This guide was last revised 25 August 2010
Unless digital content is being created for one-time use and will be discarded, good practice should be to design and format your content for different environments and uses over time, even if they are not immediately known. The ability to re-format and re-purpose are key strengths of digital content given how easily it can be copied and distributed. The choices you make at the point of creation, in particular the format that your content is created in, greatly affects how useful and long-lived your content will be.
Make it Digital has five detailed Creating Digital Content guides:
Digital technologies are sometimes said to be ‘disruptive’ technologies because of the way they challenge or alter long-standing practices. Rapid growth in affordable digital imaging, software and storage has made entry into publishing, photography, and audio and video production possible without any professional training or background. That same technology has for the first time made possible mass-digitisation projects driven by the likes of Google and Microsoft.
A consequence of this rapid change has been a disruption to the development of agreed practices and standards designed to ensure the outputs of these technologies would be long-lived. In fields such as text and digital audio, the practices and standards are relatively mature due to the relative maturity of the technologies used. In photography and image scanning, technology has only recently reached a point of maturity where practices and standards can be consistently applied. In digital video, the technology at present is evolving faster than consistent practice and standards, resulting in a mixture of formats and standards in common use, and ongoing issues with the huge storage requirements for high resolution video.
If your business or content creation activity depends on having content that can be used over a reasonable period of time, you need to anticipate that some technologies and standards will become obsolete. If you are looking for good or best practice, you also need to refer to guidance that is current and addresses recent developments. To achieve this, look for technology hardware and software that uses open standards and for guidance on best practice that is being maintained and has been updated within the last three years.
Good sources of best practice advice can often be found on websites of professional associations, or organisations that specialise in long-term management or storage of digital content (such as libraries and archives). Often this advice however is aimed at professionals using some of the highest quality hardware and software available. If these benchmarks for equipment, training and standards are beyond your reach, that does not mean there is no point in trying to follow them. You will find that the most useful guidance identifies minimum standards and practices, while also pointing to the best practice. Minimum standards and practices are a really good place to start.
Because of the different media and content types involved, we have split this guide into four main sections:
Each section provides an overview of the kind of technology involved and the approach to practice and minimum standards we recommend.