Special Guest Blog by Eeshita Grover, Cisco: Authoring for Knowledge Portals
With content growing everyday, 2.5 QUINTILLION BYTES OF DATA CREATED DAILY, knowledge portals are gaining more and more popularity. Designed with sophisticated search and navigation, knowledge portals provide ease of use and access to relevant content. In today’s content rich world, everyone is writing and generating content, using blogs, wikis, and so-called stream of consciousness. In my opinion, there are knowledge portals that are broad and general, like Wikipedia. And then there are specific ones, like enterprise knowledge portals focused on offerings from a business entity.
When architecting a knowledge portal, two key aspects come into play – content authoring and defining the content experience. While the web designer and user experience experts will build a state of art front end, there are best practices for the authors to follow.
Content Authoring – As part of content authoring, let’s focus on the knowledge base, definition of a topic, metadata, and governance.
- Knowledge Base – In general, a knowledge base is a centralized repository of information: a public library, a database of related information about a particular subject. (Whatis.com) This database could be internal or external depending on the nature of the audience accessing it.
The knowledge base is where all your content lives: Structured, unstructured, user guides, configuration guides, sales presentation, marketing collateral, training decks so on and so forth.
This database can be a flat file system, a complex content management system, or even better, a component management system. A scalable and holistic database will lend to effective content experience. For example, a knowledge portal for a networking company gives a CTO pricing information for products, a security administrator troubleshooting information, and a student definitions for an industry standard.
- What is a topic? What makes a meaningful, self-contained topic? A topic can be a description of a concept or a multi-step procedure depending on the topic you are writing about. It could be an excerpt from a marketing white paper or a complex product deployment diagram from a sales presentation. And, your user/reader can search for it because of the metadata associated with it.
- Metadata – Simply put, metadata is data about data, keywords about your topic or set of topics. Classifications and taxonomy with rich metadata permeate through content enabling a metadata-driven architecture for a knowledge portal.
- Governance – For longevity and success of a corporate website, a retail online store, or an enterprise knowledge portal, rules and governance have to be established. Governance brings roles, responsibilities, and workflows. These components impact customer experience leading to revenue streams, demand generation, and customer loyalty.
Content Experience – It’s all about customization! Enabling a sophisticated content experience is key to personalization. The more personal and custom experience you let the user taste, the better you score in customer satisfaction. Content experience is based on the audience’s persona analysis, their goal, and what they expect. Dwell time and number of clicks translate into the ability to track your user’s journey from start to finish. Clear insight of personas helps define revenue streams and demand generation.
One of the known facts is that in any enterprise content is created in silos. Whether it’s a big enterprise or a 50-person startup, the entire cross-functional team is creating content in silos starting from Marketing, Sales, Engineering, Support, Tech Comms, and Training etc. But when a user visits your knowledge portal, their goal is to find answers irrespective of who created the content.
Having been in the Technical Communications field for over two decades, I believe that for content to be easily searchable, it should be structured using clean DITA and should have metadata applied to it. But, does the user/reader care whether the content is structured or unstructured? Other than Tech Comms content, hardly any other content generating teams ever adopted DITA or any other standard per se. So should non – Tech Comms content be searchable via a knowledge portal or not? Of course, it should be. And, here lies the strength of metadata. Potent metadata will enable better search results and hence higher customer satisfaction scores.
In conclusion, knowledge portals are the wave towards more personal and more customized experience. And what empowers knowledge portals is the metadata framework with a scalable content repository or knowledge base. Governance plays the maestro who orchestrates this effort and delivers world-class customer experience.
Eeshita Grover, Senior Manager at Cisco, Technical Communications and Content Strategy, has 19+ years of experience in content design and delivery. Her strength and passion lie in understanding content models and their usage to address customer content experience. LinkedIn profile – https://www.linkedin.com/in/eeshita