Future proofing business content

docs.jpg10 Future Web Trends are astutely summarised by Richard MacManus on [tag]Read/WriteWeb[/tag] .

Most of these trends have obvious implications for business writers of web content sooner or later.

Much web content consists of business documents, written by people at work — people in HR, legal, office services, policy, sales, product development and every other business unit. Most of these professional people don't see ICT trends as relevant to their work.

What changes are necessary to prepare for the trends Richard describes? How can we future proof our [tag]business documents[/tag]?

I think the big mind shift is to recognise that documents and sections of documents will be regarded as data. At present, business writers probably don't think this way. Possibly they see business documents as vehicles for data, and their writing as a soft wrapping for the data.

Richard observes that:

The net effect [of web sites as web services] will be that unstructured information will give way to structured information - paving the road to more intelligent computing.

Along with the mind shift come certain requirements:

  • plain language everywhere
  • writing that's much, much, much more concise
  • much more rigorous structure: every document, section and paragraph must have a discrete topic and a known purpose
  • clear, complete headlines
  • a summary at the start of every document.

There's nothing new in these requirements. Plain language advocates have been pushing them for decades as time-saving, money-saving basics. The difference is that now they matter even more.

Unstructured, wordy, convoluted documents will be unusable when these trends take over: the semantic web, artificial intelligence, mobile web, the attention economy, web sites as web services, rich internet applications (RIA) and the international web.

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