Monday, May 30, 2011

Improving the user experience with content strategy

It's getting close to your launch deadline. Lorem ipsum placeholder text that filled out the wireframes and comps are the only content in your CMS. You don't have a copywriter, but you have a tentative plan to convert some old brochures' text to create web content.

We've all been there. Your new website is up and running, and now you're thinking about the content.

When working with tight turnarounds and small budgets, content can be treated as a last thought, especially if your design and development team doesn't have content strategy expertise. The web has different content needs than print projects. The words you use to tell your company's story online—and how they're presented—need regular review and strategic improvements. Content is often the hardest part of any website project.

In her book Content Strategy for the Web, expert Kristina Halvorson points out that "content is not a feature." When content revision and creation is treated as an afterthought in the web design puzzle, its execution can make or break your website's success. If your website's content isn't well thought-out, the users can always tell. Most people visit websites to get information. If your website makes it difficult for users to get what they need, they'll end up frustrated, or they may go elsewhere.

Here are two ways you can start to make content strategy a part of your website's creation, redesign process, or ongoing maintenance to ensure a better user experience and bigger ROI on your investment having an online presence:

Never stop auditing.
There is no such thing as postlaunch when it comes to content. Keep an inventory of what you post and analyze where there are gaps. Review regularly and revise as appropriate. Use management tools (an Excel spreadsheet is a good place to start) to keep track of your content. Don't forget to measure the success of your content in terms of its findability and impact on your business. Do people come to your website and leave right away? Create personas to understand your users' needs, motivations, concerns, and goals. Make sure your content addresses how your company's products and services will solve your users' problems.

Curation is key.
Unify your content management process and focus on the user experience. Figure out what you want to do and then pick your tool to help you do it. Define the purpose and value of the content you choose to share on your website. Make sure your content reflects the characteristics of your company's brand. Develop an editorial calendar and establish processes. Create standards, including a style guide with content specifications and workflow with archiving and updating plans.

Joy

About the author | J.O. Miller

Joy is the creative director at TBH Creative and helps companies use their online communications to build, design, and manage their brands. She likes to blog about latest trends, social media, conferences, and share tools.

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