Classic content strategy mistake: re-creating old formatting with new tools

Alan Pringle / Content strategy2 Comments

This post is part of Scriptorium’s 20th anniversary celebration.

A common content strategy mistake is duplicating the look-and-feel of existing content when you’re implementing new tools and processes.

dog clones

Your content formatting isn’t as cute as these cloned dogs, so don’t duplicate it! (Flickr:
Steve Jurvetson)

Why pass up the perfect opportunity to update your formatting, delivery formats, or both? It’s often easier to get funding during times of change, so you need to take advantage of the opportunity.

Three years after I first wrote about this bad approach, I still see content creators succumb to the temptation of using existing formatting as the goal:

The surface appeal of cloning what you already have is understandable. Existing look-and-feel provides a definitive target, and content creators are probably comfortable with said target. However, unless there is a compelling business reason to reconstitute old formatting with your new tools—and “We’ve done it this way forever” generally is not—don’t do it.


* unless you have a specific business requirement—such as regulatory guidelines—for duplicating formatting

About the Author

Alan Pringle


Content strategy consulting. Publishing (electronic and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). COO at Scriptorium.

2 Comments on “Classic content strategy mistake: re-creating old formatting with new tools”

  1. How true! At a previous job I remember a client who wanted to convert a large parts catalog to DITA while insisting that the original look be retained. A colleague of mine spent countless hours in the XSLT getting the Open Toolkit to create a clone. What a colossal waste of money, time, and effort!

    If you have a business reason for retaining the old look, or if you’re simply in love with the old look, you’re best served by sticking with the old tools.

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