Magnolia: a CMS should be as easy to use as a smartphone

The Swiss-German city of Basle is home to this week’s Magnolia Conference 2012. The open source enterprise web content management system (CMS) company is soon to roll out the version 5.0 iteration of its eponymously named product.

The CMS is changing

Pascal Mangold is chief executive officer and co-founder of Magnolia. He contends that the CMS is about to change in a paradigm shift equivalent to the difference between 1) a Nokia mobile phone at the turn of the millennium and 2) the iPhone of today.

NOTE: A content management system (CMS) is a system used to manage the editorial, pictorial and video-based content of a website. At Magnolia’s level, its CMS will stand alone (in the traditional sense of a CMS) or may also be used by web designers and web developers in a web agency to construct the user interface (and the underlying business logic and functionality) that users come to regard as “their company CMS” in day-to-day use.

The CMS of tomorrow

• In Magnolia’s view, the CMS of tomorrow features an entirely new user interface, where content is authored and edited through default built in or bespoke developed task-focused applications.

• In Magnolia’s view, the CMS of tomorrow is built for touch and mobile from the start so that tablets and smartphones become natural devices used for authoring web content.

The user’s problem

The problem with users… (actually, it’s not really a problem, it’s more of a predicament) is that enterprise workers are becoming increasingly used to “apps” at every level. This being “apps” in the sense of smartphone and/or tablet apps rather than the Windows applications or heavyweight (older) clunky installations of SAP for example. So for a CMS to offer web content editing through these so called “customisable task-focused applications”, a new level on “in application” convenience is called for where the days of hard editing HTML code are long gone.


Magnolia’s new CMS interface is designed to offer users a range of tasks relevant to their corporate role and privileges from a central hub. Users then have the option to customise their CMS usage to suit departmental work processes and campaigns without any need to burden the IT department.

Open source customisability

This customisability comes about in no small part as result of the firm’s open source pedigree where the whole architecture is designed to expose the software’s enterprise functionality in the most flexible way possible.

“Since the 1990’s, enterprise CMS vendors have been racing to pack more functionality into increasingly bloated, monolithic menus. These bewildering user interfaces deter a majority of potential users from using the system and contributing to a more meaningful virtual presence. Magnolia 5.0 offers simple, yet powerful, apps focused on tasks that are relevant to the user,” said Boris Kraft, Magnolia CTO and co-founder.

Apps on top of a CMS?

Magnolia CMS then is an open web content management system that allows enterprises to use its standards-based Java architecture to build applications “on top of the CMS” for additional interoperability and functionality. Think about applications that could allow users to take video from mobile devices and embed (and edit) that content directly into the CMS. Not sending it to the office for upload, but actively using the custom-developed CMS extension app to perform the task immediately – while working remotely.

“Very soon, 80 percent of content management systems will look like this,” asserts Magnolia’s Pascal Mangold.

Mini case study

The Swiss city of Lausanne has used the Magnolia Content Management System (CMS) as the technology centre piece of its new eGovernment portal, delivering secure online services to local citizens and businesses.

Customers of Lausanne’s industrial services (electricity, gas, heating and Internet access) can view their bills, check energy consumption or announce a change of address online, dramatically simplifying interaction with the authority.

What next for the CMS?

So what’s the next stop for content management systems? All of the above plus integration of content from external third party sources, intelligently engineered so that links all remain live if web pages or content of any kind is moved at any level.

Magnolia 5.0 is being previewed here this week. More to come, hopefully posted from a mobile device!