Content lessons from our distant past

The same way you cannot just overthrow an old system of government and traditions without first looking at how many of those traditions defined their people and kept them in check, you shouldn’t be in such a huge rush to disregard and haul out that rotten, slow, and one-dimensional CMS without finding out the reasons why, from the people that use it day in day out, how it came to be so.

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Web content in perpetual motion

How, in this modern world of furious digital content production and management, can we encourage and harness this inherent drive to create and analyse? You can’t go far wrong by bringing a sense of order and perpetual motion to proceedings. Following a continuous process of analysis, preparation, creation, and governance offers us an ideal way of producing consistently lean, user-focused, and bottom-line-affecting content for the web.

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Approaches to web content strategy

Anyone approaching the web content strategy discipline does so from a multitude of different backgrounds: writing, developing, designing, and marketing to name but a few.

All have taken up the challenge because they care about content on the web and the vital role it plays in delivering a great user experience.

By applying these diverse skills and experiences web content strategists are able to make a wide-ranging impact on a web team or project.

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In retrospect

I believe a retrospective approach should be taken with your archived web content. Someone, somewhere (you perhaps?) took the ultimate decision to remove that flash element or replace that call to action. Why? Maybe you saw it as no longer relevant or useful for your audience, maybe its timely nature meant it always had a limited exposure time, or perhaps it just was your PHP developer’s ugly die() function error message that was removed with little mercy?

Whatever the reason(s) behind its removal, start to ask yourself, and others who were involved in its creation and upkeep, some questions. What impact (if any) did it make? What did it contribute to the overall business goals? What did it help you achieve? How was it used by your audience? Was it the catalyst for more of this type of content? Was it ultimately a success or a failure?

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Decommissioning a doomed website

At the end of its own operational life, usually spanning several decades, a nuclear power plant will begin an equally lengthy process of decontamination, dismantling, and waste management.

Such are the dangers of handling and removing radioactive waste this procedure, called decommissioning, aims to minimise the risks by following a set of strict regulations that ensures public health and safety as well as the protection of the environment. Only when all traces of radioactive material have been removed will the public restrictions placed upon the facility and its surrounding area be lifted.

Though not a physical structure – and with a slightly less chance of damaging your long-term health – I believe that by following a rough set of stages a website can also be shut down effectively and with the user in mind throughout.

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The need for accurate and timely captions

After offering guarded praise to YouTube in my last post for their auto-captioning feature for English language videos I had the urge over the weekend to test how accurate and timely they really were.
So by uploading a publicly licenced video from the Internet Archive, which demonstrates how to download, print, and make a book, I was able to compare my own captions created using the free caption- and audio-description authoring tool MAGpie with those that YouTube had extracted.

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Work accessibility into your content strategy

Without question the most effective way of making audio and visual content accessible to the widest audience – including those with disabilities – is through the provision of text-based alternatives. Why? Because information rendered in electronic text can be easily enlarged for people with low vision, spoken aloud so that it’s easier for people with reading disabilities to understand, or rendered in whatever tactile form best meets the needs of a user. So what are some of the text-based options available to us for different types of audio and visual content? What could we be doing? What should we be doing? And how can a web content strategy help?

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A little taste of Paris

For those of us unable to reach Paris last month for the Content Strategy Forum and rub shoulders with a room full of people who think about web content more than is considered healthy, STC France have kindly published videos of all the presentations in the plenary hall, including the keynotes by Kristina Halvorson and Rahel Bailie. So make yourself comfortable, grab a notebook and pen, and pour yourself a glass or two of wine (preferably French). It’s just like being there.

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