7.1 Information analysis

The information analysis is a process what an information architect (employed by the CMS vendor?) and a domain expert (mostly a customer) do together. Usually the information architect does not have specific knowledge of the project domain, instead she’s an expert on:

  • structure design
  • editorial process
  • publishing automation

The domain expert does not have the skills listed above, she works for the customer and knows well the

  • current document workflow
  • terminology of the domain

The domain expert can be a linguist ( a dictionary editor), a pharmacist, a ballet teacher… anyone with the specific domain knowledge. They complement each other’s skills, make a team.

They look through a large set of sample documents, analyse their implicit (exists only in human heads) and explicit (marked up) structure and design the new structure fits for the new workflow, new CMS. They should keep a good balance, not to make the deepest structure possible, since more complex structures will be more expensive to work with and maintain. We want a structure which fulfills publishing needs and fits to the workflow. We should try to make “coming future requirements” into account, at least as much as possible.

Most importantly the domain expert should understand the concrete benefits of structuring the content, then she will be much more motivated to find the best possible solution. Structuring the content, changing the editorial workflow, automating the publishing is a time consuming, expensive process. If the analysis is not done properly, then likely it’ll be hard to improve this design gradually later on, so this effort will be wasted, the chance will be missed since the customer won’t invest into similar project for the next 10 years or so.

The most challenging part of the analysis is not technical, but human. Changing the way people used to deal with the authoring process let’s say during the last 20 years… well, that’s hard. The project will meet resistance. If the necessary changes cannot be pushed through because of this resistance and the project - structuring content - will stop half way, then the customer won’t enjoy the real benefits.

What does it mean? The content “does not fit in” whatever the information architect tries to do, so they end up with a very loose structure. Structuring content is about to have a different viewpoint. Give up a bit of flexibility (compared to writing an ordinary office document), but gain more editorial control and automate publishing.

The hardest is to give up flexibility. Sell this in as editors will be guided. Yes, they will be guided what to put in and in which order. Think about dictionary authoring. The editors have to agree on “conventions” in order to make the dictionary consistent. Each editor cannot construct a word article differently. Grammar, pronunciation, examples… have to come in the same order and these have to be formatted consequently.

Also the architect has to convince the users not to think about the layout anymore. They need to think of the structure instead. They must learn the structure: terminology and hierarchy.

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