What is it and why does it matter?
Tina M. Kister
March 31, 2019
Information development refers to the practical application of best practices from across disciplines in the use of intelligence to create and deliver content that facilitates user success. It incorporates the most effective aspects of communication sub-fields and genres to create information that is easy to find, read, understand, use, and (in some cases) remember.
Too often, particular sub-fields or genres of communication overlook one or more aspects of effective communication. For example, marketing communication tends to overlook the importance of sound and verifiable data, while technical communication tends to overlook the importance of visual design and aesthetic appeal. Information development is interdisciplinary because it incorporates universal characteristics of high-quality information deliverables, regardless of industry, field, academic specialization, genre, or department.
For example, regardless of whether content is developed for an advertisement, a project plan, a technical manual, or a website, it needs to include writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and free of errors. It also needs to reflect best practices in visual design, including proper use of fonts, color, white space, and composition.
Information development is based on the science of how all human beings perceive and process information. It incorporates knowledge and research from fields such as psychology, neuroscience, human-computer interaction, and more. It provides a framework for developing content that is based on universal characteristics and processes, which facilitates a more effective, evidence-based, and streamlined approach.
Information development is different from other, more traditional approaches to content development because it is both broader (including universal conventions common to all high-quality content) and narrower (including only content related to verifiable information).
Information development is fundamentally based on the way all human beings, regardless of age, gender, education, culture, etc., perceive and process visual information. There are several conventions that are important for creating high-quality content, regardless of content type. These include, for example, the basics of writing and design, as well as more complex conventions, such as taking a user-centered approach through audience analysis.
Information development transcends:
- Genre – Such as scientific, academic, technical, or legal communication
- Subject – Such as psychology, health care, software development, or art
- Department – Such as marketing, human resources, product development, or sales
A core criteria for information development is whether the content relates to verifiable information. Information development does not include, for example, content related to pure self-expression (such as poetry), nor evocative advertising that relies on eliciting a strong emotional response without conveying meaningful and verifiable information.
A semantic analysis of the definition reveals more about the details of what differentiates information development from other types of communication:
- Practical Application – Information development is based on what works in the real world, rather than on theoretical or academic frameworks.
- Best Practices – Information development is based on the idea that language, people, and organizations are dynamic and ever-changing, and includes best practices that reflect both continuous improvement and iteration, as well as repeatability and optimization.
- Across Disciplines – Information development is interdisciplinary and incorporates knowledge and best practices from a wide range of fields. It crosses the boundaries between areas of communication that are traditionally segregated – areas such as technical writing, marketing, journalism, data visualization, and more. It includes skills and activities common to all genres of communication, such as writing and design, and also incorporates knowledge and research from areas as diverse as psychology, human-computer interaction, neuroscience, and more.
- Intelligence – Information development focuses on conveying meaningful intelligence, and is based on transforming data, knowledge, and information into usable content. While information development uses emotional and visceral appeal to enhance credibility, clarity, and usability, it is based on a foundation of verifiable information.
- Create and Deliver – Information development includes designing and creating content, as well as managing the production, delivery, and maintenance of content. It incorporates best practices from a range of content-related areas, such as content management, content strategy, information architecture, and more, to ensure seamless and efficient content operations.
- Content – In information development, content refers to intelligence that has been created, curated, compiled, crafted, and arranged for meaning, presentation, delivery, and use. Elements without meaning, such as decorative elements, are not considered content – instead, these are content assets.
- Facilitates User Success – Information development is focused on ensuring user success. This means that it is inherently user-centric. In a practical sense, information development results in content that is easy to find, read, understand, use, and (in some cases) remember. At the same time, information development ensures organizational success through efficient, repeatable, and cost-effective processes that increase credibility, clarity, and appeal.
Why it Matters
In the modern age of information, content is more important than ever before – no successful product or organization exists without the content that supports it. The modern world is also more connected and globalized than ever before, which means that organizations need to reach and resonate with a larger and more diverse group of users (customers). Traditional silos in both education and business lead to poor collaboration, duplicate work, inconsistent messaging, and a fragmented customer journey.
Organizations are moving toward a unified approach to communications that streamlines processes and creates a seamless customer journey. By focusing on the universal characteristics common to all communication, information development transcends traditional silos to improve both the effectiveness of front-end content and delivery, and the efficiency of back-end development. An information-development framework is critical, because it provides a holistic, evidence-based approach that empowers both individuals and businesses to create effective content.