Nine Content Practices

Managing a content library is different – more involved – than creating a single manual, policy, or guidebook.

And to effectively manage a library – an intranet, a website, fileshare, knowledge base, c: drive, or whatever – you need to incorporate some skills beyond simply being an excellent writer. You’ve got to consider more than just the tree, you have to think about the whole forest and how users will find the individual trees.

So while an author thinks about things like

  • audience and objective
  • writing quality
  • and channel (or distribution) 

A library manager needs to think about how users can reference information months or years later, how to keep it around, keep it updated, and make it easy to find. You have to manage it. And to manage it – and keep your intranet, fileshare, or knowledge base organized – you need a larger toolkit of best practices.

9 Content Practices to Manage a Document Library

A good document library consists of useful information that is easy to find and readily consumable by someone in a hurry.

It’s also made up of a bunch of individual documents created by individual people and accumulated over time. Some clients refer to it as “Content Chaos”.

These 9 Content Practices help ensure your documents are useful, findable, and consumable/easy to absorb, and keep them that way over time.

  1. Content Strategy – who is this for, and what do I want to accomplish?
  2. Writing – tone and voice; speaks to users in their own language
  3. Content Modeling – consistency in presentation improves learning and retention, makes creating new documents faster
  4. Distribution – what channels, which formats; is information pushed to users (as in email), or requested by users (from an intranet)?
  5. Content Architecture – where do documents ‘live’, how are they related to each other, and how do they work together?
  6. Content Engineering – re-use information across documents, localize policies, facilitate translation; use meta data for easier search
  7. Measurement – who is using the document, how are they finding it, and what channels work best.
  8. Content Design – words, charts, images; headings, lists, callouts; good design aids skimming
  9. Content Operations – who can make changes, how often can they make them, and how are they approved; how to retire old documents and introduce new ones

Each one of these content practices works with the others to keep documents relevant and accurate. Some items are more art than science, some provide a framework for groups of documents to work together, and some matter more than others.

But each of these content practices exists – to some degree – in every good document. The more documents you have, the more important these 9 content practices are to your library.