Delivering content

 

The idea that content development and delivery can be separated is relatively new. Desktop publishing software combines development and delivery—page layout software creates a file that is ready for print delivery. In XML-based and multichannel workflows, however, the final content file does not necessarily resemble the final deliverable. For example:

  • An XML file with approved content can be transformed into PDF, HTML, EPUB, and other formats. These various deliverables contain the same information, but they use different technologies and presentation.
  • HTML content may include some presentational elements, but applying multiple CSS files to an HTML file can result in very different presentations.
  • A responsive web site lets developers create HTML and CSS that is rendered differently on different devices.
  • Even InDesign, which started out as a page design tool, has the ability to render EPUB, which could look quite different from the information presented in the InDesign authoring environment.

The delivery process, then, is the process of transforming the source files into the final output files. This could be a conversion from InDesign to EPUB, or a transformation from XML to HTML, or any number of other workflows.

Delivery is a key automation opportunity. Output that is lovingly handcrafted1 will have nicer formatting than content that is generated automatically. The differences, however, are usually subtle and lost on the vast majority of content consumers. For technical content in particular, formatting needs to be usable. But the niceties of copyfitting, pristine kerning, and hand-tweaked hyphenation are unlikely to add enough business value to justify the cost. (Unless, of course, the target audience for the content is professional typographers.)

In this phase of implementation, you need to configure the system that extracts content from the content storage system and turns it into a deliverable format, such as paper, PDF, HTML, CHM, or EPUB. In some environments, this separation of authoring and publishing does not occur. For example, if you author in a web design tool, you might create HTML directly. However, in most modern workflows, you develop and store your content in a different format from the actual delivery format.

Once you have rendered the content into the final format (such as HTML), you must also make it available to your customer. In the print world, this meant printing and distributing books. In the digital world, this includes tasks such as pushing content from a test server to a live web site, pressing the Publish button in WordPress, and submitting information to the Apple Store.

 

1 I so wish I had coined this phrase, but it belongs to Roger Hart.

 

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