Technical content gone strategic


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Intro to content strategy for technical communicators

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  • (c) 2010 Intentional Design Inc.
    Rahel Anne Bailie
  • What is content strategy? Let’s parse this definition for its salient points:
    First: It’s strategic. It governs what happens to content during the implementation stages.
    Second: It’s repeatable. A content strategy is not a one-off activity. It’s a way to handle content within a corporate context.
    Third: It’s governing. It’s being the guardian of content. It’s making all the important decisions about content.
    Fourth: It’s a system. It’s not a technology, though it can be technology-assisted. It describes an organic system.
  • Content strategy is a convergence of discplines and technologies, and a content strategist needs to be able to incorporate practices from these related practice areas into their work.
    If I just said that content strategy is not technology, how do I reconcile it on this slide?
    Content strategy considers technology just as they do editorial aspects and user experience and requirements analysis.
  • In this definition of the content lifecycle, there are four quadrants.
    These bits aren’t set in stone, and are guidelines only; your mileage may vary.
  • The analysis phase is where the strategy happens.
    The other three quadrants are carrying out the strategic decisions in the first phase.
  • What the content strategist’s job is, is to help wring the full potential out of the content.
    It’s not just “producing” content, they are using corporate assets to their maximum potential.
    As with any other asset, the more use, the more value.
    It means quality PLUS quantity.
  • You can “produce” content like this, which used to be best practice.
    It’s OK; it won’t damage your brand.
    OR ...
  • You can deliver content in ways that show you’ve done some research and listened to customer need.
  • These two examples show how content converges into a single page, without sending content consumers to multiple places. It crosses content silos, from marketing content to training content to support content, seamlessly for the user.
    This is how BA, UX, technology, and of course, content, come together.
  • UX can be damaged quickly.
    And I noted that with social media, brands can be damaged even faster.
  • Compare the UX of Visa with the UX or a small credit union.
    My accountant suggested that I download all my transactions which he could then import into a spreadsheet, thereby saving me bookkeeping costs. I was thrilled – for a bit.
    The enchantment of being able to download my month-by-month statement took about 15 minutes.
    Because I went to my credit union site and found that I could download 2 years’ worth of transactions in one fell swoop.
    Wow – that UX made the Visa experience look pretty lame.
    It took me all of 3 minutes to decide that Visa “didn’t get it”.
  • From my view, content drives the UX.
    If a person is looking for info and can’t find it, they don’t say “wow, that was great navigation, wonderful affordance on the buttons; too bad I can’t find out anything about the information I wanted.”
    If they can’t find the content they need, they say “that was a waste of time” and move on.
  • Because let’s face it: what drives users – who really should be called content consumers – to your site is content.
    There is a universal goal: find it, consume it, and act on it. (Act on it could mean buy, do, understand, or be entertained.)

    I don’t care how diverse your business model is. You can be WWE or WWF, World Bank or World of Warcraft, Mayo Clinic or Baby Center, YouTube or iTunes, General Mills or Hallmark, Facebook or Nokia, eBay or Amazon ... The goals are all the same.
    Sure, your UX is a factor. But they’re only the clues in the treasure hunt of UX toward the final treasure: content. YouTube would be a far less compelling experience if you removed all their content (videos).
  • Look at content strategy as an extension of the User Centered Design process.
    If you substitute the word “content” for “design” then you have the basis of a way to fit the requirements, design, and testing of content in the context of a larger project.

    This is the big idea; there are specific steps that content needs to follow, which actually follows a rather familiar content development process. But as content needs to integrate with the UX, it should be a logical extension of that process, too.
  • In these two quadrants, we really look at carrying out the content-specific activities.
    This is post-inventory, audit, and analysis.
    It’s the authoring or ingestion from other sources. It’s where you apply your editorial and metadata and localization strategies (from quadrant 1) and work out your content types and models.
    It’s where you apply content standards and structures and so on.
  • These quadrants may not seem as interesting as the analysis side but they are critical because we consume content the same way we do music: we listen to notes in the content of a larger musical piece.
  • Technical communicators, listen up. These slides are for you. For too many years, we’ve had to produce content in linear ways. Now, we’re quickly getting away from that.
  • It’s time to create content that we can re-use, that’s portable, that increases the value of the content through its potential for use and re-use.
  • It’s not about marketing – being repeatedly sold is annoying – yet it’s all about marketing, because the content has to be findable, searchable, and delivered when the user expects it. That “markets” your organization.
  • So what does portable content look like?
    The qualitative side is that it:
    - supports the brand
    it’s tight -> minimal, yet clear
    it is audience-appropriate
    it is translation-ready (even if it never gets localized)

    The technology side is that it:
    Is structured so it can be programmatically processed
    Follows international standards, to minimize rote work on things like formatting
    Has semantic properties, so it can be searched and, more importantly, found
    Interoperable with other content and other systems

    And overall ... It creates value!

  • When people talk enterprise content, they often mean things like analyzing email and using XML wrappers for it so that e-audits can be done. We’re not casting that wide a net. We’re talking all content related to the product lifecycle, from specs to support and all the stages in between.
  • So when I hear these general goals (which we see on many projects) ... Where do you think my mind goes?
  • Here is a case study from my own practice.
  • A single topic needs to feed not only the tech – training – support triumverate, but also the interface itself.
  • How do you deal with client-specific labelling when you’re generating on-the-fly support content?
  • The broad-stroke implications …
  • Dorian Taylor is a Vancouver-based developer who gets it, in a scary-smart kind of way. He says this in a post called “the web doesn’t have content, the web IS content” . I wanted to jump for joy when I saw this.
  • Tripit is an example of a company that creates value from content.
    The ironic part is that they provide no content themselves. It is all provided by users like me.
    Yet I upgraded and chose to pay them for the privilege of serving up the content I send them in a way that provides value to me.
    [Describe how Tripit works.]
    They integrate content to create custom itineraries.
    They converge content from multiple bookings into a single day-by-day itinerary.
    They syndicate the content to customers and trusted people in their social networks.

    The end result: They create value. In this case, that value = significant time savings.
  • Here’s another case where my iGoogle page syndicates a bunch of content to me that creates value. And Google offers this for free. They don’t do anything to create the content – it comes from existing content in other places, and they just syndicate it into a single page that saves me from looking for it all over the place.

    So think of content as designing an experience.
  • If you think about content when you think about experience, you’ll start to identify your content needs, both from the POV of types of content, and quality (voice, tone, etc) of content.

    What distinguishes this site from something like, say, iTunes or Pandora? It’s the same music files, the same content syndicated from the same places. The people who use this site like this particular experience, and that’s what brings them here.
  • We can exploit our own content in ways we’d never thought of. We can create something perhaps more visually engaging, perhaps present it in a way that increases comprehension.

  • By using something like Yahoo Pipes to create custom views of content, we recognize that others may want to use our content, too. So the walls of our content silos don’t end with a department or even the corporation. We want to be an organization that can play in the big leagues, not the one organization whose content chokes upon integration with other content.
  • This is the BBC site. If you look closely, lots of their content is instructional content. You notice that they don’t send you to their training sub-site to see it.
    Consumers don’t care about your content silos. They just want what they want, and they want it delivered, now.
    So instead of “showing your corporate underwear”, we can design our content experience to cross the corporate silos.
  • Here is an example where each user creates a unique content view. What stops this site from being better and more inclusive? Not being able to import content from more sources.
  • We *can* do more with less, and better and faster, if we develop our strategy with these things in mind.

  • When it’s done well, it can be a thing of beauty. To date, very few places have done it well.

    But there’s hope ...
  • I don’t want to forget about the final quadrant.
    Final is probably not a good way to describe it, because it really isn’t the final anything.
    You’ll notice that I haven’t really mentioned translation.
    Am I ignoring it? No, not at all. We have to include localization in our content strategy, and once we’ve figured out how we’re going to be creating our source material authoring and delivery and revisioning and sunsetting, we loop back around to include the content variants, whether that is language-to-language localization or platform-to-platform or format-to-format or a combination of all of these.
    In other words, localization has to be part of the overall content strategy, and figured out as part of the strategic phase. How we push out the content afterwards becomes part of the production process if we’ve done our homework up front.
  • So in the content strategy framework, we have to be able to answer these questions with the right answers, and they’re always “yes”.
  • We need to think outside the box. Look at all the customer touch points, not just delivering content through the site or help file or whatever you may deem your primary channels. See what kind of value you might be able to cceate with content you already have.
  • And a final note: shoot for the moon.
    You know that whatever ambitious plans you have will get tempered – either by reality or product management or a project-based account manager – so aim high. That gives you some wiggle room for the negative Nellies to say “no” to something.
  • Thank you. It’s been a privilege to present today, and I hope you can take this information, go forth into the world, and make great content strategies happen.

  • Technical content gone strategic

    1. 1. Technical Content Gone Strategic © 2010 Intentional Design Inc. Rahel Anne Bailie @rahelab
    2. 2. Framework Content strategy: A repeatable system that governs management of content throughout the entire content lifecycle
    3. 3. Content Strategy: convergence of disciplines and technologies Content Strategy Business Analysis Technology Content Development User Experience
    4. 4. • Modeling/typing • Configure/components • Structure /standards • Repository • Aggregate/Transform • Publish/Syndicate • Syndicate • Evaluate • Iterate or sunset • Acquire • Author/Edit • Version/Localize • Metadata • Requirement analysis • User research • Governance planning • Budget Analyze Collect ManagePublish
    5. 5. • Modeling/typing • Configure/components • Structure /standards • Repository • Aggregate/Transform • Publish/Syndicate • Syndicate • Evaluate • Iterate or sunset • Acquire • Author/Edit • Version/Localize • Metadata • Requirement analysis • User research • Governance planning • Budget Analyze Collect ManagePublish
    6. 6. Potential ROI: •Extend market reach •Better decision-making for sales •Better customer support •Better info for Industry analysts •Potential IRR: Easier management of content •Reduce production time •Increase accuracy •Support risk management Pushing content to its full potential
    7. 7. You can deliver this Training material Technical manuals Support articles
    8. 8. Or this Training material Marketing Support Support Technical manuals Social network
    9. 9. How to / training Marketing Support How to Social content Support How to / training How to / training How to
    10. 10. Now, broken experiences can damage brands faster than ever. “Nothing can deter confidence quicker than a broken experience.”* * Christopher Cashdollar, Creative Director, Happy Cog Studios
    11. 11. Same content, two content strategies “This Visa interface is great. I can download each statement, by month, for the last year.” 1 2:00 PM “Vancity is great. I can enter the dates and download a whole year at a time, for the last two years – in a single transaction.” 2 2:15 PM “Visa’s monthly download is driving me bananas. Why doesn’t Visa get it together?” 3 2:18 PM Little credit union BIG credit card company
    12. 12. Reality Content drives the user experience.
    13. 13. Universal user goal Get content: 1. Find it. 2. Consume it. 3. Act on it.
    14. 14. Content strategy: extension of the experience design Specify context of use Specify requirements Produce design content solutions Evaluate design content Identify need for user-centered design content System satisfies specified requirements Adapted from:
    15. 15. • Modeling/typing • Configure/components • Structure /standards • Repository • Aggregate/Transform • Publish/Syndicate • Syndicate • Evaluate • Iterate or sunset • Acquire • Author/Edit • Version/Localize • Metadata • Requirement analysis • User research • Governance planning • Budget Analyze Collect ManagePublish
    16. 16. We consume content like music: in context.
    17. 17. The move away from single-use, linear content is happening fast.
    18. 18. Portable content: reduce, re-use, recycle
    19. 19. Content capabilities Content must be able to: • Integrate – Embed data into content • Converge – Show content from multiple sources in single display • Syndicate – Send content out on demand
    20. 20. Content attributes So content must be: • Well-formed – 4 Cs, right tone, etc • Structured – XML, xHTML, accessible • Semantic – Have meaningful metadata • Standards-based – OASIS (DITA, DocBook, etc.), microformats
    21. 21. Case study Content strategy for single-sourcing of product content
    22. 22. Project goals • Better user experience – SaaS • Faster time to market – competitive advantage • Savings – production and translation • Efficiency – easier internal processes • Brand – contemporary look
    23. 23. Menu | Menu | Menu | Menu | Menu Window A Window B User Interface Here and here and here UX team builds UA product content directly into the interface …and seven other places in the interface. ?
    24. 24. <Task><Title>Title [w variable]</title> <ShortDesc>Short Description</shortdesc> <TaskBody><Steps> <Step><Cmd>Step</cmd> <Info>Step info</info> <Stepresult>Step results</stepresult></step> </steps> </Result>Task results</result> </taskbody> </task> Typical DITA task* ? User Interface Menu | Menu | Menu | Menu | Menu Window A Window B
    25. 25. <Task><Title>Title [Client Label]</title> <ShortDesc>Short Description</shortdesc> <LearnObj>Learning Objective</learnobj> <TaskBody><Steps> <Step><Cmd>Step</cmd> <Info>Step info</info> <Stepresult>Step results</stepresult></step> </steps> </Result>Task results</result> </taskbody> </task> Typical DITA task* Taxonomy File EN Window A Term A Term B Window B = Variable Term A Term C ? User Interface Title [w variable] Learning Objective 1. Step Step info Step results Task results Learning Centre Object Single-sourcing, with external variables, to multiple outputs. Title [w variable] Short Description 1. Step Step info Step results Task results Help Topic Content Object Title [w variable] 1. Step Step info Step results Task results [Added call centre comments] Knowledge Base Object Menu | Menu | Menu | Menu | Menu Window A Variable B SData
    26. 26. Implications Old method: desktop software delivery • “Spaghetti code” content needs rewrite to migrate New method: Web delivery with UI-embedded UA • New UI has more content types • Topic-based content • Max. content re-use, and reliable delivery/display
    27. 27. Content drives the user experience. Rather than designating content as something that is plugged into a decorated shell, why not endeavor to put it at the centre? - Dorian Taylor
    28. 28. Portable content creates value Convergence: • Airline bookings • Hotel bookings • Car rental bookings • Google maps • Weather networks Integration: • Automatic integration • Get instant, custom itinerary Syndication: • Share with trusted contacts • Auto-notifications Bottom line: Good Value
    29. 29. Move to experience design
    30. 30. Think beyond content; think experience Navigation Editorial Instructions Music files Ad Cover art Navigation Previews
    31. 31. Mash-ups are also a form of content convergence.We can create more comprehensible ways to present content.
    32. 32. Mash-ups are also a form of content convergence.We can create more interesting ways to present content.
    33. 33. Consumers don’t care about your silos
    34. 34. We can customize content being delivered. Price range Bed/baths Geography View Alerts
    35. 35. Bonus: We can do more, better, faster.
    36. 36. When architected well, it happens seamlessly. Information portal Tech Comm content User-generated content Engineering content CRM content Support center content Marketing content RSS feedsSubscriptions Training content
    37. 37. • Modeling/typing • Configure/components • Structure /standards • Repository • Aggregate/Transform • Publish/Syndicate • Syndicate • Evaluate • Iterate or sunset • Acquire • Author/Edit • Version/Localize • Metadata • Requirement analysis • User research • Governance planning • Budget Analyze Collect ManagePublish
    38. 38. Can you fill a user value gap? Exploit the potential of your content – Is it structured? – Can it be re-used? – Can it be filtered? – Can it be searched (more importantly, found)? – Can it be personalized? – Can it be integrated? – Can your content converge? – Can it be syndicated? – Can it interoperate with other systems? The first impression of a site is made within 50 milliseconds
    39. 39. Think outside the site • What are the touch points? • What can be automated for users? • What are the preferences of your audiences? • Are you contributing to an engaging user experience? • How creative can you be? • What is the best you can hope to provide, logistically?
    40. 40. Shoot for the moon, to land amongst the stars.
    41. 41. Contact Info, Acknowledgements, Resources Presentation © 2010 Intentional Design Inc. Presenter: Rahel Anne Bailie, Content Strategist rahel.bailie Twitter: @rahelab Delicious: rahelab Slideshare: rahelab Facebook: Rahel Anne Bailie Photography used under Creative Commons: