Content strategy lost and found
- PostedOnText 27 November 2017
- EstimatedReadingTimeText minutesText
Where else can it be? Our passport appointment is tomorrow and I am still looking for my daughter’s birth certificate. In fact, this is my second day looking for it. Yesterday, I looked where we normally store documents: in well-organized folders, with each child’s name clearly marked; her folder wasn’t there. Then I searched my home office. Maybe it was accidentally placed in the wrong folder. I looked through every other folder. Still no luck. And now I’m going to look through every remaining piece of paper I have in my possession. It might take a while, but at least I’ll find it.
Four hours later: there’s no more paper left and still no birth certificate. On a positive side, I now know where every other document is located. I also classified the rest of our papers into trash and non-trash piles, with the trash pile containing the vast majority of documents. Regretfully, I still don’t have a birth certificate, but while I was searching, I came up with alternative approaches - Plan A: convince the passport authority that a birth certificate is not required to issue her a passport, or Plan B: obtain a new birth certificate.
While plan A failed very quickly, plan B turned out to be surprisingly simple. Half an hour and $25 later, I held a freshly-minted birth certificate for my daughter and completed passport application in hand.
While I still don’t know where her original birth certificate is, I realized several parallels between my personal experience and how content strategy impacts the authoring experience when working with our Sitecore clients:
Structure and content filing strategy
Several factors can influence the efficiency of information retrieval. One of the critical factors is content filing. Sitecore promotes a hierarchical content structure as well as a search-only structure called Buckets. Both are extremely flexible, but require that organizations put a governance policy in place to define and enforce standards including taxonomy, naming conventions, and folder structure. Having one logical location for a document promotes efficient search and retrieval. Having confidence that an item is stored in a specific location or nowhere at all helps to minimize search time. In most large organizations, a team of editors and marketers work on a vast body of content that is created over the course of years. So, searching for that much-needed content can take a significant effort. Otherwise, one might end up creating duplicate content. But with all the time saved during search efforts, occasional duplication is a reasonable trade-off in many situations.
In my case, if I had only looked in the folder where the birth certificate was normally stored and was convinced that it wasn’t going to be found, I could have stopped searching immediately and saved countless hours.
Keeping up with soaring data volume
With storage costs being as low as they are, it seems inexpensive to keep everything. However, the true cost of having information that is no longer relevant in the production system significantly impacts the productivity of people who have to sift through it on a daily basis to find what is relevant. An archive policy should address how to prevent the ever-growing amount of unused content. Sitecore provides a native capability to archive, recycle, and remove items based on version and time. With a bit of customization, a more complex archiving policy can be achieved. I have seen folders for “special deals” where well over 95% of the items displayed were no longer needed, but still appeared in the content tree. For example, on websites that constantly create time-limited marketing content, items can be recycled once the promotional period is over. There are generally two reasons why information is kept: uncertainty about whether or not the information is used today, or if it might be re-used in the future. The first concern can be addressed by checking if the information is not actively used on the website (by recursively checking references). Had I known that it would only take me 30 minutes and $25 to replace a birth certificate, I would not have spent two days frantically looking for it. While it can be difficult to predict what will be useful in the future, it might be easier to estimate the replacement time or cost of the content today.
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