VitalSite Notes: An On-Page Space for Your Editorial Conversation


With the recent release of VitalSite 8.0, we introduced Notes, a helpful new feature designed for the teams and individuals responsible for planning, creating and maintaining the content of hospital websites.

Because Notes are right next to the content they describe (but are visible only to administrators and never to the public), content teams can easily communicate with each other about the pages, panels, providers, services, locations or other VitalSite objects they work on and govern. If you’ve worked on websites for any amount of time, you know how helpful this type of capability can be.

As an example, I once had an overzealous editor return from vacation and remove numerous pages of what she thought was duplicate content… all because she didn’t know that the “duplicate” pages she saw were actually page variants used in a content experiment started in her absence. A simple on-page explanation or note visible to her would have averted this by making the purpose of the pages clear.

In another case, I was clearly at fault: I revised a page as directed only to discover that the content had special editorial restrictions I wasn’t aware of when I made my changes. A simple on page note explaining that this page needed to be approved by specific external stakeholders would have saved me all the time I wound up having to spend on reverting changes, patching up relationships, getting buy-in and moving forward.

In both cases described above, critical information necessary to avoid creating problems happened to be clearly spelled out… but essentially buried in strategy and governance documents located in a few folders on the network share (which is, of course, a problem unto itself). And in each case, some simple notes on the pages that described the unique restrictions, purpose or intent of the content could have helped us avoid problems.

Chances are we’ve all had similar experiences, some more maddening than others.

VitalSite Notes helps teams avoid these problems by providing a space to capture information directly on the page (or object).

But Notes don’t just help teams avoid problems. Rethinking the types of information you can include on the page can help teams improve the quality of content they produce.

Proximity Is Important

Over the past couple of decades, we’ve learned much about the importance of having meaningful editorial conversations and content guidance. Typically this manifests itself as a range of documents containing IA diagrams, content inventories & matrices, page tables, content templates and more. While we’re all better off for having invested in creating these, I can’t help but acknowledge that far too often these strategy and governance artifacts suffer from a tragic flaw: They typically are far removed from the actual content in question. This makes them easy to ignore. Inevitably, they fragment and eventually nobody is sure where the most recent version of a given document is saved. It’s been my experience that the usefulness of this type of meta content (content about content) is directly proportional to its proximity to the actual content it describes.

This law of propinquity suggests that information that is more accessible (closer) is more likely to be used. Just having the guidance is not enough if it readily accessible.

In The Digital Crown, Ahava Leibtag addresses this concept obliquely in a discussion about unifying brand messaging:

By giving clear and explicit instructions about display, editorial guidelines, and SEO within the CMS, you will accomplish that goal [of a unified brand personality]” (210).

This sounds like a perfect use for VitalSite Notes. And if we unfetter her challenge from a brand-only discussion, her recommendation to include editorial guidelines is much more broadly applicable to the work we do not just on pages, but on physician profiles, locations, service lines, etc.

Chances are you have a lot of great information captured in the artifacts of your content strategy and planning work. Much of it may contain critical page-level guidance highlighting key calls to action, audience information, purpose, messaging and tone information essential to the pages of your site. Wouldn’t it make much more sense to have some of this page-specific information live with the content instead of existing only in some far off cache of meta documentation that can be easily ignored when actually working in the content?

Of course it would.

VitalSite’s new Notes feature provides you the opportunity to do just that.

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This entry was posted in Admin Feed, Content, Marketing, Value, VitalSite by Michael O'Neill. Bookmark the permalink.
Michael O'Neill

About Michael O'Neill

It’s not often you find a communications professional who is an expert writer, understands the power of social media and has the technical capabilities to embed on and contribute to software development teams. But that’s exactly the background Michael brought with him to Geonetric as the technical communications strategist. From writing eBooks to managing Geonetric’s digital presence, Michael uses his software know how and his marketing savvy to help tell Geonetric’s story through a variety of platforms. This former adjunct professor holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Worcester State College in Massachusetts and completed graduate level coursework at the University of Connecticut. In addition, Michael is also a Certified ScrumMaster, a contributing writer at iBusiness Magazine and a member of the Board of Directors at Gems of Hope. This new dad is known for his high coffee standards and has quite the following around the office when he brings in his favorite craft-roasted beans.

1 thought on “VitalSite Notes: An On-Page Space for Your Editorial Conversation

  1. On page admin notes is a great concept and it will be interesting to see how it is used and if it is used often or not much. Like paths through a grassy campus people will often make their own despite the sidewalk. I would bet some customer use data down the road will bring to the front other ideas for greater expansion of this feature.

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