It all starts with content . . .
Whether they have a question, need to solve a problem, or just want to be entertained, your customers are looking for content. It could be a blog post, a photograph, a video, or an interactive experience—the right content can build strong relationships. You want to be sure your content has what they need, where they need it, when they need it. A solid content strategy supports your business goals and provides the foundation for any digital marketing project, from creation to launch, from search to conversion, and beyond.
What is content strategy?
Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, compelling content. This emerging field encompasses every aspect of content, including its design, development, analysis, presentation, measurement, evaluation, production, and management. We draw from our clients’ business goals and their specific user needs to audit existing content and then create a comprehensive plan for future content—clearly defining which content will be published and why.
A sitemap is a graphical representation of website architecture able to illustrate the hierarchal relationship among pages. We spend time structuring pages into groups, often with distinct subgroups, generating a hierarchy of content. Decisions about how exactly to categorize and cluster pages can have dramatic consequences on usability and conversions. Each sitemap is highly scrutinized and refined to strike the perfect balance between deep and flat hierarchy. While website visitors never see this type of visualization (below), the shape of the hierarchy has an enormous impact on the end user’s experience.
Deep sitemaps only have a few categories on each level and tend to hold a user’s hand. This type of hierarchy requires more clicking and guides users through generic categories and uncluttered menus to lead the users to the page(s). Many deep hierarchies require alternative navigation options and shortcuts to allow more savvy users to find information quickly and easily.
Flat sitemaps give users a direct path to content. This allows specific content to be easily discovered without forcing users to drill down through broad categories. While flat hierarchies tend to be easier to use and less confusing than is burying content under multiple intervening layers, flat hierarchies can also be overwhelming by presenting too much information at one time—forcing users to skim or to fail to read the list closely enough.
Now that all the research and analysis is complete, we can start on the first step toward building site content: information architecture (IA). IA is essentially the organization and labeling of information to help users complete tasks, easily find what they’re looking for, and fully understand what they’ve found—skills that clients find is easier said than done. We go well beyond foundational IA practices and spend a great deal of time making choices about how to best present and organize content throughout the site to funnel users to the most applicable CTA. The result is a focused sitemap, carefree user flow, intuitive navigational structures, and improved conversion rates.
While we’re always thinking about how our client’s audience will progress through the site, we design user flows to verify our assumptions, refine the sitemap further, and determine navigation structures—all working together to funnel users into the most pertinent CTA. Using each target persona (developed during our initial market research and competitive analysis) combined with the client’s objective, we design flows that are tied to clear goals and a defined buying cycle.
It’s easy to let aesthetics muffle strategy—in fact, all too often, firms and freelancers consider wireframes the first step of design rather than using wireframes as a final step in the planning process. Wireframes are the result of focused research, extensive analysis, and informed information architecture—all coming together as the initial website design begins to emerge.
In many cases, we take wireframes a step further and send clients a prototype of the project, allowing them to experience how the design will function. This enables our designers to spend less time trying to communicate their vision and more time iterating and improving usability.
“A wireframe without a corresponding content strategy and a realistic CMS design is a work of fantasy. Fantasy wireframes lead to broken experiences, unmet goals, and angry stakeholders.”
-Jonathon Kahn, renowned web developer and content strategy advocate
Proof Points: Gigya
Gigya is a leader in scalable customer identity management. In essence, Gigya transforms ostensibly anonymous online traffic into rich customer profiles so marketers can identify, target, and engage their ideal customers better than ever before. Ever been disturbed by how personal and well timed an ad placement was while browsing online? That’s Gigya’s bread and butter.
Fresh off a rebrand, Gigya teamed up with Gravitate to determine exactly how a new website can provide the foundation for an updated brand, messaging, and ongoing digital marketing efforts. Specializing in helping leading brands identify their customers in great detail, Gigya didn’t need us telling them whom to reach, but rather how, when and where to engage their target users.
With both teams empowered to collaborate freely and flexible to change, we created documentation that directly informs everything from userflows and website messaging, to ongoing content creation and vertical marketing.View Full Case Study
Proof Points: Campus Living Villages
When working with a campus housing business with locations on three continents, it’s no easy task to create an intuitive architecture built around limiting clicks and minimizing hassle. The navigation required a different line of thinking from the get-go to ensure no matter where you are on the site, you’re only a few clicks – or taps of the phone – from being able to research a location elsewhere in the city, the state, the country, or even the world.
Whereas a common project progresses from strategy to design to development, MyStudentVillage was an intensive partnership between content strategists and developers. We established the content hierarchy and URL structure early on in the process to create a uniquely manageable international site.View Full Case Study
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