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Creating content for the digital world
As an author, your focus is the same it has always been: providing the highest quality content to your audience. However, your audience has changed. The print book is now just another format, as technology creates new ways for users to access and interact with your content. It also shapes their expectations of what digital content should be and how it should behave.
To help you overcome these challenges we have created Elsa: an easy-to-use, online, end-to-end content creation platform for our Book authors, Contributors and Editors, designed to address your biggest publishing challenges. Reach more readers, save time, and create content that’s available to anyone, anywhere, at the time they need it most.
While writing for digital platforms isn’t fundamentally different than writing for print books, it is important to consider the reader’s expectations and behaviors to make sure your content has the greatest reach and impact.
- Users are short on time, have shrinking attention spans, and resources abound
If your users don’t find the information they want quickly – whether it be by scanning content or search results – they will go somewhere else to find it.
- Users are used to getting the right information, in the right format, at the right time
Just as we expect to obtain a list of the best Italian restaurants within a five-minute walk of our hotel on our phone within a second, your readers expect to find exactly the piece of information they are looking for with similar ease. You can blame Google, Siri, and Alexa for this!
- You never know a user’s point of entry to your content
The number of people who will read your book in a linear fashion is probably very slim. Some users will navigate directly to the chapter of greatest interest. Others will enter a chapter via a table or an image that is surfaced in search results. Still others will happen upon your content after going down a very deep wormhole of clicks.
- Machines are your first readers
In the age of the semantic web, machines read your content before most humans. In other words, machines are the gatekeepers to your content. If you want to drive the impact of your content, it must be machine-readable. How do you make sure yours is? Read on!
Tips for writing better digital content
Now that we’ve discussed why we need to consider content differently in the digital age, let’s look at a few simple things you can do to help make your content function better, be more discoverable, and have more impact on digital platforms.
- Tag your content
This is by far the most powerful thing you can do to create high-quality digital content. (Hint: think about what terms a user might use when searching for the piece of content you are tagging).
Elsa will help you to tag your content, and in applying these tags, your content goes from being understood by machines as “a book chapter about x” to being understood as “a book chapter about x that also discusses the following concepts, and contains specific paragraphs, images, and tables on x, y, z, as well as descriptions of three different methods and two specific protocols.”
- Create “standalone” content
You certainly don’t want your book to be a mish-mash of elements with no cohesion; however, make sure that individual elements like images and tables make sense if consulted without the context of surrounding text. Avoid legends such as “Figure 1” or “Detail of procedure listed above” that don’t provide any meaningful information.
- Choose descriptive and meaningful chapter titles and headings
Opt for titles and headings that clearly describe the content (Ex: Prefer “New Treatment Therapies for Pediatric Diabetes” to “What’s new?”).
- Consider synoptic formats
Examine areas in which long-form content would benefit from a more synoptic format such as a list, table, or image. Remember that users – digital or print – first scan to find the information they want and will dig deeper if they want more detail.
- Favor a larger number of discrete chapters
It is easier for users and machines to find granular bits of content in smaller chapters that map to a single concept as opposed to broad chapters covering many related concepts.
Furthermore, large chapters often require a complex web of heading levels to organize all the content. This can confuse users and leave them struggling to perceive relationships in the content hierarchy, which ultimately, reduces the efficacy of your content.
- Avoid large tables
Let’s face it, gigantic tables aren’t user friendly in print ordigital format. Consider breaking large tables into smaller ones or expressing information in a different way.
Print is declining, but the value of your content certainly is not. As you begin a new writing project, consider the expectations of digital users and think about the minor adjustments that will make your content shine no matter the format.
You can find out more about ELSA here.