Content Standards

There are a number of standards that govern how content is processed. These are internationally-recognized standards that (mostly) software developers use to make content interoperable.
For example, you used to be able to download a “business card” from one application and seamlessly import it into another application. Or you can set up an event in one program and have it appear on your website. This works because both organizations use standard tagging so that the content inside the tags is migrated reliably between platforms.
Many standards exist, and it would be next to impossible to keep up with them or catalogue them all. Consider this a starter list, some core standards that every content professional should become familiar with. It may also spark curiosity about other standards which may be helpful to know about.
The following standards are the basics that affect content or are affected by content. The list is by no means exhaustive; it was even hard to decide on how to categorize the standards, as they overlap so much. Instead, the list should be seen as a starting point from which to understand the technicalities behind structuring content to allow it to be leveraged for multi-channel delivery.

Content Management Standards

Content Management Interoperability Standard

This standard is a commitment from content management systems to facilitate the exchange the content between them. Why is this important? It could be to export content when changing vendors, or it could mean that multiple companies can exchange and share content between their systems (sister companies or vendors and clients).

Document Exchange Standard

RosettaNet is a group of leading technology companies that have created and implemented a common set of nonproprietary, XML-based, e-business standards. These standards define how trading partners conduct business through the exchange of business documents over the Internet.

Metadata Standards

I suppose that every standard is, in some form or another, a metadata standard. I will leave those semantics for others to debate.

Dublin Core

The Dublin Core is probably the best-known standard. It formalises a metadata vocabulary that allows us to describe Web resources in a consistent way. Doing so means that the content transported by the metadata remains interoperable between systems using the same vocabulary. “The semantics of Dublin Core were established and are maintained by an international, cross-disciplinary group of professionals from librarianship, computer science, text encoding, museums, and other related fields of scholarship and practice.” [from Wikipedia]


Microformats are, as the name implies, standardized formats for small units of content, such as a person, event, and so on. Virtually all common information units have a microformat.

This is the microformat standard that the major browsers agreed upon as their preferred standard.

Media metadata

There are a number of standards for images, depending on the image type and purpose, and for other media such as video. However, there is one particularly standard for images that is of particular interest.

SVG metadata standards

Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) images are files which allow any in-graphic text, in one or more languages, to be stored as a text layer, which is very helpful for translations.

Taxonomy / thesauri standards

These standards are for managing controlled vocabularies, such as thesauri, to help with retrieving information. These are for multiple media, and work for multiple languages.

Content Standards

W3C Open Web Platform

Developing software to this standard means that the applications can be feature-rich, and will still work on any device.

Semantic Web

Refers to the W3C vision of the Web of linked data, which will allow people to create Web data stores, build vocabularies, and write rules for handling data.


A data model for modelling and sharing distributed knowledge based on a decentralized open-world assumption.

RDF triples

RDF triples describe a “thing” (topic) in three different ways: subject, predicate, and object. It provides context about the thing being described, and helps make search results more relevant and disambiguates similar topics.

XML Technology

Includes componentization, query, internationalization, transformation, processing, and publishing standards. This has become the de facto standard for semantically-rich, structured content. It not only supports delivery of content to the Web, but also supports content moving between systems, and so on.

W3C Standards

These standards create an open web platform for application development that allows developers to build rich interactive experiences that are available on any device. Because the data uses consistent standards, the ability to combine data into a rich experience creates huge opportunities.


A mark-up standard for creating semantically-rich, structured, modular content in a standardized schema.

Web of Devices

W3C is focusing on technologies to enable Web access anywhere, anytime, using any device. This includes Web access from mobile phones and other mobile devices as well as use of Web technology in consumer electronics, printers, interactive television, and even automobiles. [from W3C

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

Accessibility is, sadly, often overlooked when it should be at the top of our consciousness. These guidelines allow access to content by everyone, including people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers, adaptive keyboards, and speech recognition software.

This section of the standard applies to public-facing content.

This section of the standard applies to interfaces built for internal use.

XML Localisation Interchange File Format

This is an XML-based format that standardizes how content is passed between systems in the translation industry during a localization process.

Process Standards

Human-centred design for interactive systems

ISO 9421-210 is the standard that governs user-centered design, now called human-centred design. In other words, if you’re developing a website, app, or other technology, you’ll want to have this standard on your radar.

Accessibility Guidelines for Information/Communication Technology (ICT) Equipment and Services

This section of the ISO 9421- 20 standard applies to the accessibility of equipment, software, and web and other interfaces, to the widest range of users.
Again, this is only a fraction of the standards that exist. The ones here have been included because of their importance to the processing of content. If any other standards should be included here, feel free to suggest them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Back to Top ↑