The increasing diversity of digital devices has made necessary to design responsive websites that adapt to these new environments. However, this diversity not only affects the container, but also the content.

The variety of channels through which content is transmitted goes, in fact, far beyond web pages and digital devices. The same “piece” of information can be transmitted through very different channels:

  • Documents
  • Posts and web pages
  • Presentations
  • Brochures
  • Infographics
  • Newsletters
  • Videos
  • Tweets…

Each of these media has specific and distinct characteristics: the context in which they are used, the profile of their users, the space and time available, the (digital or physical) support, the technology used, the social norms of interaction, usage rules, user experience…

Content is not water, my friend

Content isn’t like water, formless, which maintains its properties regardless of the container. Content needs to change to fit to the characteristics of each channel to convey the same message.

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard

Only when we know and understand the characteristics of each channel we are able to properly adapt the content. Surely this is why we often find “slideuments” (term used by Garr Reynolds to describe presentations that confuse slides with documents) meaningless tweets, articles too dense or too empty, newsletters and emails in which is impossible to find the core of the message…

The art of adapting content

Knowing how to adapt content to different channels requires knowledge of design, writing, and digital strategy. Adapting content is not limited to cut the text. It often means knowing which parts should be highlighted or removed, rearrange the elements of the content or completely modify it, whether we should include images and graphics or exclude them.

Here are some good examples of adaptive content.

>> The New York Times

The New York Times published an article entitled “On Elite Campuses, an Arts Race“.

The New York Times - On Elite Campuses, an Arts Race

Later, they published a tweet to promote the article, but this time they highlighted another message “Elite Universities are investing billions in ambitious arts facilities.” An article hasn’t the 140 character limit of a tweet. Titles can be less descriptive because the content of the article and the pictures complement its meaning. A tweet, however, because of the limited space, needs to convey the most important message directly.

>> National Geographic

National Geographic published on its website a gallery dedicated to migratory birds. Clicking on the icon of each bird, a detailed image and information appears.

National Geographic - Masters of Migration

In order to be published on Pinterest, this content needed major modifications. The gallery becomes an infographic. Given that here it is not possible to create the effect of seeing the content progressively, the infographic makes up for this limitation including new information that didn’t appear before, like a map.

>> HelpAge International

HelpAge International published a 192-page report entitled “Ageing in the 21st Century: A Celebration and A Challenge”. The adaptation of content for the different channels was great.

First, on Vimeo they published a short video in which appear images of elderly people from different cultures, interspersed with brief messages and accompanied by music.

.

Second, for Pinterest it was designed a gorgeous infographic with the most relevant data of the report. Interestingly, the report title is trimmed and now it simply says “Ageing in the 21st Century”.

Finally, they designed a web page with a dual function. Firstly, giving access to the above content: the report, the video and the infographic. Secondly, including a brief introduction to the report and the different chapters, accompanied by images and direct links.

HelpAge International - Ageing in the Twenty-First Century

>> World Bank

The World Bank created a video titled “Pricing Carbon: It’s About Our Economy & Our Future”. The video is accompanied by a brief explanation.

Subsequently, they published a tweet where the message was: “VIDEO: Climate change Creates Risks for Economies, lives & livelihoods”. As in the case of The New York Times, we see that Twitter often requires more direct content to be meaningful.

>> Duarte

In 2013, Duarte hosted an Eat & Meet event with Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds. This event generated the original content from which two different outputs were created.

First, a YouTube video of the event was published, entitled simply: “Nancy Garr Meet and Greet 2013”.

Later, in SlideShare they published a presentation entitled “Q & A Highlights With Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds” in which chunks of some of the responses were highlighted. The answers were accompanied by images.

.

.