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January 18, 2021

Structured content and evolving needs

When we look at structured content, the first priorities are usually efficiency and cost savings. These savings are gained through intelligent content reuse and automated content delivery. The implicit promise of structured authoring is consistency; use structure, get consistent content. But this isn’t always the case, nor should it be. 

A structured content model should enforce consistency with enough flexibility for edge cases. As you design your content model, balance the value of consistency against the need for exceptions. You’re planning for the unknown future, which is always challenging.

Your structured content model needs to evolve as content requirements change.

Bringing the past forward

Moving to structured content often involves converting existing information into the new structure. Many organizations have years or decades of old content, and the conversion effort is daunting. On top of that, many organizations have a wide array of source file formats, templates (or lack thereof), and types of published content.

How much of that content needs conversion? If content will never be updated or republished, leave it be.

For the rest of your content, determine what conventions you do and do not want to accommodate in your new model. Then, determine how these conventions convert to a structured model or how they must be reworked to fit.

The day-to-day

Once you’re up and running with structured content, pay attention to how your authors work. As they get comfortable in the new environment, differences and difficulties will emerge.

Are they using the structure appropriately? Are they encountering limitations? Is the model too strict or too accommodating? Are they reusing content or duplicating content?

You will identify things that need to be changed, improved, or perhaps explained better. You may also uncover a need for new, different, or varying authoring tools.

What lies ahead

You need a plan to accommodate shifting needs. This goes for the entire content ecosystem, such as authoring tools, content management systems, delivery targets, and the content model itself. 

You may acquire another organization or be acquired by one. How will blending different content sets affect the content model? You may need to shift from long-form writing (manuals) to bite-size content for wearable technology or chatbots. Do you have a voice strategy (“hey, Alexa…”) yet? Does your content model allow for changes in direction, or do you need new content structures?

A structured content model needs to evolve. If your content model is more than five years old, it could be time to reassess and make some updates. Scriptorium offers a content model review; contact us for details.