Make Your Life Easier by Implementing Reusable Content

Let’s imagine a company that produces a good deal of content. Jane is responsible for content management, and her boss keeps asking her to add paragraphs, add new pictures and links or insert rich media after the content is published. Again and again and again. And Jane has to fix the wrongs in every single content location and on every single platform. As a result, Jane never leaves work early, and that’s very wrong. Implementing reusable content would definitely change the situation.

Many content strategists and mobile designers make the same mistake: they imagine that their content lives in a particular platform. This mindset creates limitations and drawbacks that are connected with the platform. You can make your content responsive, adaptive, and reusable so you can control all the benefits and limitations yourself. Forget about a single context, and concentrate on content reusability and shareability.

Image credit: Riccardo Cuppini

A few simple rules allow you to reuse content from the web for your mobile platform or simply make your content universal, regardless of the platform:

  1. Create self-consistent headings that are ready-to-use for both links and pages. Make sure your headings contain keywords that will entice your reader into clicking and going deeper or further into your content. This is also great for search engine optimization.
  2. Create multiple headings (that is, multiple versions of one heading). Some of them can be used as page titles while the others can be used as links. Karen McGrane, the author of Content Strategy for Mobile, provides the following examples:
  • Article Title: “What’s Eating the NYPD?”; link: Why the NYPD Is Turning on Ray Kelly (New York Magazine, http://bkaprt.com/csm/47)
  • Article Title: “Citizen Cain”; link: Herman Cain’s Unlikely Republican Rise (Newsweek, http://bkaprt.com/csm/48)
  • Article Title: “When Is a Flip Not a Flop?”; link: The Fate of the Republicans Who Supported Gay Marriage (The New York Times Magazine, http://bkaprt.com/csm/49).

The longer headlines and the link titles can be both used as summaries of the articles in the examples above.

3) Put the most important and meaty content upfront. It’s essential to capture your reader and provoke him or her to click on your link. He or she will switch to another page quickly if there’s nothing catchy about your content. This is even more important for content that should be used in different contexts. Protect yourself from losing your leads even if your content is cut down in search queries or for other reasons. Your very first sentence should be engaging; if it’s not, why would your reader want to see more?

Photo credit: depone / Foter / CC BY-SA

At the same time, your content should be structured so it makes sense: each paragraph or section should concentrate on a certain main idea. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and scan the text while looking for main sentences. The process is much easier if these sentences are highlighted somehow. People don’t have time to read everything, so why not make the process easier for them, regardless of the platform? Add font distinctions and visual separative elements, and highlight your main ideas to answer customers’ questions better than your competitors can. Don’t overlook the most influential information in your content chunks.

4) Use alternative content. Everyone agrees that it’s frustrating when necessary and useful content is not displayed properly on a mobile device because of screen limitations or format capability. Think about long infographics and videos that are supported only by Flash players. If you want to add such content to your website or any other resource, an alternative should be developed as a substitute for elements that just won’t fit.

For example, prepare cropped down versions of all your pictures that will fit onto any screen, from tiny cell phones up to giant retina screens. If you can’t crop down the existing image, design a new one that reflects the same meaning.

Data visualizations, such as charts and graphics, work great only if they can be reused across platforms. If you can’t read a cute pie chart on a mobile screen, replace it with a table showing the same data.

If you work with video and audio content (for example, interviews or webinar records), always add a transcript to make your content even more flexible for reuse. It will make your link SEO-friendly and accessible for people who can’t watch videos or listen to audio files.

5) Organize your content for reuse. Most people don’t want to create a content database for planned reuse. When you distribute content to multiple destinations, you create new copies of it. If you want to change something, you need to fix it in all the content locations.

Photo credit: Ktinka / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

If you work with scaled multichannel publications, you will need a cross-platform content management system that allows you to update content only in one spot while the change is made everywhere. My next article will tell you more about structure as an essential feature of the adaptive content.

Have you implemented any of these content management practices into your mobile app strategy? Can you tell the difference between “before” and “after”?