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Organizing digital information for others

My new book on Organizing Digital Information for Others is out.

When we interact with web and intranet teams, we find many struggling to move beyond conceptual-level discussions on information organization. Hours on end are spent on discussing the meaning of “metadata”, “controlled vocabulary” and “taxonomy” without any strategic understanding of how everything fits together. Being so bogged down at this level they fail to look beyond to the main reason for their pursuit—organizing information for others (the end users) so that they can find the information easily.

Web and intranet teams are not the only ones facing this challenge. Staff in companies are finding themselves tasked with organizing, say, hundreds of project documents on their collaboration space. And they usually end up organizing it in the only way they know—for themselves. Team members then often struggle to locate the information that they thought should be in “this folder”!

In this short book, we explore how lists, categories, trees and facets can be better used to organize information for others. We also learn how metadata and taxonomies can connect different collections and increase the findability of information across the website or intranet.

Personal pronouns: It’s okay to own your web copy

Wonderful post from Brain Traffic on using personal pronouns in your web copy. I do agree, at times, it can be difficult to sell this in some organisations, but I also agree, it may be just a matter of adopting or getting comfortable with a style.

Using personal pronouns may sound like a simple, common-sense web writing best practice. Speaking directly to users with the word “you” is something most companies get on board with easily enough. But those same clients often ask us to avoid self-referential pronouns like “we,” “our,” and “us” in their web copy.

Web project team roles

Kristina Halvorson has put up an interesting diagram that shows how the different roles in a we project team relate to one another.

Three types of web content management projects

Jeff Cram has written about 3 types of content management system projects.

  1. The technical migration
  2. The visual design
  3. The strategic redesign

I think this captures a lot of projects I've done over the years. However, I'd like to add 'The politically motivated' to the list. These are projects that make you wonder why they are "on" in the first place.
[Via ColumnTwo]

Web content migration: disastrous strategy

Gerry McGovern says it's no point taking old intranet content and migrating it to a new system. I do agree that it's a waste of resources to migrate content that is not useful. But many intranets do have useful information. The problem is that the useful info is in bits and pieces and present all over the intranet. This is where migration issues become tricky. Yes, intranets can have a clean up during the redesign, even using copywriters to prep the content. But this is not a long term strategy. Unless there is a shared commitment to publish good quality content, any clean up will last only till the next published piece. A shared commitment takes time and does require constant monitoring. And yes, it does require few people to drive the initiative -- the guiding coalition. Only when this is in place that we can expect to address the reasons for bad content that McGovern lists:

  1. We allow the organization to publish puff, fluff and vanity, instead of focusing on the needs of our customers/staff.
  2. We don’t hire web content professionals. Instead we find the most junior person in the department and give them the job of managing the website.
  3. We don’t see the Web as a unique medium-we just take print content and print thinking and shovel it onto the Web.
  4. We don’t review and quality control. We have practically no processes to take old content off our website.

Turn Usable Content into Winning Content

On writing well for the online environment:

"Findable. Scannable. Readable. Concise. Layered. We know much these days about how to make Web content usable—thanks to experts such as Robert Horn, Jakob Nielsen, Ginny Redish, and Gerry McGovern. What we don’t understand as well, however, is how to make content win users over to take the actions we want them to take or have the perceptions we want them to have. We don’t understand how to make Web content both usable and persuasive. I, by no means, intend to imply that we should sacrifice the usability of content to make it more persuasive. Truly winning content must be both."

Improving the User Experience with In-page Navigation

I've written an article on in-page navigation over at PebbleRoad. Here's the introduction:

In-page navigation techniques are used to layout web content on a page. When used properly they improve the user experience. But when misused they just add to the anxiety. This article chalks out the different in-page navigation options available to us and offers some tips on using them effectively.

F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content

Jakob Nielsen writes about the implications of the F-shaped reading pattern:

An Alternative for Search and Knowledge Management

Dan Ryan of Stellent writes about the benefits of intranet views, a way for the intranet to cater to staff needs:
"The Intranet Views model applies a multi-site Web content management paradigm to document management repositories, giving employees relevant and useful "views" of all knowledge within a company intranet. Essentially, each View is a micro-site based on a topic — such as products, processes or business functions — within a larger intranet that groups information together, so it is contextually relevant for consumers."

Quality Web Content: Writing Resources

Quality Web Content: Writing Resources

Good articles on the writing web content.
[thanks infodesign]

elearningpost: 5 Questions with Gerry McGovern

elearningpost: 5 Questions with Gerry McGovern

I had the opportunity to query Gerry McGovern, widely acknowledged web content guru, on some knowledge management and e-learning issues that were bothering me. Here is the short Q&A session I had with him.

W3C:  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

W3C: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
This Working Draft for version 2.0 builds on WCAG 1.0. It has the same aim: to explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities and to define target levels of accessibility.

Gerry McGovern: Metadata is essential web writing skill

Gerry McGovern: Metadata is essential web writing skill
"Metadata gives your content context. Content that does not have effective metadata is not web content. It is sloppy, next-to-useless print content that has been unprofessionally published on the Web. If you don't have time to publish professional metadata for your content, you shouldn't be allowed to publish anything on a website."

Gerry McGovern: Why organizations think of web content like they think of invoices

Gerry McGovern: Why organizations think of web content like they think of invoices
"The fundamental difference between print content and web content is that web content has the potential to be much more action-oriented. Talk to most managers and they see content as a task that takes them away from their 'real' work. Once written, most content gets left on the shelf.
The modern manager needs to see content as part of their real work. It is no longer the record of work done. The Web is important and content is where the action is."

Intranet Journal: Content Management: What’s in it for me?

Intranet Journal: Content Management: What's in it for me?
"Think of how much information resides on reams of paper or in a file cabinet somewhere, that information can be invaluable to an organization for many reasons. This type of information is referred to as unstructured information. The challenge of acquiring, accessing, managing, and distributing unstructured information are a significant reason organizations looked first to micrographics, then to CM, document imaging, and document management technologies to assist in that endeavor. Today, the Internet is driving an ever-increasing need to provide fresh, timely, and relevant content to their websites. To that end, Web Content Management (WCM) solutions have emerged to assist."

W3C: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

W3C: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
W3C published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) as a Recommendation in May 1999. This Working Draft for version 2.0 builds on WCAG 1.0. It has the same aim: to explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities and to define target levels of accessibility.

New Architect: Demystifying Document Management

New Architect: Demystifying Document Management
The CMS marketplace is complex. Document management, collaboration and versioning tools, digital asset management, learning content management, and Web content management all fall under the CMS umbrella, which also brushes up against topics like CRM, document warehousing, and knowledge management. Each of these areas is distinct from the others, but they are often confused...

ADT: Managing Web Content (via

ADT: Managing Web Content (via webword) Corporate America has long had a mixed response to the question of whether to buy or roll its own applications. That debate is now being renewed in the arena of Web content management. Some customers maintain it makes more sense to build their own system, especially given the rich development tools available today. But analysts generally caution against it, saying it is a giant money pit with little real return.

A List Apart: CMS &

A List Apart: CMS & the Single Web Designer The final goal of any successful CM implementation is to make the creation of web content so easy that more people do it more often: they create more web

Gerry McGovern: The Web Content

Gerry McGovern: The Web Content Style Guide: Designing for the Web: Part 1
The Web was invented as a communications medium for publishing content. Publishing content on the Web is just like publishing content anywhere else. It needs to be concise, well written, well organized, well presented, and well targeted.

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