Curating information is the process of matching a contextual answer to a question. It helps you meet the precise communication needs of your audience and provide information that is not only engaging, but digestible and relevant.
Here’s an example. A few weeks ago, I was on vacation visiting Asheville, North Carolina. Probably detecting an accent, a waitress asked me a simple question: “Where are you from?” I paused for a second. I thought first of my street address, then the neighborhood I live in and those that surround it. Through a quick mental zoom-out, I reached a place—a word—she would likely recognize. I told her I was from Pittsburgh.
A new technique to help you hone your story.
Replay this situation and you will observe an interesting phenomenon: a simple question such as “Where are you from?” could have any number of answers based on how far you have traveled, who you are talking to, and what you’re talking about. In Pittsburgh, I am from Greenfield. But in Philadelphia, I am from Pittsburgh. Further, if I am traveling internationally, I am simply from the United States.
Curating is a business necessity
The increasing complexity of modern technology has created the information economy, and its most precious resource is attention. Even more, there is an expectation for content to be easy to grasp and tasks to be simple and intuitive. Certainly, without curation businesses run the risk of loosing the attention of your audience. Therefore, it’s no surprise that complex businesses often struggle with meeting the communication needs of their audiences.
At ThoughtForm, we take on this challenge by making curation a part of every project we tackle. Above all, we pay attention to the specific needs of our clients’ audiences to effectively determine how to make complex issues engaging, digestible, and relevant.
How to begin curating information:
1. Use affinity diagramming to organize complex topics
First, gather all the relevant details of a complex topic by writing each of them down on cards. Then, begin to group like cards together under high-level categories. Being able to physically see the groupings of different information and experiment with different structures can quickly bring clarity to complex topics, and often reveals breakdowns in the information. If you are having trouble coming up with categories, good starting points can often be activities, environments, interactions, objects, and users.
2. Prioritize the big ideas
We are all bombarded by information. Our time, brains, and, frankly, our sanity requires that complex information be delivered in the order of priority. Therefore, Sort big ideas by putting the most important information first. Curating a selection of big ideas from a tome of information helps you deliver only the vital information to your audience and deliver it in a way that your audience is expecting.
3. Draw a visual model to examine complex problems
Having a clear picture of a problem goes a long way in increasing your ability curate content appropriately. For example, a visual model of how a customer experiences a service can give you a new perspective and provide an effective organizing structure for what content users need for specific activities or tasks.
4. Fail fast with rapid prototypes
Often, curation requires a few rounds of edits to get it just right. Thus, rapid prototyping relieves the pressure and helps you determine the best path forward by comparing different options. Quick iterations can give your team the ability to test different approaches, while conducting user testing can confirm you’ve made the right choices.
Iterative design process: Make it. Break it. Fix it.
5. Don’t confuse inspiration blogs with curation
Tools like Pinterest and Tumblr offer the appearance of curation, but are generally collections of images that may only contain one redeemable aspect. These collections of unrefined aesthetics can overwhelm and distract, as they lack the thought and analysis needed to create truly curated content. Don’t recreate this mayhem for your audience. Instead, use these tools as a starting point to sort through complex information and thoughtfully tailor the information to your audience’s specific goals.