Content Choreography - The Art of Dynamic Web Content

What is content choreography? Here's a little background on the term and what we mean by it.

A major global high tech company engaged EIS to work on the redesign of a major website, site search, metadata and all new web CMS and DAM infrastructure. It was an enormous undertaking, headed by Marketing and involving brand managers, the SEO team, content authors, creative agencies, a systems integrator, a user experience design agency, technical consultants, and the IT department. The existing sites were to migrate from traditional navigation, search and single page content to a totally new paradigm of dynamic content collections, where user context would be driven by the search experience more than by navigation or site depth. With personalization. And in multiple languages. Taxonomy and metadata would play an important role in each of these areas, but just how well the whole system was going to hang together (“If we do not hang together, we shall all hang separately...”) was a real concern, and the very reason we’d been called in as a sort of SWAT team.

So we spent time immersed with each of these groups, sat in on design and editorial meetings, investigated what each of the platform components could handle for taxonomy and metadata, got a sense of the magnitude and types of content and digital assets that would have to be migrated and repurposed. We had a vision for how taxonomy and metadata would drive authoring and creative, translation and publishing processes, content lifecycle, Ux dynamics, content indexing, site search facets and filtering, even SEO from the bottom up. We knew how to harmonize taxonomy views across all those systems and processes and presentation layers from the top down. We made our recommendations into a plan that would fit within their launch schedule – it tied everything together, it was elegant, it would work, it had to work for the success of the project. And then we hit a wall....

While we could explain in detail every taxonomy, technique and task, and how it would be used in every workgroup on the project to coordinate the dynamic content experience, it took too long to communicate the vision. By describing each element individually, it looked like it was already covered by each of the teams. It crossed every system layer and organization, but was too big for any one team to take on the responsibility of making sure all the pieces were designed to work together.

As we are fond of saying, “if you can’t name it, you can’t find it.” Apparently, you can’t fund it, either. We needed a succinct way to explain to Executive Management how the whole was bigger than the sum of its parts, something that would capture both the concept and their imagination. We needed to name it....

Con′-tent Cho·re·og′·ra·phy - planning, composing, organizing and publishing content and creative assets for dynamic presentation and search using taxonomy and metadata

We could have played it safe and reused a well-known industry term, but none of them captured the real essence of the vision. Intelligent Content? Too passive, it captures the idea of self-defining content but not the sense of content in motion, orchestrated to work collectively, responding to search and audience context. Information Architecture? Too non-specific, it defines some of the disciplines involved but not the context for why and how you’re using them. Taxonomy? Metadata? Ditto – we’re back to parts and pieces of what you’re doing, not the reason for doing it in the first place.

We like Content Choreography because it resonates. It conjures up mental images of what you’re trying to achieve with a dynamic user experience, and how you’re going to get there. It takes a very abstract notion and makes it tangible, something you can get your head around, something that’s a living part of the interaction that makes dynamic user experience what it is.

Taxonomy and metadata have the potential to be so much more than just strings on a content puppet (although they certainly act that way at a minimum). That’s where the choreography part comes in – planning, composing, organizing, presenting, reacting to audience interaction in a controlled yet artful way. It’s like the difference between your last high school dance and the Cirque du Soleil.

For a look into how we use customer data models, product data models, content models, and knowledge architecture to create a framework for unified commerce download our whitepaper: Attribute-Driven Framework for Unified Commerce


Meet the Author
Jeannine Bartlett