Content reuse is fundamental to a successful unified content strategy. This chapter defines content reuse and the benefits of its use. It explores how other industries have employed reuse for decades to improve their processes and the quality of their products. Content can be reused in many ways. The choice of the different methods and options for reuse are dependent upon your organization's needs and technology. This chapter details the pros and cons of using each method and the associated options, and it provides the concepts that underlie the remainder of the book.
What is content reuse?
Content reuse is the practice of using existing content components to develop new "documents." Although the majority of reusable content is text-based, any content can be reused (such as graphics, charts, media). Text-based materials are the easiest to reuse. You can reuse sections, paragraphs, sentences, or even words. It is easier to reuse graphics, charts, and media in their entirety than it is to use portions of them, but new standards such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), a new Internet graphics standard, make it possible to create reusable media. For example, in the past if you wanted to reuse a graphic but change the callouts (for example, translated versions of the callouts were required) you either had to re-create the graphic and callouts or use one tool to create the graphic and another to layer the callouts. Now, the XML aspect of SVG makes it possible to layer all the components of a web graphic, thereby facilitating reuse.
Most organizations already reuse content, though they copy and paste it. This works well until the contentand everywhere it appearshas to be updated. Then it can be time consuming to find every place the content has been copied and reused and change it. Not only is this time consuming, but some occurrences may be missed, resulting in inconsistencies and inaccuracies. In addition, over time, inconsistencies tend to layer themselves, until original inconsistencies become buried and you end up with two completely different content sources.
Reuse, as discussed throughout this book, is the process of "linking" to an element of reusable content. The reusable content is displayed in the document in which you are working, but it does not actually reside in the document. Your organization may have already practiced this kind of reuse with graphics in Microsoft Word (Insert, Picture, From File, Insert and Link). When the reusable element is updated, it is updated wherever it occurs. This saves a lot of time and money in maintenance (change once, automatically change many).