Speeding-up the Content-writing Phase

Content writing is an unpredictable phase at best. The unpredictability arises from uncertainties which are inherent in any creative process. Where the content writer and the designer are one-and-the-same there are fewer problems, but this is not often the case. A further problem area is where the client is also the content expert/writer. In such instances, forcing the client to keep to project deadlines can be problematic since development teams' internal scheduling requirements will often be invisible to the client. Anything that can be done to speed up the content-writing phase is to be welcomed.

Using Interactive Storyboarding to Speed-up the Content-writing Phase

What I tend to do is to create first a test-of-concept model for a program in Hypercard. The test-of-concept model helps focus attention on the overall form and approach of the program. This is then extendedin functionality to act as a template for the content-writer. A storyboard of every screen in the resource is produced, with blanks to be filled in by the content-writer. These screens can be printed out to allow the content writer to pen in their contributions. Much more interesting and productive is when the content-writer is confident enough to write directly to the storyboard in its interactive form. This involves the content-writer sitting in front of the template version of the program, referring to a printed flowchart which illustrates the overall structure. The writer navigates through the program as an end-user would, with access to all program sections and levels. The writer then clicks on open text fields on the screen to enter the text to appear at the appropriate part of the screen.

The advantages of the technique, which allows content to be composed within an interactive template, are several. First of all, it ensures a systematic approach to the content-writing phase of any project. Secondly, a great amount of time is saved in inputting the text which would otherwise have to be transferred from paper to word-processable form, and then passages and captions cut and pasted to the appropriate part of the interactive program. Thirdly, the technique is useful in motivating the writer by their deeper involvement in the design process. It also ensures that people are writing with the constraints imposed by the output screen in mind,--avoiding too much text on a screen, say, and making sure that the text-size is readable. In this manner, the writer’s attention is directed to every detail on every screen which concerns them, and potentially serious omissions are avoided. Finally, the technique can greatly facilitate the localisation of the program for foreign language markets, since problems of text-translation which affect screen layout are immediately identified in translating directly to given screen areas.