Best Practices for Component-Based Authoring: Third in a 3-Part Series - Page 2

Getting the buy-in from authors

It's somewhat of a truism in this area that the authors themselves can be the hardest to convince. Thus, getting them bought in is also a critical first step. In our experience, authors do tend to love their familiar, unstructured authoring tools and find a move to component-based authoring somewhat confining. Therefore, it's important to get them involved as early as possible, understanding the business reasons for the change and participating in related decisions. It's also important to pick the right tools-with direct author input-that make this experience as easy as possible. It's important to choose tools that are specifically designed to be user-friendly in component authoring applications.

Aside from unfamiliarity with new tools, authors find structured authoring disconcerting for two major reasons. First, it takes a mental shift to think in terms of reusable topics, when previously, authors personally controlled all the content in their documents. Second, it's difficult to think in terms of format-neutral content, freely reusable across multiple channels, when previously, they precisely controlled the exact look and feel of the printed page.

While these issues can be difficult to overcome, we've found that two additional strategies can make a big difference. First, focus the authors on analyzing all the current overlaps across different documents, helping to find opportunities for reuse. Focus them on thinking about how much time they spend today trying to manually ensure this content stays consistent. It's hard to overestimate the amount of pain many authors go through just to keep this kind of cut-and-paste reuse synchronized.

Second, build an early prototype that shows how cool it will be when the same single-source content can be repurposed across all the different output channels. Seeing their content suddenly come alive on the Web has cured many authors of their prior obsession with the printed page.