Cait Smith
Are You A Content Strategy Team of One?
Cait Smith
October 25, 2017

Are You a Content Strategy Team of One? Questions You Should Be Asking

Years ago, I was a sole UX designer working on content-heavy websites for companies in highly technical industries. Leah Buley’s book, “The User Experience Team of One,” was my saving grace. I was a content person transitioning (i.e. tumbling head-first) into UX work, and her book became one of the most dog-eared, underlined books in my possession.

When I entered the UX field through the wormhole known as content, it was mostly considered: the words, the information, the stuff that goes into the design after the designer was done designing. (“Can you fit that product description on two lines? Great.”)

What I love about content strategy and UX is that they both align my core aspirations:

  • Helping businesses talk and act more like humans
  • Making things easier for people
  • Reducing complexity, clutter and noise

Inspired by Buley’s simple, tactical approaches in her UX book, this post will serve as a cheat sheet for those who wind up serving as a sole content advocate on web projects.

If you find yourself:

  • Encouraging designers to test with real words, not lorem ipsum…
  • Asking how the content will be maintained in the long run…
  • Bringing in content creators to work alongside technical and design teams…

You might be a content advocate.

The most common battle you face day-to-day is ensuring content isn’t treated like an afterthought, or a thing done on the periphery of design and development.

Here are some tips.

When you need to help businesses talk more like humans:

Questions to ask yourself and the team:

  • Who are the humans that we’re serving?
  • What information do they need most? (Where does our brand value intersect with their needs, desires and beliefs?)
  • What is our brand voice? (How do we want users to feel after interacting with our content? Do we sound like we’re writing for a SEO robot?)
  • How will our brand voice be applied across different channels and communication vehicles?
  • Is our value coming through with the words, language and story we’re telling?

Methods that can help drive answers to these questions:

  • Core messaging development
  • Tone & style guidelines
  • Content requirements by channel
  • Updated proto-personas to include: information this human needs to find/consume in order to do something, and the most common questions this human is asking her/himself

If you remember just one thing:

Show your brand value through the experience, not in marketing platitudes.

When you need to create simplicity and ease:

Questions to ask yourself and the team:

  • Are we designing a sitemap based on our org structure or knowledge about users and their circumstances/context?
  • How do we align, structure and label information according to how users speak and think?
  • How can we group, pair or chunk content based on similar attributes?
  • Is this content skimmable?
  • Is this content searchable?
  • How will users find this content?
  • Are we clearly describing what we want users to do next?
  • Are we creating repeatable patterns of content?
  • How do these patterns work in tandem with design templates and technology requirements?

Methods that can help drive answers to these questions:

If you remember just one thing:

Design without content isn’t design, it’s containers.

When you need to reduce clutter and noise:

Questions to ask yourself and the team:

  • Do users need this information to make a decision or perform an action?
  • Is our content prioritized based on user tasks?
  • What content is “fringe” and only necessary for a small subset of users (Are there other methods to communicate this information? Do we need all this information on the website/app/portal?)
  • How will this content be managed and updated over time?
  • Who will own removing or updating this content?
  • What is the authoring workflow?
  • Do content owners understand when, how and why they update, delete or add content?

Methods that can help drive answers to these questions:

  • User interviews
  • Analytics analyses
  • Content inventory
  • Content audit
  • Content governance
  • Content calendars & editorial planning
  • Authoring workflows

If you remember just one thing:

The same rules of good storytelling apply to the web. Show, don’t tell. And my favorite, from William Strunk, “Omit needless words.”

___

This cheat sheet could be summarized with one simple question:

Does this information, word, label or category of information deliver meaning to our core audience?

Organizations are still figuring out how to structure content teams within Agile product teams, and every business is different, as is every project. The exciting news? You don’t need permission to be a content advocate!

I’d love your thoughts. What other tips would you add to this cheat sheet to help folks who are advocating for the importance of content?

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