Content has its Emotional NeedsOctober 11, 2013 at content strategy, information architecture
As humans, we respond and react to different situations all day. We raise eyebrows when we are stuck in an unexpected traffic jam or when the elevator takes too long to reach us. We feel annoyed when MS Word stops responding and we need to start it all over again. By reflex action, we pull our hand back when it brushes against a hot cup of tea. Quite often, we murmur… Jesus! God! Or Crap!
What if content too has its emotions. Consider a few scenarios.
Content Struggles to Move
In the car parking area below my office, I often see drivers struggling to move around and take their car out because of haphazard parking.
Assume that the cars are content chunks, and the parking space offers us the technology (the CMS or structure). Imagine how the content feels if we plan and structure content in the way cars are parked here.
A user searches for some information that is available in content chunk 2. The content is made to follow the arc all the way, and guess how much it adds to the time, cost, and effort. This is all due to poor content planning, modelling and architecture practices.
Unstructured Content is like Patch Work on Broken Road
A website that needs redesign and re-branding is like a broken road that needs complete re-carpeting. Unfortunately, many organizations prefer to have the patch work.
The patch work is a quick fix solution. It often leads to mismatch with the base road, for the strength, the level, and even for style. This mismatch leads to faster disintegration of road, causes more depreciation for vehicles, leads to more fuel consumption, and hence proves to be more costly. However, the city MC loves it although drivers rarely welcome it.
This patch-work is more like unstructured content without a strategy because we fix it where we see gap. Same way, the organization opts to change the RGB and artwork, increase the width from 760px to 1020px, add a few new pages in navigation and rewrite the content. Because of no strategy, a few customers are still clueless and artwork jostles for space in the WYSIWYG editor.
Re-carpeting is like structured content. The road needs to be planned from scratch, for the balance in strength, level and for longivity. It addresses patch-work concerns and gives a smooth riding experience to the riders (the users), and of course to MC also.
Content Needs Its Own Space
Imagine the point where traffic from a flyover and a bye-lane converge. The flyover has space for two streams of cars and the bye-lane has room for one stream of cars. The road where this converged traffic moves is not wide enough to accommodate three streams of cars, which reflects the engineering and planning issue with the traffic management system.
Assume that each moving car reflects content chunk moving around such as to address users’ search query. When unstructured content queries (red cars) try to make their own space in the converged stream, the in-workflow content goes through same emotions (put yourself in the shoes of a green car driver) because there is not ample space for the new stream.
In addition, imagine that a few cars want to take right turn at intersection A. The red cars will particularly jostle around in the stream to make space and get in the right lane. This is what happens with unstructured content and poorly planned content models when implemented in less-adequate CMS.
Content and Ownership
Henri Fayol’s fourth and fifth principles of management apply to content as well.
Imagine content to be a kid. For the first time when a kid takes off his shoes, the mother being a good parent hugs him and asks him to stack the pair in the shoe-rack on top shelf. The child being happy rushes to his father to show that he did a great job. Father says, ‘good job son, but move the pair to the bottom shelf that is meant for you.” The child is confused and he looks at both the parents alternately for whom to listen and trust. This happened because both the parents did not discuss and plan as to which shelf they would allocate for their son’s shoes.
Content goes through same emotions. Imagine a case study that can be referenced from ‘Case Studies’ page, or from the ‘Testimonials’ page. If metadata is not implemented correctly, an important case study may be confused like that child and may struggle to reach its audience when a user searches it for its industry.
Yes, Content Has its Emotional Needs
Socio-psycho-analysts and techno-analysts may disapprove of the above analogies and which is fair enough.
Drivers will continue to struggle parking their cars or and the corporation will continue to order patch works for broken roads. Likewise, users will continue to struggle finding the right information in right context.
I feel that as technical communicators, content strategists and information architects, we will be better served if we work keeping in mind that content has its emotional needs.
Do you too feel the same? Will it help?