Edmonton UX book club started its new year with one of the hottest topics in the user experience community: content strategy. We did so by having Kristina Halvorson come and discuss her book, Content Strategy for Web.
Kristina is the founder and president of Brain Traffic, a nationally renowned agency specializing in content strategy and writing for websites. Widely recognized as one of the country’s leading content strategists, Kristina speaks regularly to audiences around the world about how to deliver useful, usable content online and where and when your customers need it most.
Kristina defines content strategy as the creation, publication and governance of content; content that our customers will find useful and enjoyable. It’s amazing that this sentence seems so simple and makes a lot of sense (dah)! However, many companies haven’t thought of it for many years as they moved into the era of Web 2.0. As the designers made the interfaces very useful and usable, the work on content was pushed to the end of the projects, where there hasn’t been much time to deal with it.
In her book, Content Strategy for Web, Kristina helps us unravel this with very simple and easy-to-follow steps. One of our book club’s regular members, Marie Hohner, has this praise for the book:
"This book is a great introduction to the growing practice of web-based content strategy. Kristina Halvorson does an excellent job of arming her readers with the tools needed to become advocates and practitioners of content strategy."
During the book club meeting, we had quite an interesting conversation with Kristina, which is summarized below. I hope you will enjoy it and learn a lot, as I did.
Kristina summarized content auditing in four words: “See what is useful.” She mentioned that organizations generate hundreds of pages of content, of which 80 per cent is not needed. Users typically pay attention to 30 - 50 per cent of the content.
Content as a process vs. content as a product
Many websites host a series of web-based products that are launched from their sites, or a series of PDF forms provided to the user at the end of the task. One question that emerged was, “Is that also part of the content strategy?”
It’s not easy to know where the web content stops and product strategy starts. Many practitioners are still struggling with this. According to Kristina, the main difference lies between stating the content as a process that supports the users’ task VS the one resulted at the end of the task. Defining these lines help us a great deal in understanding where we can draw a line for the scope of our content strategy.
Content and user research
Book club members were interested in different research methods that can be used in order to validate content, especially the sites that host a lot of content. Kristina mentioned that it’s ideal to perform an expert audit of the content and to create patterns showing what you want to achieve and then testing that out.
Kristina also talked about the plain language movement and content strategy, explaining how it aligns with content strategy. It’s very important that your content is written in simple plain language, so that your audience can easily understand it.
Kristina talked about content ownership issues in light of the fact that, currently, the content’s ownership never lies with one person; content is created somewhere else and it’s published by someone else. Kristina mentioned that content is very emotional as different people have different reasons for creating it. So you need to have a gatekeeper who will take charge of it and will make sure content is communicating what it needs to in a most useful way!
Content strategy – Present and future:
Kristina gave a comparison between 2006 and 2009 concerning the number of times that content strategy is discussed online. The amount of mentions has increased by six times, which shows that awareness is building.
Kristina sees the future of content strategy as something that will take precedence over design, as you need to write the content before you build the site. Thus content is and will come first! Kristina emphasized on this point by stating, “it’s not about Twitter, it’s about what you say on Twitter.”
We came to the conclusion that no matter how great a site we design, it’s useless if the content is not both useful and enjoyable. Our thanks to Kristina, who has written an amazing book which will help us ensure that we have the right tools to consider content first!
Posted in on March 1, 2010blog comments powered by Disqus