Who Cares About Structured Content

What is structured content? And who cares?

Content Strategists Care About Structured Content

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. I started thinking about what content strategists know, compared to what editorials teams know.

Rachel stressed the importance of author experience. She explained how necessary structured content is, in order to have findable, and thus usable content. She reminded us what the basics of structured content include. Structured content 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.

Authors Don’t Care About Structured Content

I suddenly remembered a client who told me how frustrated she was to work with Oracle. In Oracle she needed to build “links” and “assets” that could then be pulled into “sections” that could then be pulled into “pages.”

Our authors want¬†easy-to-build content. They don’t care if it’s structured, when structured content means 5 extra steps.

An image of a juggler representing the complications of structured content
Image from Image from Rachel Lovinger’s presentation

Authors Need Structured Content

The best author experience has a UI that mirrors the page they think they’re building. Yet it must provide 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, but we need to build our CMS UI for today. ¬†Editors tomorrow will love having structured content. They’ll be able to make updates easily and find content in chunks rather than blobs. Our structured content will save them time, and improve their SEO and UX.

But if we build a CMS with 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. A CMS that uses structured content will only work if we build it so that authors will use it.

It’s our responsibility to create content processes that work for the strategy, but also processes that work for the authors.

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