You’re reading this: the case for content strategy
I’m going to share a secret from nearly twenty years of working on the web. Peel the lid back on a major website build, and you’d be forgiven for wondering whether the efforts going into planning, creating and managing the written word are commensurate with the effort going into technical or structural aspects of the project. Put another way: visitors to a site are there for the content. Those who build sites end up putting plenty of time into other aspects of the project first. So why aren’t we putting more effort where the impact is greatest?
There are many reasons for this. One of them, I believe, is that we tend to look at web projects from the landing page in, rather than from the content out. There isn’t usually much written on the landing page, but a lot of thought is required to structure that page successfully.
If this is your experience, a shift may be needed. Enter the content strategy.
Content strategy can help you harness your content to make it work for your organization and for your audience. You need a strategy, because content has needs that pull it in many directions, making it challenging – and time consuming – to get it to work for you.
Content pulls in many directions. Content has requirements: it needs to be written for impact (to support business objectives) and to inform (for the user). It needs to be structured and managed (so that the authors know where it is and how long it should exist on the site) and it needs to be findable and well organized (so that users can get to it and use it). These aspects imply responsibilities and tasks for those involved in the development of the site.
The content stakeholders also pull in many directions. The users of the content and those who are responsible for its creation and management have needs, which in turn impact your project. For instance, the authors of the content may require training, or may see content writing as an inspirational and exciting part of their job and wish to do more of it. Likewise, the audience may make specific requests of the content that are difficult to anticipate in advance. For instance, a traveller may seek health advice in addition to more traditional “travel” advice – how do you create the right content and put it in the right place when people will require different things from it?
Ideally, your overall web strategy should be first and foremost a content strategy, given how central it is to the site’s core objectives. This requires capacity within your organization, and for web projects it may require a shift in focus towards authors and content managers.
The following model aims to get you thinking from the content perspective first and foremost.
The model puts content at the centre and shows the forces that are at play. It provides a framework to allow web project teams to develop a successful content strategy by addressing these “forces” that content exerts on the project, and the “forces” the authors, stakeholders and users exert on it as well.
In support of broader website goals, we can’t underestimate the attention that should be placed on content development and its effective organization and management.
What do you think? Does this model put the emphasis where it belongs? Would such a model support your efforts at developing a content strategy? Let us know in the comments below.
Scott Duncan is a senior consultant with Systemscope. He has nearly 20 years experience as an information architect and communications strategist.