Recently, I talked about the importance of UX and content governance when choosing a web design company. In reality, I put the cart before the horse—and I did it on purpose.
Strategists will tell you that the best, most effective sites go through a full content strategy phase prior to UX, design, and development. But many of our clients choose to skip that step: because it’s not in their budget, because they don’t understand it, or because they don’t think they have the time and just want to get started building a new site. Further, many web design companies don’t offer the level of content strategy that can truly transform the design of your site.
So let’s take a step back and talk about content strategy and why you should look for a web design company that offers it. Strategy may appear to slow down the website redesign process, but it can actually do the opposite. An investment in thorough research and strategy up-front saves hours of effort at launch time.
Ever had a project where your wireframes didn’t take into account all the things you need the site to do, and you have to ask your team to go back and redesign the navigation?
Content strategy helps avoid that by understanding the site’s users, goals, and content, so that the navigation presented in wireframes anticipates and addresses all necessary tasks.
Find yourself with a beautiful design, but you’re not sure how your current content is going to work within this new approach?
Content strategy already thought of that and has a plan, whether it’s a high-level section-to-section migration, or a detailed map of which pages should live in which new categories.
I’ve found that a 4- to 5-week content strategy effort will make the remainder of your web design project go more smoothly and effectively, and end with a product that gives you the results you want and need.
What to expect from content strategy
My first step when tackling content strategy is to make sure I understand what the users need, and in what form they want that information. This information can get knotty pretty quickly.
Consider the primary variables:
- Which persona are we looking at?
- What role do they play in the decision making?
- In which part of the sales cycle does the user need this information?
- Where does the user go to get this information? (Hint: it’s not always going to be on your site)
- What format does this user prefer? (Infographics, presentations, whitepapers, videos)
- To whom does this user share the information?
- What does the user want to do next?
- What do we want the user to next?
Multiply those variables by 4-5 personas with 3-4 tasks over the 5 stages of the purchase cycle, and you’ve got yourself a lot of information to untangle, digest, and connect.
Content audit, to the rescue
With all the information learned about the personas’ needs, tasks, and preferences, a content manager dives into your existing site and maps all of your current content to the personas, sales cycle, tasks, formats, and more. They also evaluate how much of the existing content is ready to carry over to your new site, and how much needs to be updated, rewritten for the right audience, or repurposed altogether.
This thorough content mapping exercise informs everything about your new site, from what the user is looking for, when they’re looking for it, and how they’d prefer to find it. With this in hand, the content strategist can create an information architecture, which informs the UX professional’s wireframes, which, in turn, informs the designer’s designs. And when it comes time to prepare for launch, your content team knows which content will transfer straight over, which content needs to be reworked, and which content is missing.
I get it. Sometimes you have a clear idea of what you want from your site redesign and you’re looking for a web design company to simply build it. And sometimes the time and effort it takes to go through content strategy seems cost- or time-prohibitive. But when you build a website with a content strategy based on user data and content best practices, it’s set up to generally last longer and better serve you and your users. Something to think about as you plan and budget for your next site redesign.