing over a content element reveals the microcopy. When entering content, GatherContent tracks how much has been written. Small but nice.
One-click simple site map. This site map function is automated, so that – as you build pages or drag over a sitemap into GatherContent – the site map is always ready to be viewed, no work necessary. Sweet.
Progression bar. It’s one of those things a project manager obsesses over: that little #$!*%+$!! progression bar! GatherContent pushes that right in everyone’s face, with a clean little green/orange distinction. Earn your way to 100% Weeeee! Web content’s a game!
Create roles. That felt a touch unique to me. At least none of the CMS I’ve experienced made defining new roles so simple. For a product like this, that kind of customisation may be golden.
A couple less attractive aspects:
Hidden functionality. Perhaps it was me, but there were certain tasks that I struggled with (assigning a page to a user, attaching content emailed to the project to a page, etc.). They could be done alright, but it took me a while to work it out. Presumably if you use this a bit, though, that problem disappears.
No email push settings. This was more problematic. GatherContent sends project participants emails every time something happens to pages you’re working on. “You were assigned a page”, etc. This is good, but – if you were working on a really big project – it could soon become overwhelming. If there was anywhere in GatherContent you could adjust your messaging status (what kinds of activities push you an email), I couldn’t find it.
No export directly to a CMS. This feels like a pretty fundamental function. I mean, you’ve developed a pile of content in this terrific content workflow tool; now you want to publish it. Errrr, it’ll only export as PDF or via an API (which is all cool if you’ve got developers in your enterprise to code that for you – and I guess that is their target audience). Plugins to export directly to WordPress and ExpressionEngine are still dormant. Sigh.
It’s not earth-shattering, but it does a specific job pretty well. Particularly if you:
a. Have a large website content project to manage.
b. Don’t want a bunch of people poking around inside your CMS.
c. Work with content contributors who need close supervision.
d. Don’t particularly like your CMS as a content tool.
GatherContent – I’d say it does what it says on the tin. Well done, GatherContent team.