Content. Content. It’s everywhere!
So we’ve covered all the bases — user research; information architecture; interaction design; prototyping, user testing — everything UX. And now we are talking content strategy? Really? It’s just online content. What’s the big deal?
Everything on the web, on an app or on a portal is content. The content is what engages your audience, defines your brand and builds customer loyalty. It deserves attention and careful consideration but is too often glossed over during projects. The truth is there are numerous reasons for why content strategy is critical for most projects. Let’s explore some of those.
- Much better content — When you add content strategy into the UX mix, the content is not only more engaging, but the overall user experience increases. A content strategy helps identify the page or screen elements that will add more value and create more meaningful experiences in the short and long term.
- Messaging consistency — Consistency is key in everything we do. Naturally, the same is true for the actual content. Traditionally this is viewed as the responsibility of the marketing department. However, this consistency need goes far beyond the marketing department and can be as detailed as consistent system error messaging. A solid content strategy can help set standards, offer guidelines for voice/tone, brand and more. That way no matter who touches the content throughout the organization, every content owner is on the same page.
- Reduce user friction — Content strategy helps ascertain where the potential disconnects between messaging, labeling, information architecture and so forth are in an effort to reduce user frustration/friction. Content strategy helps define goals, content paths, content, processes and any potential tactics to ensure along with information architecture that the friction is kept to a minimum.
- Optimize content — Now to conversion rates. During content development, it’s vital to identify user personas and create individual content paths for each (all part of the content strategy). Every user has different goals, needs and interests, making user-specific content absolutely paramount. This will improve the overall SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by using the right keywords — words that resonate with the users. In turn, this will improve overall conversion rates since more users navigating from search engines will find the content that is more relevant to them. This is an important strategy since content resides in numerous locations in a given system. It’s important to note that optimization is a continuous quest — the content should evolve over time to continuously improve rankings and address both user and business needs.
- More efficient content development — With a content strategy in place, content creation is simplified on various levels. First, content strategy guidelines help inform the when and how for the copywriters but it also defines how to repurpose or reuse content during the lifecycle of a given system. Editorial calendars can help organize and plan for future content development and releases, as well as establish internal processes to achieve the content creation goals.
- Define content management — Another important factor is to define the content management technologies or CMS needed to capture, store, deliver and preserve an organization’s content. Publishing infrastructures, content lifecycles and workflows are also key considerations that can have incredible impact on overall project success and beyond.
Content strategy documentation
There are a lot of strategy deliverables to help aid research as well as gather and document those findings and recommendations. Of course the necessity of all listed below depends on the needs and the nature of each project.
Content inventory/content audit — A content inventory and a content audit are closely related concepts and are often performed simultaneously. A content inventory is the process and the result of cataloging the entire contents of a system or site. Similarly, a content audit is the process of evaluating that content and documenting any relevant findings to inform content strategy, information architecture and user experience as a whole.
Content gap analysis — This gap analysis identifies content gaps and issues of a given evaluated system and offers recommendations to addressing those issues or optimizing that content.
Editorial guidelines — This documents the guidelines for content governance. It describes voice and tone, the approach to creating user-generated content, content publishing details such as the workflow and process.
Content matrix — Commonly in spreadsheet format, a content matrix streamlines the content production and migration process prior to system launch. It is generally mapped to the site map and/or the wireframes to assist development as well as content migration and tracks all elements of the content development process, page by page.
Metadata strategy — Metadata (data about data) describes an asset and provides a meaningful set of attributes to further classify or consume that content. The strategy or framework of the metadata establishes the rules to that metadata.
Content management strategy — This determines what kind of content management system (CMS) will be best for publishing the content, then customizing that CMS to suit the needs of our clients and the content owners.
A solid content strategy will only help smooth out the development process and real impact to the overall user experience as well as the project’s bottom line.