January 4, 2024

Challenges and Solutions in Global Information Architecture

image shows a computer screen with a world map being connected by lines

Unlocking the World’s Diversity

Technology is the driving force behind business success these days–and it’s not slowing down anytime soon! Organizations now exist within a digital landscape, relying on an intricate web of computers, programs, apps, and digital technology to maintain functionality. Ensuring that technical information is allocated, arranged, and accessible in an approach that fulfills the demands of the organization is an imperative element of global information architecture.

When it comes to global information architecture, we are referring to the skill and knowledge required to create effective communication. Whether this is done through the organization of information, developing user-friendly systems, or enabling users to find what they need quickly and efficiently, global information architecture is a critical component of success. It involves understanding and anticipating user needs and providing a structure that meets those needs.

Global information architecture is the design and organization of information with a focus on reaching diverse audiences across the world. In our interconnected and digital age, businesses, organizations, and content creators are increasingly extending their reach beyond local borders. Global information architecture involves structuring content, data, and user interfaces in a way that transcends cultural, linguistic, and regional differences to provide a seamless and meaningful experience for users worldwide.

What’s structured authoring got to do with it?

Structured authoring plays a pivotal role in the seamless execution of a global information architecture strategy, particularly when expanding business operations across diverse linguistic and cultural landscapes. But what is it exactly and how does this work?

Structured authoring, or topic-based authoring, is a granular approach to content creation that involves organizing and creating content in a standardized and modular way. Unlike traditional, unstructured authoring, where content is often created in a freeform manner, structured authoring enforces a systematic and organized framework. This framework typically involves the use of predefined rules, templates, and a hierarchical structure, which is why it is the backbone of a component content management system (CCMS).

Many companies who need to work with complex documentation for products or services use a CCMS. In a CCMS, structured authoring means that content is broken down into smaller, reusable modules or components. This approach facilitates content reuse, which is a huge time and cost saver when dealing with multiple products that have similar features. And of course, it also simplifies the management of information across various documents, while ensuring that information is consistent and accurate. By defining clear rules and templates, it ensures each piece of content adheres to the same structure and style, which is paramount for conveying a unified brand image and message globally.

Three is the Magic Number for Global Reach

image represents technical documentation all over the world

So let’s talk about the importance of reaching diverse audiences with your content. If we simply touch on the most obvious issues, those are going to be language, user experience, and market adaptation. We’ll take each issue one by one below.

Language Adaptation in a Technical Writing Platform

The first step in branching out is, of course, going to be reaching people in their native language. As businesses expand globally, the need for multilingual content becomes crucial. Effective information architecture addresses the challenges of managing content in multiple languages, because you want to make sure that your intended message is accurately conveyed to every target audience.

However, it’s not merely about translation; it’s about crafting a narrative that resonates culturally. This is where a Translation Management System (TMS) steps onto the stage. An adept TMS seamlessly integrates into your technical writing platform, streamlining the translation process while maintaining consistency and cultural nuance. By leveraging a TMS, businesses can not only break language barriers but also tailor their content to specific cultural contexts, making sure that their message not only reaches but genuinely connects with diverse audiences. This isn’t just about communication; it’s about fostering understanding, trust, and loyalty, which are the cornerstones of successful global expansion.

And that brings us back to structured authoring. Because this topic-based authoring is a modular approach, it aligns well with a TMS workflow, as each module can be treated as a separate translation topic. When you reuse topics, phrases, warnings, and other components in your technical writing platform, they are translated just once and can be employed in all of their occurrences throughout the content.

Authors can also create and update content at a granular level, allowing for more efficient translation processes, especially when updates need to be implemented. Also, having all of your content for translations consolidated in one place (a CCMS) makes it simpler to guarantee quality and also makes it easier to change text swiftly if needed.

image shows information architect working with documentation

User Experience Across Borders

A well-designed global information architecture enhances user experience by considering regional preferences, legal requirements, and cultural nuances. It aims to provide a consistent and user-friendly experience regardless of a user’s geographical location.

A CCMS can tackle the regional and cultural aspects of doing business in different locations through version management. The hierarchical system makes it easy to branch off specific topics and tailor them for market-specific items. Because it is not only language that needs to be considered, but also the way messaging is presented.

For example, consider a company launching a new advertising campaign for a tech product globally. The images chosen for the campaign could vary significantly based on the target market. In one region, vibrant and dynamic visuals may resonate well with a youthful audience, while in another, the emphasis might be on more mature and sophisticated images to appeal to an older demographic. By aligning visual elements with cultural expectations and preferences, you can ensure that your marketing materials effectively capture the attention and loyalty of diverse audiences.

Versioning also helps with compliance-related materials that need to be altered to conform to the regulations of each market. You can tailor a set of disclaimers, or terms and conditions, to comply with the rules of a specific market. And when content is in a single source with different versions clearly separated, it’s easy to pinpoint where regulations and disclaimers should go. Not to mention, any updates you need to perform are quick and simple, because once you find the component you need to update, all other instances of that component will also automatically update. So you’ll always stay on top of being compliant with the latest regulations. Additionally, a CCMS keeps a record of all changes, so you will know when things were changed and who performed the changes.

Collaboration: The Key to Global Success

In the realm of global content creation, collaboration emerges as a pivotal factor for success. Structured authoring facilitates effective collaboration among global teams, breaking down content into manageable components that can be worked on independently. This modular approach not only streamlines the content creation process but also ensures that teams in different locations can collaborate seamlessly on specific sections.

Structuring your information architecture in this manner offers the benefit of encouraging collaboration. It allows for different parts to be assigned to different teams, taking into account their areas of specialization or localized knowledge. For instance, a team in Asia could contribute insights on how to adapt content to align with local preferences, while a team in Europe might focus on legal compliance and regional regulations.

In a collaborative environment, structured authoring becomes the cornerstone of efficient communication among global teams. The modular nature of the content allows for targeted collaboration, ensuring that each team focuses on its specialized area, whether it be language adaptation, user experience enhancements, or market-specific tailoring. And with review features, it’s simple for colleagues and SME’s to offer contributions and feedback. By managing the entire lifecycle of the content at the component level, accuracy is improved while reducing time to market.

Conclusion

As businesses strive for global expansion, structured authoring proves to be an invaluable tool for fostering collaboration among diverse teams. It not only streamlines content creation but also facilitates effective communication, ensuring that the global message is coherent, culturally resonant, and attuned to the preferences and regulations of each market. By embracing this topic-based authoring in conjunction with collaborative technologies, businesses can navigate the complexities of global content creation with agility and precision.

In essence, global information architecture is the key to breaking down barriers and ensuring that information is not only accessible but also relevant and engaging to audiences around the world. It’s an essential strategy for organizations seeking to thrive in the diverse landscape of our interconnected global society.

If you would like to learn more about how using a CCMS with a structured authoring solution can greatly improve your information architecture, read our article about the benefits of a CCMS for information architecture or explore our in-depth interview from Roger Gelwicks, our Solutions Engineer, on the extensive range of opportunities provided by structured authoring.