Earlier this week, I was fortunate to take part in a workshop called Taking Content Everywhere, led by US content strategist Sara Wachter-Boettcher.
The workshop was about responding to the changing digital world, a world in which our content has to do more work in more places. We can no longer assume that we’re just creating content for a website that will be viewed on a traditional desktop computer. More and more, people want to get to our content via phones or tablets, using apps as well as websites. And whether we like it or not, our content will be shared and reshaped through social media and through “read it later” services like Instapaper.
What’s more, as the future unfolds, the number of possible contexts for our content will only multiply - we’ll be getting to content via televisions, fridges, augmented reality devices, and who knows what else.
Bringing structure to content
As Sara emphasised, it’s not so much that these developments have created new problems for our content. It’s more that they’ve brought to the surface problems that have been there all along. We’ve treated digital content as if we were still creating print documents - as big blobs of undifferentiated text. That has to stop.
Instead, we need to start thinking about the structure of our content right from the word go. We have to treat content as something we might potentially want to re-use, even if we don’t currently know how. The more structure we can give to our content, the more adaptable it will be.
This means breaking content down into its internal components, and identifying the relationships between various types of content. Once we’ve identified these structural attributes, we can work with developers to make them useful - for example, by automatically displaying related content on a web page, or by adjusting the way content is displayed depending on the size of device people are using.
It was great to spend a day with other people who enjoy dealing with gnarly content challenges. I’m looking forward to delving deeper in Sara’s forthcoming book, Content Everywhere.