Content is everyones business. In order to facilitate discussion about content in my workplace, I have started an informal group called The Content Collective so that interested parties across the Library have a platform to address issues, ideas and strategies related to digital content. It is an opportunity for staff to better understand decisions that affect our digital platforms, as well as the chance to make contributions to an overall content strategy for the Library.
The Content Collective is currently communicated through a Yammer group in our corporate network, and I am also trialling some casual face-to-face meetings too. Below is the introductory information that I have made available to staff, including some incredibly sexy hand-drawn diagrams. My plan for the Collective is to look at different issues related to content in an iterative way, rather than scaring people off with the idea of a strategy too soon. First steps, introduce them to the idea/s and then work together to brainstorm solutions for certain tasks and issues that will ultimately tie together to inform our strategy. Not only does it facilitate organisational-wide consultation that is simple and casual in nature but it also raises awareness among staff about the work that I do in a more digestible way.
What is content?
The term content in a digital context refers to any information that is presented to users on a digital platform. Content refers to data, i.e. words, images, video, tables, etc. and can be displayed on any digital platform which includes websites and online interfaces, mobile apps, digital signage, etc.
In its most simple terms, content strategy means developing a plan for the workflow of content creation, management and engagement. The structure of a content strategy can be very complex and far-reaching, but the basic philosophy behind it is easy to understand. It is about finding better, smarter, and thoughtful ways of creating content that is not only useful now, but can be useful into the future.
For further introductory material to content strategy check out this content strategy post.
Information architecture – refers to the process of organising and labelling data for digital platforms (websites, mobile apps, etc.) to create a structural framework (such as a navigation tree).
Taxonomy – method of classification, for example, using topics or tags for your digital content to create relationships between related content.
Content strategy for the NLA Website
Why do we need one?
A content strategy for our corporate website will do two things. Firstly it will make our content better, more accessible, more consistent. A content strategy will help develop a consistent voice and writing style across our website and as part of this strategy, the Web Publishing Branch will be coordinating some resources and/or training for staff on writing for the web.
The second thing this strategy will do is create clearer and more useful relationships between individual pieces of content. Currently most of the content on our corporate website sits in isolation and we dont make it particularly easy or intuitive for users to discover related content to the core information they are viewing, especially when they dont already know that other related content actually exists.
We need to move away from thinking about our content only in the context of where it lives in the current navigation or architecture of our website. Yes, we do need a logical architectural structure – not only does it support a smoother workflow for creating and categorising content, but it does allow for a pragmatic approach to recognising content relationships and discovering associated content. However, logic is subjective and not everyone seeks content via the same patterns. Supporting only one navigation pathway to content is restrictive and it keeps content in silos rather than shared across the website and various other digital platforms.
This is a basic (and very crude) representation of our website (looking at only the top three levels of pages):
Each page floats like a little island off its associated portal page and the current navigation structure of our website means that users will only see other pieces of content that live in the same place, i.e. the other islands that just happened to sit under the same portal, and not necessarily content that is actually related. The problem with this kind of navigation is that it doesnt take into consideration the relationships content has with other pieces of content in multiple other locations.
Here is the same diagram of our website, this time with a representation of the possible relationships between different pieces of content:
There are hundreds, if not thousands of identifiable relationships between content on our website that form a complex web of information. Focusing solely on its structured navigation tree means that opportunities to highlight these relationships are missed.
Lets look at events as an example. Each piece of content will have its core elements – the basics. For an event, those core elements will look something like this:
Yes, this information is useful to a user and sometimes it will be the only information that a user actually wants. However these core elements are only the bare minimum of information associated with an event and there are scores of secondary content that may be related to this event and therefore relevant to the user.
What about an article in the NLA Magazine about collection items related to the exhibition? Or maybe there was a complementary blog post written by the curator, or maybe we have a podcast available of a previous talk about the same exhibition? By linking related content not only are we giving greater exposure to a wider variety of content but we are also enriching the experience of a user by predetermining what related content may be of interest to them – and if they’re not interested, the core stuff they want is still there too.
There is merit in moving away from the concept of our web content as “pages”. Not all of our content types are pages in the sense that you stick words and images on a particular page and that is where it stays. Events are the perfect example of this.
This event page is made up of several different pieces of content. The yellow represents content that was created on this individual page (but that is accessed through the overarching calendar view). The pink is content that is being pulled from other places. The green is potential other content that could also be displayed on this page even though it doesn’t “live” on this page, or even under the What’s On portal at all.
Another benefit of content strategy is that is gives us an opportunity to enhance our ability to make content more useful and to reduce workflows for publishing on multiple platforms. This is known as ‘reusable content’, or the Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) approach. What this means is that you can, where appropriate, publish the same piece of content in more than one place. For example, if we have a closure in the Treasures Gallery, I may create a piece of announcement text in Drupal to be displayed in the footer of the corporate website. But rather than recreating this same announcement text in multiple places, I could then push the same piece of content out to publish on our social media platforms, as an announcement on the mobile catalogue app, on other places on our various websites, to a digital sign displayed in the foyer as you walk into the building, and so on and so forth. Create Once, Publish Everywhere.
How will we achieve this?
There are several measures that the Web Publishing Branch will be undertaking in the coming weeks and months to implement a content strategy for the Library. It will be an iterative process that includes a number of other side projects (such as online identity guidelines, hopefully an overarching digital engagement strategy, improvement of Library blogs) and planning will continue throughout the process.
While Web Publishing will be responsible for implementing any strategic measures, it is important for us to continue consulting with other business owners and interested parties on any changes or strategies because our digital content requires a whole of Library approach and needs the investment and understanding of many different individuals and teams.
Some of the activities we will be undertaking include:
- Improved information architecture, including review of some current content
- Implementation of taxonomy
- Developing content objectives
- Providing resources and training for writing for the web
- Online Identity Guidelines