Content strategy and mobile devices at Tekom tcworld 2012

I’m attending Tekom tcworld 2012, in Wiesbaden. Today is the first day of the conference, and I’ve decided to attend a number of sessions on content strategy.

Ann Rockley presented a session called “Supporting Multiple Mobile Devices with a Unified Content Strategy”. The blurb for this session is tantalising:

Smartphones, eBook readers, and tablets have forever changed the way people access and interact with your content. You need to be able to create content today that can adapt to the new devices of tomorrow. To do that you need to create a unified content strategy – a content strategy that takes into account the requirements of the customer, the content to be delivered, and the ever changing array of devices for delivery.  This session provides an understanding of:

  • A unified content strategy (UCS)
  • How to design adaptive content to support your unified content strategy
  • Structure
  • Business rules
  • Changing processes.

You really need a content strategy

Ann pointed out that you really need a content strategy, even if you’re only delivering small bits of information to a very small screen.

We looked at some stats, showing that the mobile market is growing rapidly. So is the share of market that browses the web via mobile devices. There are places in the world, such as Africa, that went directly to mobile, skipping the desktop phase. The growth of mobile is led by China and India.

What is mobile all about?

Designing for a small screen? No! Resizing visuals is not the solution to platform proliferation. The devices are all different sizes. We have a variety of different device types, which are in effect the new PC.

Moving from print to web

Things needed to change in the content. These aspects were different:

  • Page sizes
  • Resolution
  • Navigation and fining content
  • Understanding of depth and breadth of the information
  • And more

For mobile, we need to think about redesigning our content again.

But if you write well-structured, modular content, it works well online and on mobile devices. We’ve become sloppy and started designing content specifically for the web, instead of keeping it modular and structured.

Scanning versus reading

People move through information much faster. They don’t want all the information at once. We need to layer it.

Don’t design mobile-specific content

Ann says we shouldn’t design content for websites and for mobile apps. It is twice the work, or more. Instead, we should have a set of content that we push out in different formats.

eBooks

This is another set of devices where we need to rethink our content. eBooks do not work the same way as help or print.

You can’t save a printed manual into an eBook format and hope it will work. It doesn’t. We need to think about how we can optimise the medium.

There is a large number of eBook platforms, making it difficult to test the content on all of them.

Move away from handcrafting

Devices are proliferating. It’s not sustainable to handcraft for each device. Anne showed us some statistics of the various mobile devices and e-readers available.

Anne pointed out that PDF files never worked really well, and now don’t work at all on small devices. It’s impossible to read a PDF document on a mobile device, she says.

How can we create content so that it will adapt?

Don’t talk about the devices first. Instead, talk about the content first. This way, you don’t care what the next device is. Design the content in a very modular and structured way.

The first step is to know your audience, the type of content they need, where they are, and we need some sense of the type of device they will use.

A unified content strategy

Ann has created a methodology for creating your information once, and delivering it many times.

  • An adaptive/responsive content model strategy. Design the models so that, depending on where the content appears, different models can be used.
  • A re-use strategy, so that the same content can be used in different types of manuals and devices.
  • Manage the content throughout the lifecycle – workflow.
  • Tag the content using a taxology.
  • Governance of the content.

Adaptive content

Adaptive content means that the information will automatically adjust, depending on where the information is displayed. It does more than just scaling the length of a line or size of image. It may also layer the information, via progressive disclosure. It’s more intelligent than responsive design.

It can also adapt to your future requirements.

Structure, re-use and modularisation

Ann now took us through the details of audience analysis, content re-use and structuring content in modules.

If you’re not producing structured content now, forget about going mobile. It’s not possible without structure. Examples of structure tools: DITA, DocBook, custom structuring.

Content modelling is essential, before you dive into a structured environment. Content modelling helps you to figure out how best to support your requirements.

  • Determine the current structure of your information.
  • Determine the proposed content structure.
  • Develop information product models and topic models.
  • Identify guidelines for structured writing, to go along with the models.

Important is to separate the content from the delivery of the content. You will be able to display structured content in different places, depending on the device, using style sheets.

Your re-use strategy affects the translation of content. For example, a small piece of content may be difficult to translate if it’s out of context.

Taxonomy and metadata

We need a semantic structure and metadata on our content, so that we can automate as much as possible. Think about a controlled vocabulary and a metadata tagging strategy.

Workflow

We need to control the content as it moves through its lifecycle, and what the various people can do.

Business rules

Business rules will define how your content will react in different situations. Think, “if this happens, what should happen next”. We need to control these causes and effects, to ensure that our content adapts effectively.

In summary, Ann recommends that we work backwards from our customer requirements and device constraints, to design the adaptive content. Then we change our processes within the organisation, to support this design for intelligent content.

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About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 23 October 2012, in technical writing, Tekom tcworld and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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