Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The newsletter - part 2

A new publishing process

The current editor and I changed the appearance of the PDF to make it easier to read from screen and then made a website to replace it.

The intention now is to introduce a publishing process which involves:

  • The person directly involved in doing something writing about it (not the dept manager or the editor).
  • The article being reviewed by another member of the originating department who checks for accuracy, commercial sensitivity and adherence to the company style guide.
  • The dept reviewer sending the piece to the editor for a final check who then publishes it if there are no changes to make.
  • If the editor makes a change it is reviewed by the dept reviewer or the author in a cycle which continues until both parties are happy with the article.
There will also be the following changes:

  • Replacement of a ‘magazine’ collecting the updates at the end of a period with articles published individually, when relevant.
  • The news reading and content generation will be actively supported by the Executive Directors.
  • People will be actively encouraged to write the news.
  • People will be actively encouraged to read the newsletter during company time.
  • The news items will appear on the home page of the Intranet (not in a separate website or PDF) and will be optimised for reading from screen.
  • The editor will interview people to generate content.
  • The editor will request articles on specific events from relevant people.
In the meantime we will continue to develop the current newsletter website, making changes until we are close to an interface we can integrate with the Intranet.

The initial newsletter website design was used for 4 editions of the newsletter (4 months) and I have just done a re-design of the newsletter website following a user survey.

The initial design reflected the layout of the PDF too closely which caused some confusion. The new version has been simplified considerably by only presenting one article on the home page and categorising the content.

The problems with this website will not all be solved by this re-design. Some of the practices will help people to get used to reading online (such as using the title attribute whenever possible) however the categorisation will never work because the content just does not suit it.

We have forced the content of this edition into certain groups to avoid using the departmental categories because these are not useful for people. Arranging things departmentally is a deeply ingrained habit that the company is trying to move away from.

There are too many crossovers between the chosen categories. The categories are not well defined and may or may not contain items in the next edition. The content will be different next edition. The items are mostly independent, only the staff, personal and social items can be easily grouped.

This is bad now, for the usability of the current website, but it is good for the future. The plan is to publish these items uncategorised and as they happen, separately to each other. The fact that they can’t be grouped into categories helps to justify this intention.

The progress on the newsletter so far has taken approximately 6 months and has been done in parallel with the Intranet project stages I'll describe in the next entries.

The next stage in the newsletter re-development is to choose a department to introduce the new publishing process to. This will be done without any automation (e.g. Contribute or blogging software) and then once the process has been refined and software reviewed we will automate the process and then involve further departments one at a time.

Progress updates on this will follow after the rest of the project has been described.


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