Content strategy is one of the most underrated pieces of the user experience puzzle. It's the piece that far too often gets skipped when building a new site or redesigning an existing one. After all, it’s not very sexy to talk about fielded data, content modeling, and workflow. Project stakeholders tend to prefer being wowed with snazzy visual designs, full of cool widgets and vivid images. However, skipping the content strategy and going straight into wireframes/prototypes or visual design is generally a recipe for disaster. Here are some web design tips for keeping content in mind.
Content, as the old adage will tell you, is king
It’s what people come to your site looking for, whether it be a product you’re selling, an article you wrote, or a video you produced. Users want something from you or they wouldn’t come to your site. They may be UX professionals like myself who flit around the web to check out the latest trends and are just fascinated with your responsive design, but more likely than not, they’re coming because of your content.
Having a strategy in place for how you’re going to produce, maintain, and display your content is absolutely essential for any website. You can have the coolest visual design ever, but if you don’t have the content to support it, everything will fall apart once the site is built out.
Beware The Big Beautiful Image
Remember, everything you present to users on your site is your content. This includes images. One of the biggest problems I see with sites that are conceived without a content strategy in place is the use of big, beautiful images in the visual design that the content team has no way of reproducing on a regular basis.
The nice thing about creating a content strategy is that it forces you to take an honest look at the content you currently have and assess whether it’s something you really want to keep, or if it’s just clutter that you can clear out. This sounds simple, but a problem I see quite often is content hoarding: people refusing to give up old content because they’re afraid they might need it one day. Basically, every piece of content on your site should have a reason for being there. If you can’t identify that purpose, you shouldn’t keep the content.
Dream Big! Then Be Honest
Once you’ve gone through all the content you currently have, you can start dreaming up all the content you want to have. Maybe you want product demo videos on your site, or a map showing all your company's locations. Dare to dream! But then it’s time for the reality check. Can your team produce and support all the content you’ve dreamed up? If so, that’s great, but you still need to put together a plan for who’s going to be generating the content and how it will get published (workflow), as well as a schedule showing how often new content will be coming in.
Now that you’ve determined what kinds of content you’ll have and how much you will be creating, you’re much better prepared to design and build a site that showcases your content, rather than one that you have to shoehorn your content into.
And that’s my rant about designing with content in mind!
For more information on how to craft your content strategy, I’d recommend reading “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. Or if you’re not so into reading, you can listen to some great podcasts from Lullabot’s Insert Content Here series.