Structured Authoring: The New Normal in Content Production

The science of information retrieval and processing is going through growing pains, as evidenced by last fall’s Hummingbird update and the advances being made by Schema.org leadership.

Now is a key time for marketers and their teams to adjust to the semantic search evolution and be prepared as it continues to develop. This is one of the biggest challenges facing practitioners in our field right now.

Technological change has always had a profound impact on the way humans communicate (consider the printing press). Today, information technology is disrupting some fundamental thinking about how to write for an audience. I’m talking about the development of structured authoring – originally a method favored by technical writers – as the new normal for enterprise-level content production.

To be most effective, modern content needs to be machine-readable for semantic technologies. It needs to be responsive to users at ever-more-granular levels and easily deployed on mobile and stationary devices alike.

The structured authoring approach meets these requirements by allowing writers to create mix-and-match topical chunks of content that can be reused and recombined for diverse audiences. Structured authoring separates presentation from content creation so writers don’t need to worry about formatting. Translation and publishing can be automated for significant cost savings.

These are just a few of the advantages of adopting a structured authoring approach. As semantic technologies expand, these capabilities are going to become ever more important for SEO and other content-dependent business functions.

Adobe’s been working in the structured authoring space for almost 20 years. You may be familiar with our original FrameMaker program, which has been used largely as a technical writing tool. In January 2014, we released FrameMaker 12, which offers significant new structuring capabilities tailor-made for the requirements of modern content authoring.

I would recommend this product even if I didn’t work for Adobe, and here’s why.

In the world of structured authoring programs, consumers can choose between tools that are based on XML, and those that are not. Many, if not most, industry experts favor XML-based programs, and I’m among them, partly due to the many great advances of the W3C XML working groups.

Another reason has to do with timing. XML is the language of the semantic Web, and the semantic Web is our future. HTML and its offshoots are still relevant on the Internet, but the reality is IT is rapidly evolving beyond the boundaries of the Internet.

XML is uniquely suited to support functions that are crucial to modern content needs, including those I outlined above. As our information retrieval environment becomes more sophisticated, I believe more and more enterprises will adopt a structured authoring system. If you’d like to dig deeper into XML best practices, take a look at “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to XML Authoring” and XML Certification Programs.

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