A New Way of Approaching Digital Content

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Guest post by Carrie Hane, Principal Strategist & Founder of Tanzen, and author of Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow

Maybe you’ve felt it too. Time speeding up. Technology changes overnight.

Personalization isn’t the future, it’s what people demand now. If you’re a marketer, web manager, or communications director, it can seem like a losing battle to keep up with the amount of content you need to publish, let alone all the places it needs to show up.

You aren’t alone. And there is hope! The future isn’t going to wait for you, but you can be ready for whatever it holds.

The key is a deliberate, forward-looking way of planning and creating content, which can address many challenges organizations face in 2018:

  • Too much content
  • Too many channels
  • Siloed content creation
  • Frequent, expensive website redesign projects
  • Content in too many systems
  • Constant technology changes

The time is now to rethink how you approach creating and publishing content to maximize investment, make experiences coherent across devices and platforms, and ensure you meet audience needs effectively and efficiently.

Start thinking about content in a broader context, outside of an interface. Design content that is stored, structured, and connected outside any user interface, in a way that’s readable and understandable by both humans and computers.

Shifting your approach benefits the business and its customers, the people working on the content, design teams, stakeholders, and the web as a whole.

Content Is an Investment

Designing content that is future-friendly and connected across multiple channels provides a long-term return on investment. Think about how to better invest in digital content now to be in a better position in the long run.

Make Content Work Harder

Content is the whole point of what businesses do – and what people want. Each piece of content needs to match a defined user need and business objective to give it meaning and provide a way to measure value.

A piece of content hardly ever gets viewed only on a single web page and nowhere else. Rather than recreating it for each channel, create it once and publish it everywhere. Think of yourself as a curator. Break content into its smallest pieces and mix and match it in many ways. Tell many stories with those pieces by reorganizing the content parts, creating new displays, and curating the what appears in those displays.

Help People Find Your Content

Content is only useful if it can be found. In a world of billions of web pages, people rely on search engines to get them where they want to go. In a competitive world it takes more than keyword research to make it to the top of search engine results.

Search engines want entities, a single content resource per thing, no matter how many ways it is chunked up and displayed. All that almost-the same-but separate content written by different teams within the same company confuses search engines and the people trying to figure out which link to click. Have an organization-wide plan for publishing that includes creating content that your audience cares about and uses technology and content structure in a way that allows Google’s web crawlers to easily find and display it.

Be Ready For New technology

It is impossible to account for every device and screen size and viewport that exists today, let alone the ones that we’ll have in three years. We need to plan for a seemingly infinite combination of delivery methods and use cases. That means making content machine-readable, ready for any artificial intelligence to repurpose and deliver it.

If content requires visual cues that rely on human inference to interpret meaning, there is no way for it to be ready for voice recognition tools, smart homes, or wearables. It may be hard to imagine that your content may show up on someone’s wrist or on a thermostat. But many businesses couldn’t believe that their content would be accessed on such a small screen as a smartphone. Don’t be left behind just because you can’t imagine the next disrupting device or information delivery method. Make it accessible to algorithms and portable to go from one system to another.

Increase Return on Investment

Content is expensive. Digital products need to pay their own way, delivering on business and customer needs. The continuous cycle of spending five, six, or even seven figures regularly on new websites that don’t deliver results is a drag on the bottom line. Be prepared to justify the expense and show how your content contributes to revenue. Plan content with an eye on reuse and longevity to keep costs down while improving revenue streams.

What’s Next

Until the 20th century, human knowledge doubled every 100 years. By 1945, it was doubling every 25 years. Thanks to the world wide web, it is now estimated to double every 13 months. That is going to keep getting faster.

As technology becomes more advanced, it disappears. Trends in interface design continue to evolve. Voice skills and chatbots are just the latest information delivery methods. And they are finding their place alongside websites and apps, not replacing them.

Change is the only constant. People’s expectations change as technology shifts behaviors. Content drives engagement. More and more, people expect the right content to come to them at just the right time. Personalization and ubiquity will shape the future of content. Is your content ready to be everywhere and delivered with a precision to the people it’s meant for?

Overwhelmed? Rest assured that help exists. Like so much in life, the first step is identifying that there is another way, then you can figure out how to follow the new path. Luckily there are resources to help you make all of this happen. One of those resources is Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow. This book offers a process for building a framework to make future-ready content a reality.

It’s not necessarily a straight path from wherever you are now to being completely future-friendly, but even the smallest step can bring big results. If not now, when?