Learning #1: No one is creating or managing content the same way.
Content authors and publishers are few and far between. They work in separate buildings, miles apart, and are often content-teams-of-one in their department. Some people edit content daily while others only edit content once a month. For every-day users, our content management system is familiar despite the many workarounds people have for being able to publish error-free content. For seldom users, the content management system is a big black box that needs to be explored and relearned each time they log on.
Design an intuitive content workflow that even the most seldom users feel confident using.
Build a bridge between content creators and content coaches so people know where to go when they have questions about crafting content.
Learning #2: Content management is a marathon, not a sprint.
When something new needs to go online, there’s a mad rush to update content. This rush puts publishers in crisis mode where they feel they need to drop everything and redirect their attention to the website. Conversely, once content is published, it’s rarely updated and probably doesn’t have a direct content owner. We use SiteImprove to tell us when there’s a broken link on austintexas.gov, but in general–content is published then forgotten.
One publisher told us, “If I have time, I look at different pages for errors…but I don’t ever have extra time.”
Another publisher has designed an elaborate system for managing necessary updates.
We need to identify content owners who are responsible for maintaining and archiving specific content.
To create a reliable system for publishing new content that doesn’t send authors and publishers into crisis mode and sets expectations with content requesters.
Learning #3: Most of our content is ready for the archives.
We did a shallow inventory of AustinTexas.gov primary navigation and discovered it’s not working well because it’s seldom used. We did a deep dive into one department’s content and discovered that a majority of this department’s digital content was informational (example of a static, informational page). Only 35% of their content was a service or interactional page (example of an interactional service page). Interestingly, the service pages received a higher number of visitors than the informational pages.
“What is this? I don’t want to browse around [for recycling information].” - Scott, resident
“I don’t want to throw something dangerous away like batteries.” - resident
Design information architecture that parallels people’s natural search patterns.
Coach our content creators to write people-oriented, actionable content that’s relevant and readable to residents.
Give authors and publishers the support and tools they need to manage that content over time.
Prototyping and testing content management workflow and related tools that build author and publisher confidence, ultimately improving content quality for people who need to use Austin.gov
Make sure the people, tools, and resources are in place to support high content standards.
Technology, as cool and amazing as it is, means nothing without the right people with the right skills to manage, maintain and innovate on that technology.
We’ve designed four ways to ensure that we will have the people, tools and resources to support high content standards.