Improving structured content for authors

Bill Swallow / Content strategyLeave a Comment

compass and notebook

Structured content authoring tools behave differently than traditional tools like Microsoft Word, which causes difficulty or reluctance among authors to use them. Structured content imposes strict rules around content purpose (semantics) and placement. These tools diverge from the traditional WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) look and feel, which can be jarring for many authors. Fortunately, many structured authoring tools can be modified to feel less imposing.

Creating your own custom authoring templates for structured content provides two key benefits:

  1. They enforce using consistent, specific structures for the types of content being authored.
  2. They provide content authors with a more user-friendly look and feel than what the authoring tool provides by default.

Use different templates for different content types; for example, you can have specific templates for conceptual information and procedural information. Use smaller templates (or content “snippets”) for smaller chunks of content, such as different types of tables, terms and definitions, or important notices. compass and notebook

You can style these templates in many different ways. The design of the templates does not control what your published content looks like (that happens outside of the authoring phase), but it can provide the authors with a more familiar authoring experience. Some structured authoring tools even allow you to customize buttons in the interface to use specific semantic tags instead of general formatting tags (for example, a button for “citation” instead of “italics”).

Forms-based templates make content creation easier for authors. This is a great option for occasional contributors.

If you are interested in learning more about custom templates, please contact us.

About the Author

Bill Swallow

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Bill Swallow, Director of Operations, partners with enterprise content owners to design and build content systems that solve complex information management and localization problems.

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