If you’ve ever used Google Lighthouse (or a similar tool), you’ve probably experienced that sobering moment when the results surface… and you realize your website is slow.
Or, at the very least, slower than you thought.
Website performance testing is an elemental function. It’s core to delivering and maintaining a positive user experience for any business or organization. And speed is just one dimension: brands need to be concerned about quality, accessibility, and a host of other variables that impact UX.
Of course, the most important part of any website testing regimen is what you do with the results to optimize and improve – so future tests look better.
As it turns out, your specific industry might reveal a lot about your sensitivity to customer needs relative to your website performance. That’s what the team at Contensis, an enterprise content management system, discovered in its recent analysis of all FTSE 100 and 250 homepages.
Contensis published its research in the beginning of August, but we finally got a chance to sit down with Richard Chivers, the key man behind the platform, to talk about the report's goals and what Contensis has been doing to help organizations build better-performing websites.
A legacy of CMS innovation
One might say that Rich Chivers is Contensis. During his 23 -year tenure at Zengenti, the parent company of the CMS platform, he has served as head of development, CTO, and now CEO. Within that stretch, Chivers helped grow Contensis within the UK market where the company is based, with international customers in regions like Canada and Italy.
In his current role, Chivers is helping to guide the strategic direction of the core Contensis product as it enters its next chapter. “Seeing the rise of headless, it’s massive,” he said. That’s underscored by the platform’s hybrid capabilities to serve both traditional and headless roles in an omnichannel strategy. The platform's focus on easy-to-use CMS features like content modeling with fast, adaptable, and reusable content types have put wind in its sails, allowing it to compete head-to-head with other modern platforms designed for content operations.
We also discussed the nature of being composable as a modern digital experience tool. “The composable way of thinking is how we’ve been since the beginning,” he said. “Contensis has always tried to provide the basics to keep things simple. For 90% of cases, that works. But if they want something specialized, we recommend other resources to integrate with.”
Since 2001, Zengenti has been “crafting and refining” Contensis, providing a stream of improvements. Now, the Zengenti practice seems focused on providing expanded services that include hosting, design, UX, project management, and other web-related disciplines. They have a team of 30 people dedicated to custom development and implementation, and 40% of their customers choose Contensis for these optional services.
“We have agency partners, and we provide training and resources,” said Chivers. “We try to remain agnostic and let the customer design it [the project] how they want to.”
Big players, slow webpages: unpacking the FTSE 100 and 250 research
According to Chivers, Contensis has always focused on higher education, where accessibility is an essential baseline requirement. As he noted, they “know the space” and were building with accessibility in mind before much of the web and digital experience industry.
When asked about the research and what prompted it, Chivers said that they saw an opportunity to focus on a larger portion of the market and reveal what was happening around readability and content governance. This led to the testing engagement – which was quite revealing.
When a second can mean the difference between a buy and a bounce, it’s fair to say that performance measurement has become critical for every online business. But as Contensis discovered in the study, it’s companies in the media and publishing industry that are optimizing for success. Contensis provided a table of industry sectors and their respective Lighthouse scores, which illustrates how sectors like retail and travel – businesses that rely heavily on digital performance – are lagging. Interestingly, areas like manufacturing and logistics are doing very well, perhaps for a myriad of reasons such as fewer digital commerce requirements.
Contensis used three dimensions of Google Lighthouse measurements – performance, accessibility, and homepage speed – to develop its scoring rubric. Chivers noted that the biggest eye-opener was around accessibility and the disparity between categories like travel and hospitality. With 22 percent of UK citizens living with some manner of disability, Chivers noted that improving accessibility would be a “win-win for the sector and their customers.”
Increased competition and economic challenges
As CMS becomes an increasingly commoditized layer of the digital stack, legacy platforms must find new ways to enhance their features while energizing their user base. As Chivers noted, much has changed across the CMS landscape in the last decade, particularly with how organizations select platforms.
“Everyone was handing the problem of a website to a monolith provider,” he said. “That’s how we used to be ten years ago. Where we [Contensis] sit today is that we offer a completely headless CMS with everything you would expect from the content side – and more.” This includes APIs, a deployment platform, hosting, and even the freedom for developers to build in any language they prefer.
“With Contensis, you have one house under which all things sit,” said Chivers. “You don’t have to have a big DevOps team to create CI flows – like a large organization using AWS and other tools that need three or four people just to deliver.”
As the enterprise software market faces the growing specter of a global economic recession, we asked Chivers how Contensis and the CMS category might be challenged by the headwinds. He took it in stride, noting that he successfully navigated his company through the previous recession and they're buoyed by customers in the public sector, including local government and higher education. These organizations, he noted, tend to "tighten procurement" versus eliminating it.
Despite the economic realities, Chivers says that Zengenti and Contensis are in a “position that many would love to have” with long-standing customers that continue to stay and evolve with the platform. The company is stable, self-funded, and currently not reliant on VC investment.
“[Our customers] have no reason to jump because we’re always ahead of where they want to be,” he said.
What’s ahead for Contensis?
We asked Chivers about any new product features on the Contensis roadmap that readers would be interested in learning about, and he immediately mentioned two things: first, some new advancements to the platform's blocks functionality, which should start releasing in the next month or two. The other is a new concept that will enable developers and site owners to release code and features faster – and roll back in a split second. Chivers described it as a more “agile-esque” approach that will impact coders while infusing more low-code capabilities.
The gauntlet of personalization came up (as it always does), and Chivers said that it’s critical but needs to give customers the insight to see what users are doing on a site. This in turn provides more actionable information about what needs to be personalized. He also noted that personalization can be a struggle for organizations using multiple platforms, even if there are clear benefits.
“If we look at what everyone is trying to do with [personalization] right now, like Contentful and others that have been marketed heavily, there’s a place where composable solutions make sense – and others where they don’t.”
As Contensis looks ahead into the unknown of 2023, they have the unique advantage of hindsight. With over two decades of constant innovation and dedicated leadership, it’s no wonder their community of customers remains loyal and stalwart. It’s a rare position built on relationships – and one that continues to serve them well under Chiver’s leadership.
Contensis provides a single place to create, maintain and deliver your content. Its content modeling, authoring, and governance features help your teams to create and keep on top of well-structured content. A flexible set of APIs makes it easy to use your content in any way you like. Learn more at https://www.contensis.com/