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Building a Structured Author Experience

At this year’s CS Forum in Melbourne, Rachel Lovinger gave a brilliant talk about 10 (well, 8) things she has learned in 10 years as a content strategist. It inspired me to consider what we know as content strategists, as compared to what our users (particularly the editorials teams) know.

Rachel stressed the importance of author experience, explaining how necessary structured content is, in order to have easily findable, and thus usable content. She went over the basics of structured content, reminding us that it needs to:

  • Be stored separately from any display infrmation
  • Have content types identified
  • Be stored in discrete, manageable chunks

All of this is very important to us, as content strategists. But I suddenly remembered a client who told me how frustrated she was to work with Oracle, where she needed to build “links” and “assets” that could then be pulled into “sections” that could then be pulled into “pages.”

Our authors don’t care if their content is structured.

Or at least, they don’t care when they’re building a page. The best author experience is to have a UI that mirrors the page they think they’re building, but provides enough separate fields within the page that the CMS can then pull apart the information and separate it into relevant chunks.

We are building structured content for tomorrow’s authors, but we need to build our CMS processes for today’s authors. If we build a brilliant CMS that allows for structured content, but results in a complex author experience, the authors won’t use it correctly. They’ll find shortcuts, and ultimately they’ll create broken, or easily breakable content.

It’s our responsibility to create not only content processes that work for the strategy, but processes that also work for the authors.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the VP of Content Strategy at the UX design agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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