In a nutshell: structured content
Unstructured vs. structured
In order to understand structured content, one has to look at unstructured content first. A large part of content being created today is unstructured, for example in a Word-document. To make a headline look like a headline, it can be written in a larger font and bolded – regardless of whether or not the formatting is created manually or via style sheet. A paragraph is generated visually with a return. The content can thus be visually created but it does not follow any structure. The computer is not able to recognize the headline as a headline and the paragraph as a paragraph.
As soon as the content is being transferred to another system however, these optical configurations get lost. Thus, the content would have to be individually adjusted anew for every system and outlet. This is not the only thing causing additional workload. Whenever a change in the content has to be made, every document which includes the content has to be revised as well. These changes are not only time-consuming but prone to error as well.
In contrast, structured content gives content structure not visually on the surface but semantically in the background. With XML schema definition (XSD) content is being standardized. XSD consists of a set of rules which clearly defines a headline, a paragraph, a table and a graphic - clearly seperating content from its presentation. According to these rules the content is being validated in real time. For example: a chapter must contain at least a paragraph and cannot be empty. This way the content has to be produced only once and can then be automatically processed and presented on various platforms and in operating environments.
Another big advantage of working with structured content is the fact that the content created with XML editors can be saved as separate blocks. These blocks can then be put together individually and endlessly as well as changed to create new documents or be adjusted in hindsight. Instead of having to make small changes in dozens of documents only one block has to be modified. The manual workload can thus be substantially reduced which allows authors to focus on the creation of new content instead.
Today structured content is mainly used in the field of technical documentation. The potential of structured and standardized content however, is to a large extent unused. A lot of areas as well as industries could profit from the efficient creation and management of content. And thus, get ready for the future. Whether AI, virtual reality or different, new digital forms or outlets – with structured content, content is created once and can be distributed via different platforms. No programming capabilities are needed. Tools such as Xeditor allow an easy creation and management of structured content, so authors even without previous technical knowledge can start creating immediately. Because of flexible online editing, traceable collaboration, intuitive usability and individual authoring, Xeditor feels like Word – in addition to offering all advantages of structured content.