I’ve started to notice a trend in structured authoring. In the past, almost all of our customers who implemented structured authoring were established companies with a lot of legacy content. And most of the writers were very technical. Rarely did I see young companies implement structured authoring from the beginning.

Back then, structured authoring tools were more like programming environments than interfaces that could be used for any type of creative process. And writing included a fair bit of coding-like activities, such as manually assigning tags. 

Now I’m seeing younger companies interested in structured authoring from the beginning. Long before there are tens or hundreds of thousands of pages of content written in a monolithic form, these young companies are realizing the benefits of starting in a structured environment

Why is this happening? I think there are a few reasons. 

  • Ease of use. Over time, the authoring interfaces have become much easier to use. You no longer need to understand the details of XML to create content. 
  • Feature sets are more robust. Companies need many of the features that structured authoring products offer. For example, built in workflow and collaborative review, versioning and tracking, and more. This is particularly true for companies in highly regulated industries such as life sciences and finance.
  • Content is translated right away. In the past, companies could release a product in a single language to start. Translations would come later. In today’s global world, most companies are required to ship products and their associated content in multiple languages from the start. Managing translated content is significantly easier, faster, and cheaper in a structured environment. Plus you get the added benefit of having your translation memories stay relatively clean for quite a while.
  • Ubiquity. The concepts around content reuse, component-based writing, and multichannel publishing are no longer new and different. Most people understand the theory and are ready to put it into action. 
  • People are prepared. Today’s Bachelor and Masters degree programs in technical communication acknowledge that graduating students need to understand the latest technologies in order to be marketable. Most of these programs are teaching the fundamentals of structured authoring. Some even have tools for the students to learn. 

The companies that use structured authoring from the beginning are poised to save time and money, while improving accuracy and quality. And they can do so without the added expense of transforming legacy content from an unstructured environment to structure. 

Whether you’ve been in an unstructured environment for decades or are getting ready to ship your first project, Content Rules has been helping customers with content strategy, structured authoring, and content transformation for decades. If you are starting your journey into structured authoring, we can help.

Val Swisher
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