Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Discipline of Content Strategy

Focusing on content strategy ...

"We, the people who make websites, have been talking for fifteen years about user experience, information architecture, content management systems, coding, metadata, visual design, user research, and all the other disciplines that facilitate our users’ abilities to find and consume content.

Weirdly, though, we haven’t been talking about the meat of the matter. We haven’t been talking about the content itself.

Yeah, yeah. We know how to write for online readers. We know bullet lists pwn.

But who among us is asking the scary, important questions about content, such as “What’s the point?” or “Who cares?” Who’s talking about the time-intensive, complicated, messy content development process? Who’s overseeing the care and feeding of content once it’s out there, clogging up the tubes and dragging down our search engines?

As a community, we’re rather quiet on the matter of content. In fact, we appear to have collectively, silently come to the conclusion that content is really somebody else’s problem—“the client can do it,” “the users will generate it”—so we, the people who make websites, shouldn’t have to worry about it in the first place.

Do you think it’s a coincidence, then, that web content is, for the most part, crap?

Dealing with content is messy. It’s complicated, it’s painful, and it’s expensive.

And yet, the web is content. Content is the web. It deserves our time and attention.

And that’s where content strategy comes in.
What is Content Strategy?

Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place.

Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all: it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants. (See: your company’s CMS.)

Content strategy is also—surprise—a key deliverable for which the content strategist is responsible. Its development is necessarily preceded by a detailed audit and analysis of existing content—a critically important process that’s often glossed over or even skipped by project teams.

At its best, a content strategy defines:

* key themes and messages,
* recommended topics,
* content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements),
* content gap analysis,
* metadata frameworks and related content attributes,
* search engine optimization (SEO), and
* implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance."    (Continued via A List Apart, Kristina Halvorson)    [Usability Resources]

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