The Author Experience: Part 2

Co-Authored by Ben Rogers, Senior Strategist & Brett Berliner, Lead Developer

PART 2: THE AUTHOR EXPERIENCE IS KEY TO YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY

In Part 1 we outlined the importance of treating the authors of your site content with the same priority as the end users who will be engaging with your site.

Including the author is much more than a conceptual practice. Not planning for the author will impact the project’s timeline so it’s best to include this work up front and dedicate resources and artifacts to the role. While the best approach will vary based on organizational structure, team make up, content focus and production schedule, every team can find a way to bring it to life.

The key is keeping the author an emphasis throughout – and beyond – the site development process, starting before a single line of code is written or a pixel is placed in a layout.

HOW CAN YOU PLAN FOR THE BEST POSSIBLE AUTHOR EXPERIENCE?

Our most successful projects have been those in which the user most familiar with the content is a major part of the process.

We ensure this happens by actively seeking out the guidance of our stakeholders and including the author when designing our systems. Since all content management systems offer some level of customization for content entry, our most important task is to work closely with the author to find the right balance between customization and simplicity. While making the system infinitely customizable sounds great in theory, in practice, it makes managing content incredibly difficult.

As we design and develop the system, our team implements requirements on every field of the CMS. For example, determining whether a field should be text or HTML, whether or it should be required for entry, or if it has any limitations such as length, file size or file type. These limitations are as important for the author as they are for the developer. As a result, their content can be created more quickly and accurately, and can be presented in the way they want.

At Mindstream we also regularly create artifacts that are specific to the content author - a content model is one such artifact.

Rachel Lovinger sums up perfectly why the content model is such an integral document to the author experience, “The content model both influences and is influenced by the work of several other disciplines. A content model helps clarify requirements and encourages collaboration between the designers, the developers creating the CMS, and the content creators.”

The content model can be a visual diagram, but often is just a spreadsheet. The model shows relationships between the data as well as naming convention, purpose, priority, and even organization of elements.

content vs metadata gif

Our goal is to provide all of the necessary attributes with jargon removed, organized in a logical manner, that can equip the author to make the best decisions for their content that will ultimately lead to quick consumption. The beauty of the relationship between the project team and the content author is that we both have the same end-user in mind.

By focusing more on the content author we are indirectly making the experience better on the consumer.

The beauty of the relationship between the project team and the content author is that we both have the same end user in mind.


HOW CAN YOU SET THE AUTHOR UP FOR SUCCESS POST-LAUNCH?

A core component of your content strategy is found in your workflow. By definition, a workflow is an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity. Workflow, in regards to content strategy, involves the following areas:

  • Ownership
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Content development process

Identifying roles and responsibilities is the first step to creating an effective workflow. Unfortunately, it is also a highly neglected aspect.

Start the process by identifying tasks that need to be accomplished and from there conceive a list of the team members that will be contributing. Setting expectations of team members and their contributions up front creates a cadence and standard as to how things will move going forward.

Spend time crafting an editorial process into each point of the content’s lifecycle from creation/sourcing to maintenance and evaluation. Defining this process will ensure that the entire team is involved in the success of your content. In our experience the investment is well worth it.

To help the transition deeper into the digital age of publishing, it’s also imperative to lean more heavily on the CMS software to control the content lifecycle process. Typically, implementing a system-based workflow for authoring content can have a substantial impact across the board.

It starts by taking the roles you’ve previously identified and tailoring their access level to the specifics of their job duty. For example, an author who might only be responsible for a blog is presented with a user interface that highlights the functions that define the blog’s content.

After the author finishes creating their content, the system then can automatically notify an editor that it’s assigned to them for review and sign-off, mimicking the traditional author-editor interactions. It’s crucial to ensure that the defined workflow is effective enough to be a tool to enforce the requirements and processes without becoming a hindrance to getting content published.

Use organizational and software processes to keep the author's focus where it belongs - on the content.


IN THE END, YOU'LL BE LEFT WITH AN EMPOWERED TEAM CREATING GREAT CONTENT.

Focusing on the author experience is a small piece of content strategy that pays big dividends. The more comfortable the content author feels working in the system, the more likely they will be to effortlessly perform tasks in a timely and efficient manner that will lead to satisfied customers.

Date:

10.06.2015

Authors

Ben Rogers

Ben Rogers Senior Strategist

Brett Berliner

Brett Berliner Lead Developer