Content Management Tidbits

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Archive for March 2008

Succinct Wisdom: Traps You Set for Yourself

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This brand new column is for short and very practical suggestions. Enjoy!

Who’s the Content Manager’s worst enemy? The Content Manager, of course, who should be smart enough to write/author content needing as little updating as possible. Remember this, next time you land on a page reporting the statement that something is x years old.

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Written by Paola

March 25, 2008 at 7:39 am

Many Hands, Just One Voice

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Reading back the previous entries, I realized that I focused mostly on the essence of the role of a CM, and I didn’t give any of those nice tips&tricks people so badly need when they make their reaserches online… (if you want, put a colon and a closing bracket here — yours truly doesn’t like emoticons too much!)

So, let me make up for my academical ramblings, and let’s take a closer look together at the daily routine of managing content. One of the first qualities you want your content to display is: consistency. You want your web content to be consistent with the offline materials: style, tone, vocabulary… you name it. Different content, sure, but same facts, and a “familiar” way to present them. The user must recognize the “tune” your company is singing.

It’s an easier task when your company is small: you may end up managing all the content, thus having the most consistent communication around (and maybe no life whatsoever outside the work premises). It gets more complicated when you manage a team for a bigger company: many heads, many styles. It gets really tricky when you manage localized pieces of content. It can become a living nightmare when you juggle with all the above variables in a complex multinational company.

So… where do you start?

Keeping. It. Simple. (Stupid. No, I’m not insulting you, I promise! That’s a not-so-obscure reference for the first-hour web designers. KISS. Internal joke. Sorry, it’s such an amazing day today, it’s almost exhilarating! I can’t help it! OK, Back to business.)

So, here’s the first über-practical tip.
Write simply.
Can it be that simple? Yes, it is that simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy.

First, because every writer is (or should be) pretty literate. And sometimes pretty literate people tend to overdo when writing: it’s like an intoxication of words, it takes a while to sweat it off your system.

Secondly, because some languages demand complex synthax. It may come pretty easily for the English/American natives. I know for sure that it’s not so easy at all for Romance languages speakers.

So: short phrases. Second-guess your well-formed sentences. If you feel like describing a noun with two adjectives just stop and think: “Do I really need the second adjective?”. More often than not you don’t. And if you think really hard you may end up realizing that you don’t even need the first one. And that choosing another — more fitting — noun would address the problem to the root.

I can hear somebody in the background coughing. You’re right. Busted. I. Don’t. Write. Very. Simply. At least here. But I have two major excuses. First, this is my blog: that is my very personal corner, which probably tells more about the way my mind works than about the work I do. And, last but not least, I just finished re-reading for the twentieth time Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco: a triumph of logical, synctactical, lexical and erudite complexity (four adjectives! FOUR!). It’s so intoxicating, it will take me weeks to sweat it off.

In the meanwhile, we can do some exercises together. I’m sure it will help.

Subject. Verb. Complement. If any, that is. And then, a nice round period.

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Written by Paola

March 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm

10 Ways To Not Step on the Information Architect’s Toes

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Due to some copywriting deadlines (yes! I’m currently back to my old freelance job), I’ve been neglecting the blog for a few weeks. For which I’m sorry.

But I’m even sorrier because I basically lied to capture your attention. So let me spill the beans.

There’s no way a Content Manager can avoid stepping on the IA’s toes. There are several ways a CM and an IA can coexist peacefully (and, sometimes, productively) instead.

First and only rule is: being flexible. Not all web projects are alike. For instance an e-commerce website requires a great deal of attention to product presentation and to the purchasing process (if we are smart enough the post-purchase phase will be considered too); the rest is a (very important, but still) accessory. A digital magazine, on the other hand, must be built having in mind the whole picture: it’s like a multi-purpose building, and for each and every purpose we must preview a solution; architecture is pivotal.

So, how do an IA and a CM interact on this? Let’s make it a little trivial: the CM must know every single component of the website, and the IA must envision the big picture. More often than not, when a CM and an IA talk to each other, it helps them achieving their particular knowledge: from micro to macro, from small to big, from the single part to the whole, in web projects constant communication between the two helps improving the final outcome. For content may have some quirkiness that helps the IA coming up with an alternative (and better) solution; and, on the other hand, an unorthodox architecture could spark new ideas in the CM’s mind about a new way to propose content to the audience.

In any case, be always ready to correct, improve or dramatically change your initial ideas in the process. And never (ever) take it personally. Defend your ideas, but don’t get too attached to them: two heads think better than one. Especially when they think in unison.

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Written by Paola

March 15, 2008 at 1:03 pm