Continuing on from our previous blog post on ‘Content Strategy 101,’ there are several ideas for approaching Content Strategy throughout the UX design process. The different phases of the design process include:
Keep in mind that this is a cycle and not a linear process. Just because you have started the analysis phase would not mean that you are completely done with the discovery phase. They may overlap and are cyclical.
When the designer is in the discovery phase, one of the most beneficial things they can do is create a content audit. Kristina Halverson identifies three different types of audits which, once chosen, can be adjusted for your websites’ needs. These three types include a quantitative inventory, a best practices audit, and/or a strategic assessment. A quantitative inventory involves listing out everything on your website to show what you really have. This will allow you to select what content you need and don’t need while showing you the complexity and size of the content you have. Then you have your best practices audit, which will help you to categorize how findable, usable, and actionable the content actually is. This prioritizes your content, showing any problem areas or gaps you may need to fill. The strategic assessment comes next in the discovery phase (if you choose to go this route) which will include aspirational things you would like to achieve with your website’s content or things you would like your website to do. This will help you to see the gaps between where your content currently stands and where you would like it to be (your strategic plan).
The analysis phase includes benchmarking your content against competitors. As you do this, you should look for several things, including what competitors are doing that you should or shouldn’t be doing, or what your competition isn’t doing that you should be doing to get ahead of the game. During this stage you can also create a content brief. This report will use what you found in your discovery phase and analysis to make recommendations for your content. This brief or report would include things like an executive summary, goals of the evaluation, content strengths, content weaknesses, near-term and long-term recommendations, and finally ending with your conclusion.
A ‘Core Content Strategy Statement’ should be curated during analysis. This should guide the direction of your content as you begin diving through all of your research and actually developing your content. This is also a good way to be able to tell clients what you will and won’t do as far as the content you will put on the site. An example of this would be if the client wants to have the CEO’s Twitter or Facebook feed on the home page, but this design feature doesn’t align with the goal or content strategy statement. This will help get things back into perspective with the client and what you are actually trying to achieve. Creating a message architecture would also happen during this analysis phase. A message architecture involves gathering brand information for communication goals, deciding on brand attributes, and sharing this with the content and design teams.
Once the analysis phase is complete, you would move to the build phase of creating and editing your content. Creating a content matrix can be beneficial because it can track the curation, implementation and testing. This is a great way to keep track of the content within a website and where you are at with curation. The matrix can also help avoid confusion with whom has edited what page, when it was edited, if it is finalized, etc. It can get confusing during a site build knowing if a page has been checked for misspellings, grammatical errors, etc. Creating a page template for each page on the site is also crucial for content build, because this gives guidance on what to write about on each page of the site.
A style guide for the content is useful because it gives direction on the type of verbiage to use. This guide will give whomever is writing your content a guide on how to write your copy. For example, at Standard Beagle, we have several clients that are medical groups, so their content and verbiage needs to be very specific. If you are working on a site that uses industry specific terminology and want to make sure those terms are used properly throughout the site, you can specify these terms within your style guide. Take in consideration you may have multiple people writing content for the site, so this guide helps with consistency.
The content maintenance phase is the final phase, which includes delegating out tasks by defining roles and responsibilities. Defining roles and responsibilities in this phase consists of the following:
- Responsible – Execute task
- Accountable – For task being completed to on time and up to standards
- Consulted – Provides instruction and/or guidance to task
- Informed – Made conscious of task
After you have gone through this process a few times on different projects it will become more natural and you will be able to tweak the process in order to fit your company’s project management style. Overall the process is a solid way to get started with content strategy and be successful at curating great content. And always remember, this is a cyclical process and the phases may overlap and circle back around as you go through your content strategy process.
- Content Strategy for the Web by Halverson & Rach
- Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish
- Sample Content and Audit Report
Getting Started with Content Strategy General Assembly Workshop