The need for adaptive content

Earlier this week I caught up on the latest webinar from The Content Wrangler, Scott Abel, on Mobile Devices and the need for Adaptive Content (you’ll need to sign up for a free BrightTalk account to view it).

In the webinar, Charles Cooper explains his definition of adaptive content:

content that is designed to adapt to the needs of the customer, not just cosmetically, but also in substance and in capability

So, adaptive content needs to change not only how it looks, but its form and function too. Most importantly, that change needs to be automatic and driven by information gathered from the device being used.

An example given to illustrate this is how we might deliver content differently if we can detect the download speed of a device. If download speed is slow we could choose to present rich media content as text, rather than say beginning an automatic download of a large file. Choice is key though, so I’d also advocate for providing the option for the user to download the media content if desired.

Another consideration for us is what constitutes mobile. In terms of devices; phone, tablet, e-reader, laptop, wearable tech. And also in our attitudes to mobile. At one time mobile was seen as lesser and content was reduced as a result. In some areas now, it’s more capable and offers more options for personalisation for the user.

 by lukew, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  lukew 

For my work, the key takeaways from this discussion are more about how we define content itself and the impact that planning for adaptive content has on content creators.

1. We need to stop thinking of our content as pages

Each piece of content is an element that can be remixed in different contexts. It’s simple really, but I think it can be difficult to break the mindset of the web being about sites and pages. Ever since I read Karen McGrane’s Content Strategy for Mobile I’ve tried to change to thinking about content as chunks and ‘writing for the chunk and not the page’.

2. A culture change among content creators may be required

If we’re creating content that can be remixed and reused in multiple places then we need to build a culture of sharing among our content creators. Ownership is a key issue here though. We need to let go of the negative side of content ownership, where we feel protective of what we’ve created, but someone  needs to retain responsibility for the content to make sure it’s updated and curated.

3. Content standards are crucial

Moving towards adaptive content means that content from multiple creators is more likely to be presented side-by-side. This means that it’s even more important that content standards are in place and applied to make sure we have consistency.