Besides from being the CEO of Intuillion, a company that develops content management and content automation solutions, every Sunday I’m playing the organ in our church. It’s my hobby and one of the ways to pay back to the society.
It became a good tradition that I learn some new compositions for major festivals. Since Pentecost is now approaching, last weekend I took a volume of Bach’s chorales to find a nice chorale to play. It’s a quite thick book that includes 371 chorales. If you don’t know what you are looking for, you can expect to spend a couple of hours to go through them before choosing the one that suits the festival.
Fortunately, there are two types of table of contents. One, which is placed right after the cover page, organizes the chorales by Christian festivals. Now it’s very easy to find a chorale for a specific festival. If you want to find a chorale for Pentecost, you just look for Pfingsten (the German name for this festival) and here you go – 7 chorales written specifically for Pentecost:
If you are looking for a specific chorale whose name you know and festivals are not your priority, you use the second table of contents, which is placed in the end, just before the back matter. This second table of contents organizes the same chorales in the alphabetical order:
I would probably add one more perspective for a use case, which is not covered in my chorales book: the chorales could be organized thematically, like “Chorales about Holy Spirit” or “Chorales about Virgin Mary ”. As you can imagine, there might be an endless number of other perspectives.
This is a good example of how the content navigation can be adapted based on the reader’s needs. It’s interesting that the order of the chorales themselves in the chorale book has nothing to do with festivals or alphabet all together so these two tables of contents is the only more or less intuitive way to navigate through the works.
In different situations, the way you look at the same content may differ. Like in my case, in this particular situation, I didn’t know the name of chorales so navigating through the alphabetical table of contents would be useless. My goal was to find a chorale for a specific festival so the table of contents organized by festivals was exactly what I needed. In another situation, when I want to find a specific chorale, but I don’t know for which festival it was composed, the alphabetical table of contents will be the best option. And when I want to play a chorale dedicated to a certain Christian character, I would use the thematical table of contents, if existed.
This is what happens to readers of technical documentation quite often too. The perspective of how the reader sees the content may differ depending on the user’s role in this particular situation and the user’s context. The fixed table of contents once created by a technical writer and published as PDF might be inefficient because the way the writer saw the content is not necessarily the same as the reader is looking at it.
In the same way as we are talking about adaptive websites, the ones whose size is automatically adjusted based on the screen of your device, we should provide content with adaptive navigation. This navigation is dynamically built based on the user’s situation and lets you see the content from different perspectives.
One part of it is metadata that represents different perspectives of the piece of content (speaking of chorales, it could be “Pentecost” for festivals and “Holy Spirit” from the thematic point of view). Another part is capturing the user’s context and goals and matching them to the metadata.
I’m going to talk about this topic, as well as about automated content assembly and aggregation at the upcoming Information Energy conference in Utrecht, The Netherlands, on May 17th-18th. Come join us to learn about amazing opportunities that today’s technology opens for you and discuss interesting trends that are happening in the content industry.
And by the way, this is how my little son and I are playing a Bach’s chorale at a rehearsal before a Sunday mass (well, I’m playing and he’s helping me switch organ stops):