time-lapse of stars streaking through the night sky

Nope, that’s not a typo. Yes, I know it’s actually 2016. But sometimes it sure FEELS like it’s 2006 to me.

I talk to content development professionals every day. They come from every industry, company size, and geographic location. And most of the conversations are the same ones I was having 10 years ago. Heck, even 20 years ago.

Advances in Content Development

There have been many changes in the way we deliver content, but not so many changes in the way we create it. There are two notable exceptions to this observation. Many companies have adopted DITA and are using structured authoring to create smaller chunks of content using XML editors. This is no small change and I don’t mean to make it sound insignificant. And some people are using tools like Acrolinx to improve the quality of their writing at the WRITING stage, instead of counting on editors to improve things later in the process.

Still, I often hear, “We need a writer who uses Frame to write release notes for our latest release,” and “We need someone to clean up 350 PowerPoint slides and make them look better.” (Though much of the time those customers have no style guide, no template, and no real idea what “better” means.) And we do it. We’re good at it. Very good at it, actually. You want an incredibly smart, professional, fast API writer? No problem. How about a whole team of editors who you can toss your content to anytime something comes in? Yep, we do that. And we provide great illustrators, layout specialists, instructional designers, and project managers. And don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to do it.

But it seems like so much is changing in the content world – beginning right up front with content strategy and again at the end with big advances in delivery – and so little is evolving in the still-crucial content development process.

I’ve seen companies move their development efforts off shore and back. I’ve seen some make the brave/expensive/hard move to DITA. I’ve seen companies make the commitment to quality and implement systems like Acrolinx to guarantee more consistent results.

Tell me what I’m missing

And that’s it. Surely, I’m missing something. Maybe a lot of somethings? So help me out. Post a comment below and tell me what I’m overlooking. Or tell me about something brand new that none of us has heard about. What are you doing (or considering doing) that will make content development better, faster, or cheaper. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say.