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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The life cycle of online content #ndf2012

The life cycle of online content
Kate Chmiel (@cakehelmit), Museum Victoria
Content is king, declares the familiar refrain. We technologists in the cultural sector talk a lot about brilliant new applications, platforms and containers for web content, but not so much about the slippery business of creating, managing and retiring the content itself. At Museum Victoria we’re working on ways to steer our content and address three of our biggest challenges: what to do with old content, how to make great new content, and how to keep users – external and internal – happy. In this presentation, Kate will run through Museum Victoria’s online content plan, and whether it’s helping us nail the jelly to the tree.


Sean Connery may have been best Bond but not up to job now. Similarly with many old websites. But can take long discussion to turn off old sites.

Should be easy to update content but someone needs time to check content and update.

Generally content worthless unless supporting business objectives and/or fulfilling user needs. Need to make sure stuff is efficient, be sustainable, make content work harder - be reused over multiple platforms.

Often content doesn't need to be made... But if you're going to, need masterplan: a map defining what, when, who, how.
  • When it's born, maintained, retired. Need to return to it regularly and decide if needs to be kept, deleted, updated, replaced. Create an expiry date for content - makes review less painful down the track.
  • Where it's found - not just a "dumping ground of shame". Navigation important but may become less so with new ways of exposing content. Tagging, taxonomy, metadata becoming important.
  • Who - content often gets orphaned; contractors move on, staff get busy with other things. Content needs to get attached to a person, or better a position. Who makes it, edits, links, publishes, updates, removes.
  • How it goes in and comes out. (The bit in the middle is outside her realm.) Need a flexible CMS - but needs to be simple for content providers.
  • What - what's the content? Often needs new container - hard to create container without knowing what will go in it. Content provider working with a template doesn't always know what's happening elsewhere - that's the job of a content strategist.

Keeping everyone happy is biggest part of the job in getting people to change the way they work. Start by asking questions and listening. Who will use it? What do you know about them? How will they get to it? Clarifies purpose for content. Often people make pages for themselves - what they would like if they were the user.

Convert people. Need to convince people why this is a priority. What are the advantages of doing this? What are the disadvantages of not doing it? People are committed; no-one's twiddling their thumbs. Have to convince people this'll save time in longterm. Convince them it has to be done at all. "I spent a lot of time doing this site in 2002 and now you want me to change it?"

Web users rarely initiate communication about problems, just go away. Make user testing a spectator sport. Pick a day a month - stream the video of the testing, have tea and coffe and invite people (developer, manager, everyone...) to watch and discuss. (Have done it once but not ingrained as a habit.)

Working with researchers, some people will never play, but don't let them hold back others. Just do it - maybe professional rivalry will then come into play.

Content strategy - focus is on content rather than container. Create once, publish everywhere. Get out of pattern of thinking that website is done. Currenly most of the innovative work is happening outside of the website. Make sure our content is great so it's always worth consuming.