Web Content Workshop with Relly Annett-Baker

As if I wasn't excited enough about attending a Web Directions South 2011 workshop about content being run by Relly Annett-Baker, but then I find out during her introduction that she's working with those brilliant people at CERN to wrangle web content for the Large Hadron Collider well - let's just say that it was mostly the canines in the area who could hear my squeee'ing.

Workshops before conferences are the bomb. First of all, they get you into the grove so that when you hit the conference you don't spend much time adjusting your shorts and getting acclimatised to not being at work. Secondly, these speakers who come Downunder to speak at Web Directions and Webstock: they know their onions.

Relly really knows her onions

Do you want to know how she knows her onions? She's learned from experience, from mistakes, from her network of colleagues, from the pain of working with clients who just do not get it. She presented us with great ideas - but even more valuably - really, Relly-practical advice and steps - STEPS - to how to DO this content wrangling stuff.

What makes good content?

  1. take away all the bad content
  2. replace it with all the good content


Website Audits

Relly got right down to business talking about web site audits. There are two types:

  • qualitive - the quality of the content produced (does it meet user needs, have the right content, is the content valuable?)
  • quantative - the bones of the content (number of pages, the links, the id tags, heading tags, meta data, H1/H2 headings)

Collecting every page URL, deciding who owns it, capturing the title, deciding whether it needs editing, re-writing, or deleting and then putting that information into a spreadsheet is a big job for most sites, but is so important to give a real sense of the size and shape of the site. To recognise the spidery growth the site has probably experienced over the years since it's went live and to see where content is duplicated, missing or just plain wrong.

The spreadsheet keeps a track of the thoughts as we read every page of our site while asking ourselves:

  • what is the point of this page?
  • what is good? bad? missing?
  • who owns this content?

This is time consuming but important to do the first time, and then becomes part of a regular, scheduled, ongoing audit that is all about looking after the site's content and value to users.

Page Tables

This really got my juices going. Having come from an interactive/elearning background, I am very used to story-boards. It never occurred to me that content could be, or should be, story-boarded! In the content world though, they're called Page Tables.

A page table works for each individual page on your site and what you want to put there. What goes into a page table, I hear you ask:

  • ownership, detail, process and implications of this page and content
  • messaging (what are we trying to communicate - set a priority of points)
  • methodology (format, what is it going to be - who will update it, ownership, dependencies)
  • call to action (connection, related content, learn more, follow on SM, find out more about me)

For example, include:

  1. Page title
  2. Sub heading
  3. Opening (This article will cover, By the end the reader will be able to)
  4. Messages (What am I trying to explain)
  5. How do I break these up into headings
  6. Content (Current content on site)
  7. Call to Action (What would I like people to do next?:)
  8. Description tag /tagging?
  9. What a good sentence to describe this article?
  10. What should I tag it with to allow searching for related content?
  11. What else?
  12. Do I need to prepare images/audio/video/other articles etc?
  13. Ownership/Signoff


"Suddenly content isn't this thing that pixies magic up" Relly said, "it's actually hard work - it requires team work and the client is part of the bargain."

How do we make good content on the new, new web?

Relly finished up the workshop with a list of things we need to do, to create a state-of-mind for making and governing content. We need to make content:

  • ACCESSIBLE - include information about how to use the physical space, to complete the task they want to do once they have the information on board. A literacy level that encompasses the broadest range of people. Translations. Look at the design, location aware (closest post office).
  • SEARCHABLE - not just to get to the front door but how to find your way around once you've opened it. Meta data is optimised so there are unique keywords and descriptions for site search. Curate search results.
  • FINDABLE - smart (human) URLs, shorteners may not be all they could be/should be/ obscure destination and may hide phishing activities. Be true to your site. use the inverted pyramid to display authentic valuable content. Tag with sense.
  • DESIRABLE - the best content is that which people want, and need.
  • SHARABLE - via social media. Make it Tweetable. curated content/trusted sources => good for organisations to do with quality syndication.
  • SELECTABLE - allow people to be able to find content within it, to be able to share it, to be able to build upon it - points in recordings, anchors in text, choose the bits they want. Is there a disconnect between creator and consumer? free to repurpose it as they wish. annotate it.
  • SELF AWARE - cr oss referencing. tagged. linked. semanic.(splines) linkedata.org
  • PORTABLE - across all devices. not stucked on one planet. it's important enough to take with us. ownership of space is becoming an issue rather than the content on it. who can access to? who are we denying it to?
  • FLEXIBLE - grow into the containers content is in. responsive. ubiquitous computing, invisible information SPLINES.

Relly Annett-Baker promised that she would put a fire in my belly and by goodness, she sure did. She put more strings in my bow and more powder in my horn. She unveiled a few new tools which will help hone the work of all of us lucky enough to have been in her workshop. She delivered her message loud and clear, with humour, fun and energy - and may just have changed my life.