Content strategy and user experience go hand in hand, and the sessions I attended at DrupalCon this year did a great job of bringing that idea to the forefront.
Content Driven Framework
A content-driven framework is key to successful user experience. In the session Content-Driven UX from June Parent and Bjorn Thomson from ImageX Media, they shared how content strategy and UX cannot productively be considered apart from one another. When you take on this perspective, you can ensure that your content and UX will combine for the most powerful version of your website.
According to June, a content-driven website framework contains the following components:
Who is your target market? How can you adjust your messaging to reach these users? Consider the voice, tone, and brand personality of your website. Does your content build a brand relationship and create loyalty with your users?
Website users these days are scanners; they engage in scroll behaviors. In order to meet the needs of these users, make sure you front load your content with the most important information first. This way, you’ll ensure that users with a tendency to scroll have a greater chance of absorbing the most relevant information. Once you’ve determined your most important content, think about what type of user interface will help your target users easily engage with that content.
Even though you’re writing for a person, not a search engine, you need to understand SEO best practices. Optimizing your content from an SEO perspective is essential for high performing content.
Content needs to be served through many avenues. Where do your audiences live? Make sure you create a bridge for your website to distribute content across the web. That can be through social sharing or other content integrations.
Make sure you have access to data and understand how to leverage that data. Don’t just add Google Analytics code to your site, make sure that reports, goals and funnels are set up properly.
Creating a Content Audit
Once you’ve established your content-driven framework, you can use this criteria as the basis of your content audit. If a piece of content does not speak to your audience and is poor quality, both from a content and UX perspective, it will not rank highly in a content audit.
A content audit is an assessment of the health of your site, from a content, SEO or hybrid perspective. Content audit attributes can change from project to project, but when completed it should tell you how the site is performing from both the front-end (content) and back-end (SEO elements).
Performing a content audit prior to making website updates will also make sure that you aren’t spending time redoing elements that are already working well. Instead, find the parts of the site that aren’t meeting performance goals and evaluate mission critical pages, like services, products, and about. On the other hand, you can also analyze high performing content, to make sure that the pathways to that content are clear and to understand what the pathways are that users take to high performing content.
During the audit you can also dive deeper into analytics, and identify any gaps or holes in your website content that would require new pages or sections of your website.
Developing a Content Strategy
In the session Content Strategy in Popular Culture, presenter Brett Meyer, Chief Strategy Officer at ThinkShout, shared ways you can create and implement useful and usable content on your website. One way Brett described how to bucket your website content was as “content users want, content the organization wants, and content no one wants.” While content that users want is the most important bucket, there is also a place for content that your organization wants. Content that no one wants? That can be eliminated via the content audit process.
When developing a content strategy it makes sense to review many of the elements used in the content audit. Brett highlighted goals, audiences, the content model, and information architecture as some of the most important parts of a content strategy.
There must be a reason for the content on your website and content must support the goals of your organization. Keep in mind that your website is a tool to help you accomplish your goals.
Most of the time, your website is trying to serve many people with many different needs. Understand your audience’s motivation: what do people want from your site and how can you create more of that content? Also consider the experience and tolerance of your users. How experienced are your visitors with your site? Is this their first time here or are they an experienced user? It’s important to make it easy for users to find what they want, no matter what their experience with the website is.
The content model is the technical aspect of a content strategy. While a perfect content infrastructure does not guarantee that you’ll be successful, it does help your chances. As part of the content model, you should always be building your website with real content. Because so much of UX is dependant on content, you should be building the website as you create content so you can adjust the design as you go.
The best written content can’t overcome poor information architecture. With so much information, it’s easy to let your website get overloaded. Some of your users will explore the whole site, some won’t. Don’t make it hard for either group to find what they want. If you’re dealing with a lot of legacy content on your website, there are ways to improve the page layouts without building brand new templates. For example, you could create related content blocks and CTAs to help make the pages more useful. Don’t try to get users to take too many actions on the page. What’s your biggest goal for each piece of content? Identify your primary goal and minimize everything else on the page.
It Takes Time to Create Great Content
If you want to make something that is going to be useful and resonate with your audience you need to spend time making it great. A customer’s journey isn’t a ladder; it’s more like a game of chutes and ladders. People don’t move linearly through their customer journey and they won’t move linearly through your website. You can’t assume users are going to do what we want them to do, when we want them to. All we can do is ensure that great content will be available when they want it.