Transitioning to new publishing processes? Release your greatest hits collection first!
Fortunately for the vocally challenged like myself, I’m not talking about songs. I’m talking about a compendium of samples representing the content moving into the new processes.
On content strategy implementations, the lack of a good file testbed is a big obstacle to thoroughly testing how well new processes work. You can use sample files provided with your new tools, but how well do those samples correspond to your content and requirements? Not at all, based on my implementation experiences.
So, it’s up to you to create a useful, relevant greatest hits collection.
Here are a few tips for developing your collection:
If you have content for multiple audiences, collect samples for all audiences. For example, if you have content for users and administrators, pull some sections for both groups. It’s likely that content for different audiences contains unique constructs you need to maintain in your new processes.
- Identify common content elements as well as outliers. You probably have a core group of styles, formatting, or elements that occurs across all information types. That core will be easier to identify. What’s not as easy to figure out is what outliers you need to preserve as you move forward. Are special constructs merely overrides that rogue writers created to do things their way, or do they provide value worthy of consideration for the new workflow?
Work with someone experienced in the new workflow to adapt your samples for the new processes. As part of your move to another workflow, you may have hired someone experienced with the new tools, or maybe you have a consultant on board to help with the transition. It’s critical that a seasoned user of your new processes have a lot of input into moving your samples from the old process to the new workflow: creating testbed files from samples is not just a matter of conversion.
For example, if you are moving from desktop publishing to an XML-based workflow, there are multiple combinations of XML elements you could use to create a valid version of a particular sample. However, valid content doesn’t always equate with best practices. It takes an experienced user to know the difference.
- Exact re-creation of your samples in the new workflow isn’t always the right goal. If you’re working in a regulated industry, you probably don’t have a lot of wiggle room in how to present information. Standards dictate organization, appearance, and so on. Your sample files should therefore look the same in both old and new processes. If you’re not constrained by regulations, however, a slavish devotion to the old way of doing things may not serve you well. Evaluation and guidance from a third party—a new employee or a consultant—can help you figure out what’s working in your old content and should be preserved (and what should be banished forever).
Have you released a set of greatest hits files? Please leave your tips in the comments.