Achieving a Shareable Information Ecosystem for Your Association

By Jacqui Olkin and Duane Degler

Today’s association may be a producer of information, a curator of information, and an authority on subjects within its profession. It may be a publisher, education provider, event sponsor, public advocate, and think tank, and it may own different technical platforms to house the information associated with each of these roles: a website, journal site, magazine site, chapter sites, learning management system, and so on.

No wonder this information, in all these different systems, is increasingly difficult to keep up-to-date, maintain without redundancies, and present in an easily discoverable, unified way within the association’s information ecosystem.

Meanwhile, the association’s information exists in a larger context: Its profession’s information space. To contribute content and other information to allied organizations and others with an interest in the profession, the association must concern itself with existing industry data standards and nomenclature. Standardizing information makes it more easily understood in context, retrievable and shareable across systems, and maintainable without duplication.

Where to Start?

How can your association provide information that is easily discovered by members and other customers, …

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Get Rid of Your Junk Before You Move

The other day a Salvation Army truck pulled up to a house on my street where professional movers had just moved in a new owner. The driver and his colleague carried several large pieces of furniture and some smaller items into the truck to haul them away. I wondered why my new neighbor had paid to move all that stuff, if he was just going to get rid of it a week later.

This scenario reminds me of website redesigns and the importance of content inventories. Why would you want to move outdated or irrelevant content into your new website? It’s much more efficient to decide what to keep and what to get rid of well before you migrate content to a new website. By making these decisions early, you reap the following benefits:

make the process of organizing your site (information architecture) smoother help focus the scope and purpose of the site and reveal any content gaps that need to be filled get writers/editors started and finished well before you need to move content into the new site get …

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photo of scary house

Eight Reasons You Need to Audit Your Web Content

When we redesign an existing website, the first step is a thorough content audit. The premise is, you have to know what content you have in order to make good decisions about what to do with it. Some content may be migrated to the new site as is. Some will need to be revised. Some can be eliminated. New content may need to be written to fill gaps.

Let’s be honest, though: Content audits are a pain. They are labor-intensive and can be time-consuming, especially for very large sites. (For ideas for auditing large sites without losing your mind or blowing your schedule, see this post from Brain Traffic’s blog: http://blog.braintraffic.com/2012/04/auditing-big-sites-doesn%E2%80%99t-have-to-be-taxing/.)

Staring down a content audit spreadsheet, clients sometimes ask, “Do we really have to do this?”

Dear clients, Yes. We really need to audit your content. To convince you, I’ve put together a list of reasons, collected from various projects over the years.

You need to audit your content because:

Not even you know what’s on your …

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“Requires Internal Discussion”

I was reviewing the written feedback on an annotated site map I had produced for a website redesign. Throughout the document, my client–an international association–had written, “We need to discuss this internally.” This kind of feedback doesn’t help, I thought. I couldn’t update the site map and get it approved until the client team had their discussion. I felt a loss of momentum.

But then I realized that although my client’s comments didn’t constitute feedback on the site map, they were helpful to the project overall. The client team was signaling that they “got it.”

Some clients nod their heads in agreement when they look at a new site map or wireframe but balk later in the project, when it sinks in that this new way of organizing their content also entails new approaches to producing and managing content. This particular client realized the implications of the new site map. It wasn’t just a new navigation scheme. It represented a new way of working, and also a new way of thinking about their website and its role in the association’s …

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