What is reusable content?
A structured content approach pushes teams to think of content as data and to create flexible content models that form the backbone of the project. From there, the content can populate these models which can in many cases be used in a variety of projects, thus divorcing the idea that content must be tied to a specific presentation layer or a single project.
For a more in-depth look at structured content, check it out here.
Structured content is built on the base of two different types of content: single-use content and reusable content. Single-use content is content that relies on a specific context to be valuable. In WYSIWYG content management, most of the content created is single-use content that cannot be easily transferred to other presentation layers. Reusable content, however, is modeled to be used throughout a project or in several projects.
Reusable content is modular and flexible, making it possible to create long-lasting content which is intended to be used in a variety of places throughout the project. At first thought, content like value propositions, customer quotes, and call to action can be the most basic forms of reusable content. As teams consider their specific use case and projects, more content will make itself apparent as good candidates for reusable content.
Teams that choose to build more content that is reusable, will save content creators time in the initial creation of the project but also as time goes on with the maintenance of the project. When creating reusable content, teams are able to take advantage of the create once, publish everywhere mentality. Freeing editors from the arduous task of searching through every page looking for the pieces of content that need to be updated to reflect the newest mission.
How to balance reusable content with single-use content?
When creating projects that are spanning multiple presentation layers, there are several important factors for determining what kind of content should be single-use content and what should be reusable. The first is thinking about what is the most important information that you are trying to communicate to the end user and is that information the same as another project? The second critical factor is how is the end-user interacting with the data and does the current content model meet the needs of the second project? If it does not, does it make more sense to adapt the current model to be reusable or make a project-specific model to communicate the information? In many instances, when teams are trying to communicate similar information or pull from the same dataset, it will make more sense to use or adapt the existing content model.
Finding the balance between creating single-use content and reusable content will be highly case-specific. Reusable data will be that which is relevant across different devices and is not tightly bound to the presentation layer. Content that is a good candidate for being reusable is that which the audience interacts similarly and is intended to receive a similar understanding as to when that information is presented in a different context. It should be noted that not all content will be reusable and that it should not be the goal to create it as such. The goal is to find the content that should remain consistent across platforms as the core content and then add in single-use content that will be highly relevant to the specific device or presentation layer. In finding the balance between these two broad categories of content, teams will enable their content teams to work quickly and keep their content models flexible.
How to build content that can be reusable?
Teams that are looking for some strategies for understanding what of their content could work well as reusable content should look no further. Here are some strategies for evaluating what content is reusable content across devices. When teams are working to build reusable content that goes beyond the apparent choices, such as author models, mission statements, customer spotlights, or value propositions. Some types of reusable content will be easy to spot because teams will notice similar content that is being used or referenced in several content models. Content that is relevant in many contexts demonstrates a good candidate for reusable content. It requires teams to dig a little deeper and begin to group potential content types into several categories. This can be done with content that should be present in the new project being created, or existing content in an existing project if applicable.
Teams should first create a list of all of the types of content that will be included in the project. From there, teams can consider what the intent of the content is and what the end-user will engage with. Initially grouping content by intent will help teams understand what the intended outcome is for each type of content and how users will interact with that content. This can be enlightening for a variety of reasons but can also help demonstrate if content types have patterns or if teams are able to create more simplified reusable content that is enhanced with single-use content that is device-specific.
After teams have grouped content based on purpose, teams should try to group content based on how long this content must remain relevant. Understanding which content should be evergreen and which is intended for short term consumption will help give teams a better understanding of what should be reusable. Evergreen content is the best candidate for reusable content if it is used in many places throughout a project or across projects. Content that has a shorter lifecycle may function more effectively as single-use content. This, however, is highly case-specific and teams must determine based on their use case, various presentation layers, current stage of the project what content works well as reusable content.
Ultimately, it is most important to understand the relevance of the content to the users. This will be another key factor in creating reusable content that is suitable across devices. When teams are designing content around customer needs, it will be easy to see if customers are sharing the same needs when interacting with their content across devices. In breaking down content by customer needs, teams will get a broad overview of where those needs are across devices and can create reusable content around those needs.
There are always instances where content is channel-specific and cannot be reusable. This single-use content is also a necessary piece of the puzzle; however, designing content around reusable content and using single-use content as the seasoning that will elevate the rest of the project. Finding the balance between reusable and single-use content will save teams time and create a more cohesive, meaningful experience for the user, wherever they interact with the content.