Blaze Software Update 9/21/17

The latest version (v. of Blaze is out! We pushed out a release this morning that addresses two main issues: deleting channels and content matrix load times.

Deleting Channels

The ability to delete a channel has been in the backlog since the beginning, so we are glad to see this feature finally hit production.

A channel cannot be deleted while there are items in that channel. To address this, you must trash the items (Select All checkbox + Bulk Edit + Move to Trash) or move them to another channel (Select All checkbox + Bulk Edit + Channel).

To delete a channel, simply open the channel dashboard from your project and click on the “Delete Channel” button . If there are items in the channel, by default the system will ask you to which channel you would like to transfer your content. Select the channel and click OK to complete the task.

Content Matrix Load Times

The content matrix is a key part of the application and where most work takes place. We have been looking for ways to improve load times since we launched in August. I’m proud to report that we have found an improvement that has shown to improve load times by as much as 50%! We are continually looking into this part of the application and we will be making more updates here soon.

Do you have an idea for improvement? We’d love to hear your ideas on how Blaze can be even better. Send us an email or click on the chat icon on the bottom-right of the application and let us know what you think. Our goal is to make the best tool for content strategists, and you are the ones to help us do it.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Dan Beard Twitter


Blaze Software Update 9/21/17

Introduction to Taxonomies: the Signposts of Your Web Site

As you get through a content inventory and audit you might begin to wonder how you can turn these tasks into further action. Beside giving you an idea of how much content you have and the status of that content, an inventory and audit may help you uncover the gaps in your content. A common gap is the lack of structure within and between your content. There is one (of many) common solution to this issue, taxonomies.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, you might have more questions than answers at this point, such as: “What the hell are taxonomies? How do taxonomies work? Why are taxonomies important to effective web design and content?”

This post will tackle these questions and more as an introduction to taxonomies. Let’s begin with where the word “taxonomy” came from.

Origins of the Term Taxonomy

The first use of the word taxonomy dates back to ancient Greece, by none other than Aristotle. He developed the concept as a way to classify organisms (Mantelow, 2017), which later evolved and became known as scientific classification.

Hierarchical taxonomy: Scientific Classification

In the scientific classification system of taxonomy, each species has a set of specific categorizations that are unique to only one species. In other words, each organism has a unique combination of domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species that identify it.

Modern definitions of the term taxonomy take the same concept of classification and apply it to different fields. One such definition is the Drupal definition, which explains taxonomy as a way of classifying content. The Drupal definition is the most common in the marketing space, since marketers generally don’t deal with species. However, this definition can be overly broad as there are many ways of classifying content, encompassing everything from hierarchical relationships to faceted classifications. To better grasp the nature and purpose of taxonomies, let’s discuss how marketers and web designers use them.

How to Properly Use a Taxonomy

One of the main purposes of a taxonomy is to dictate a website’s navigation. While the taxonomy is not the only tool for laying out the navigation, it is an essential aspect.  If we think of navigation as a map, a taxonomy serves as the instructions and street signs that guide you to your destination. As with routes on a map, there can be multiple ways to navigate a site and get to the same destination, or there may be only one way. Let’s take a look at two examples of taxonomies and how they impact your user experience.

Hierarchical Classification System

Sometimes there is a single route to get from point A to point B on a website (In our map metaphor, these routes are our back-country roads.). A hierarchical classification system is a perfect example. With this type of taxonomy, there is usually a single way to navigate to a specific page/content. A site that contains a food menu dividing up food items by Meats, Fruits, and Vegetables is a hierarchical classification system.

Food Menu

Like in the scientific classification hierarchy, each food item falls under a specific category. A cabbage can’t be a meat, an apple can’t be a vegetable, etc. As you can imagine, a hierarchical classification system works fine for simpler sites like the menu example above. However, if you need to accommodate more complex user journeys, you will need a more flexible type of taxonomy.

Faceted Classification System

A faceted classification is an example of a taxonomy that can direct you to the same content through different paths. This type of taxonomy organizes content on multiple dimensions, or facets. As Merriam-Webster puts it, a facet is “any of the definable aspects that make up a subject or an object.” Unlike Aristotle’s classification taxonomy, a faceted classification does not have to be hierarchical. A good example of a faceted classification system is Zappos’ shoe filtering scheme.

In this case, there are multiple navigation routes (read: filters) to get to the same shoe. For example, a pair of size 8 Nike running shoes can be found on the Zappos site by searching size 8 on the site filter, Nike under the brand filter, or Sneakers and Athletic Shoes under the Category filter. All three filters will bring up the same Nike size 8 running shoes. However, each search will be different because not all size 8 shoes are Nike and not all Nike shoes are sneakers and athletic shoes.

Taxonomies Help Users Find What They Want

Adding proper taxonomies to your site’s content provides your users with digital signposts to find what they are looking for. Without the proper structure from taxonomies, your site navigation can be a pain that can lead to losing users.

There are more types of classifications out there, but the two examples above provide a good understanding of how taxonomies work in web design

Ernest Frausto is Content Strategist from one of our agency partners guest posting on the Blaze blog

Introduction to Taxonomies: the Signposts of Your Web Site

How Blaze Helped Me Understand Content Strategy

Years ago, I was having a conversation with my brother who had been in the Navy. I asked him what he learned from his experience in the Navy. Quick with his wit, he responded “I learned that NAVY stands for: Never Again Volunteer Yourself.” It was a short conversation, but it left an impression on me. Specifically, that impression was “choose carefully in what you get involved.” This consideration did not stop me from becoming the product owner for Blaze, but the learning curve was not easy.

Facing New Questions as Product Owner

I have spent my whole career in the software business, so I wasn’t afraid to take charge of Blaze. What I didn’t understand was product development is FAR different than software development. This became apparent when I started getting questions about our marketing strategy and website metrics: What features are we going to promote on the marketing site? What is our pricing strategy? How are we going to measure our marketing efforts?

To complicate matters even more, I knew NOTHING about content strategy. Google and I spent some time together trying to find out what this term meant. What I found is there are many of definitions out there. Some people say it’s planning, creation, delivery and governance of content. Others also include the defining of the process to produce that content. Some people map content to the buyer’s journey. This led me to my next question: What’s a buyer’s journey?

How Blaze Helped Me Understand Content Strategy

I sat with a content strategist colleague to try and get a better understanding of what we were creating. The great news is that I had a tool at my disposal to help me understand: Blaze. This made it simpler to define the Buyer’s Journey by going to the Strategy tab on the audit screen. Of course, there’s the next problem, similar to defining “content strategy;” what are the stages of the Buyer’s Journey? Some say “Awareness, Consideration, Decision”, others say “Define, Refine, Purchase” and some have 5 steps instead of 3.

What I like about Blaze is that is doesn’t have pre-defined tags for these fields, you create the tags on-the-fly. You want 5, make 5. You want 3, make 3. You want to call it “Discovering, Thinking, Cha-Ching!”, go right ahead, it’s up to you.

Lessons from Product Demos
As we developed the product, we also conducted product demos. I sat in every demo that I could so that I could hear the questions asked and the answers given. These demos made the biggest impact in my education, because I could hear from content professionals about the challenges they face on a daily basis. Out of the demos and the Beta program came features like predictive tagging—if a tag already exists, the software will show it to you as a selectable option. This keeps the tags consistent for the team and speeds things up too.

Content strategist share a common enemy: the spreadsheet. It’s not that they hate spreadsheets, it’s just that spreadsheets are the wrong tool for the nuanced and collaborative job strategists are doing. Spreadsheets work well for many purposes, but they also create many problems like versioning, sharing, syncing with analytics and managing thousands of rows of data. All of this while trying to do the job they are supposed to be doing, auditing.

One of the things I grew to love about Blaze is how it puts everyone in the same system working on the same version. Blaze syncs easily with Google Analytics and provides several methods for sorting and filtering. It takes the hassle out of doing inventories and audits while making the process go much faster.

Learning through Doing as a Product Manager

Accepting the position of Product Owner was not what I thought it was going to be. While I made a quick decision without much deliberation, I don’t regret it for a second. This has been one of the single best learning experiences I have had.

One thing that I realized in this process is that content strategists are a global community. Either through demos or support, I have been able to talk to people in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and Italy. Seeing a group of people around the world have the same problem lets me know that we have created a great tool. Blaze will over time continue to grow and change with the community it serves. We look forward to serving you and your team’s needs.

Dan Beard, Blaze Product Owner

Twitter – @TheDanBeard, @BlazeContent


How Blaze Helped Me Understand Content Strategy

Blaze: Be Intuitive and Deliver

My team recently launched (and ended) the Beta phase of our content strategy application, Blaze. With this limited Beta, we hoped to get some insights on how different users perform a content audit, as well as learn some things about how they use our application in general. The goal of this to further our mission to provide high-quality tools to content strategists in order to make their work faster, easier, and more pleasant.

Of all the insights from our beta, two big lessons emerged:

  • – When it comes to software interfaces, “intuitive” is a relative term.
  • – We are moving too slow in our development.

“Intuitive” is a relative term.

“Intuitive” is a word that shows up quite a bit in the software industry. In general, “Is it intuitive?” asks “How easy is it to use your product?” We have put some time into thinking about the users and how to make it easy for them to transition from spreadsheets (ugh) to a new interface. For the most part, we have done a good job adding the features they need. Our content matrix has been a bright spot providing the flexibility we knew the users would want. One new feature that came from the Beta program was predictive tagging, which means the matrix interface would anticipate what tags users would type based on earlier entries. After our Beta users requested this feature, our team was able to add it to the matrix interface and make the task of tagging content much faster.

However, one area in which we lacked sufficient foresight was crawling. Crawling is the ability of the application to move recursively through a website and capture data about each individual page. There are so many ways to crawl a site that it’s difficult to account for them all. We have worked with our Beta users (Thank you to any participants reading this!) to try and understand how they think about crawling. We’ve learned from them and we will apply that education to Blaze in the near future. We will simplify, then we will simplify more, and then simplify again.

We are moving too slow.

During the Beta we became aware of some significant process shortcomings that were slowing us down. I’ve worked on software products before, and streamlining the deployment process is essential to any product’s success. That starts with your code repositories and branching strategies. When you have a team of developers all working in the same code base you have to make sure that they aren’t tripping over each other. Everyone must be rowing (er… coding) in the same direction. We didn’t come to a solution immediately, it took a few iterations, but we have it now. The part of the credit goes to the Dev team for understanding the goal and making it happen.

The other half of the DevOps movement involves our IT team, who handle setting up our infrastructure and automating our deployments. Much like branching strategies in software, there are numerous possible deployment solutions. We were able to try a few configurations and then make the call on what the best would be for our users. I’m proud to report that our team has accomplished our goal to be able to deploy new software with zero downtime for most (if not all) deployments. If we do everything right, you won’t even notice it has happened.

Onward to Release!

Our mission is to serve the content strategists out there by giving them the best tools available. We will continue to learn and we will get better with every iteration. Many thanks to the content strategists who participated in the Beta program and helped us on our mission.
Blaze is almost ready for release! You can get access to your free 14-day trial after signing up for a live demo on our website.

Blaze: Be Intuitive and Deliver

Beta Now Available!

We are proud to announce the start of our Blaze Beta program! This allows a select group of users the chance for a sneak preview of the new and improved Blaze. If you’d like to join the beta, register for a demo today to add your name to our list of potential beta participants. Each week we will be opening more spots in the program, so be sure to sign up today!

Beta Now Available!