Before you do anything with your existing content, it is important to have a strategy—a roadmap for how you want your content to be created, stored, and tagged. A robust content architecture has these pieces:
- Content models
- Reuse strategy
- Taxonomy and metadata
To start with, it is important to define your content models.
Content models are the structures which govern how you write or rewrite your content. They define what content you must include, the order in which each item appears, whether certain pieces of content are mandatory or optional, and so on. The model is the plan for each small chunk of content and also the plan for the larger information product that is ultimately published.
Models free up writers from worrying about what content needs to be included and how to include it. The structure, itself, defines what to put in the chunk. The writer creates the content that addresses the components of the structure.
Content reuse is a key component of almost all digital transformation strategies. Companies of all sizes are realizing that creating two, three, four, sometimes sixteen versions of almost-the-same content is incredibly inefficient. It costs a lot of money and time to create, store, and maintain multiple versions when a single version will suffice.
It also creates a lot less confusion when your customer reads the same text in many places, rather than different variations. We call this having a single source of truth.
Even something as mundane as using consistent terminology can be the difference between content that is truly reusable and content that is confusing. For example, let’s say that four of us are creating a set of content chunks that, when published, will produce a guide on how to take care of Moose:
We each create a chunk of content:
- How to walk the dog
- How to feed the canine
- How to groom the pooch
- How to train the hound
If we combine these chunks and publish a guide on taking care of Moose, people will be very confused. Is a dog the same as a hound? A canine?
In order to successfully reuse content, we need to decide what we will call Moose and stick to it. If your content is more difficult than Moose-care, your terminology is even more important.
Taxonomy and Metadata
Locating reusable content within your component content management system is a critical element of being able to reuse it. A taxonomy is a system that you develop so that your content is well-organized and that you can easily locate and reuse it. Within the structure, each chunk of content is tagged with metadata. Metadata is data about data. In other words, metadata is information that describes an individual chunk of content.
Libraries use a time-tested, well-organized taxonomy for how books are put on shelves. That way, you can go to a particular section if you are looking for books about travel, or cookbooks, or history books, and so on.
Workflow is comprised of all the processes you use to create, review, check-in, and publish content. There are often several people in different departments who are part of the content workflow. For example, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who provide information and review, product marketing, sometimes legal is involved in the content workflow.
When you move to a structured environment, your workflow changes because the way you create content changes. It is important to define your workflow in advance so that all parties involved in the content ecosystem know what is expected of them and when.
Content governance defines the rules for everything that concerns your content. Governance can include rules for:
- Checking in
And a host of other things that affect your content ecosystem. If you have a solid governance strategy, people who touch the content will know exactly what is expected of them and how to act on it.
Arpita: In short, creating good content hygiene comes with defining content architecture. What do we do with existing content?
Val: This is where the second step starts, curating legacy content and, what we should do with years and years of existing content.