Content Development

Today, the internet has become an integral part of our everyday lives. As a business, its no longer good enough just having a website and being online. Today, your business has to found in the search engines, rank higher than your competitor, be relevant in local and national search, interact with customers in the medium they are most used to, provide an effect sales channel and above all else produce results and sell your product of choice be it a service or tangible item.

Content Strategy

Creating content and Content Strategy is the planing managing and developing of all the text, images,video and other content that goes into making up a modern multi media website.

Designing the content strategy so that the front end of the website, the way the words,images and multimedia are displayed to the user is of supreme importance in any webdesign. Without a great looking, easily navigable website, you are not going to keep any visitor who lands on your page, engaged and on your website any significant length of time.

You can have an amazing back-end to your website, filled with databases of images and information. You may be utilizing the latest html and other code, but unless the website presents your information in a logical easy to follow manner you really are losing and missing out on the opportunity to retain customers or convert sales.

Designing a website can be quite complicated and it gets even more exponentially so as the amount of content increases. Having a clear objective is a powerful motivator and setting clear achievable goals and managing the clients expectations is very important in designing the content, context and layout.

Getting clear on your goals is a crucial first step. Its important to interview the largest or key stakeholders to find out what their goals for the project are. You may find that their goals are very different, so deciding on what the goal is for designing or redesigning the website is a great first step. Perhaps the different stakeholders have such varied goals that it may be necessary to set individual goals for each part of the website? On a big website it might be appropriate to treat each section of a large site as a separate website, with goals and sub goals. Its important to find out what is important to all the stakeholders.

No matter the size of a website you should never have more than three goals, although you should refine the original goals as you go along, to hone them to exactly what you wish to cover.

Don’t try and do too much:

start by managing expectations
set limits on what you can do, and what you should do!
The important focus of goals is to get SPECIFIC, get specific about the goals, how they will be measured and how realistic each goal is.

Make sure the content you create supports, the key objectives of the goals, you may need to narrow down the goal, or revisit your original goal and redefine it.

Possible Goals For a Small Website –

Attract new customers
Promote Services to new and existing customers.
Educate customers about the subject of the website,
The most important aspect with setting a goal for a website is to get everyone in the business thinking about ONE goal for the whole website.

Information architecture

Information architecture is about organizing the content and flow of a website based on research and planning. The end goal of information architects is to come up with a structure / design that balances the users’ desires with the business’s needs. As per Wikipedia, it’s “the art and science of organizing and labeling data including: websites, intranets, online communities, software, books and other mediums of information, to support usability”. We could simplify it to “the art and science of organizing websites”

Web users have four fundamental questions when they arrive at a website:

Is this the right place?
Can I find what I’m looking for?
Do they have anything better (if this isn’t exactly what I want)?
What do I do now?
One of your key tasks is to make sure you do a good job at answering these questions – on every single page of your site.

This means that you as a website owner need to:

Assure your visitor’s that they’re in the right place (make it clear where they are).
Make it easy for your visitors to find what they’re looking for (clear navigation, search etc).
Make sure visitors know what their options are (links like “See also”, “Related products”).
Let them take various kinds of action (clear CTAs Click To Action).

Identifying your target audience

It is unrealistic to aim your website at everybody! The target market is too broad so you need to decide who you will target your website to. Who will be the best audience to target? If it is a big company you should talk to the people in the marketing department, sales team or customer service department, these people have thought a lot about who their customers are, however in a small company or business it may be up to you to help identify the best audience to target with the content you will create. You may find that this information is foundational to the Goal setting as it may very well influence those goals and either or those goals may need to be adjusted to bring them in line with the a new target audience.

Demographics – Gender, Race, Age, Mobility, Economic Status, Employment Status, Location
Specific considerations: – Language requirements, education/reading level, computer experience, computer equipment, bandwidth etc
The more specific you get on the demographics of your target audience, the more informed are your decisions about what reading level are you writing for, which formats to use for content and what language to use.

When learning about your audience, its all about asking the right questions.

Who, what, where and when
What do you know about the community of your target audience?
What makes my audience different from all the others in the world?
Where are they visiting me from, online and in the real world?
Some interface designers and a lot of marketing departments love to make up specific user persona, mock identities with quirky or otherwise personalities of the users who will be utilizing their website. How will they react online? What is their life? What do they require? What are their online habits etc etc. This can be a lot of fun and can really help when you are writing content for target audiences.

Clarifying your target audience can help you better design content that they can relate to and ultimately that can make the difference in them choosing your product or service over a competitors.

Creating a Content Inventory

In a new web site design you need to take inventory of all the info you will include in the website and optimize all the content to take advantage of the demographics of your target audience and to adhere to the goals you have decided on. If you are doing a redesign of website, and especially when there is huge amounts of data involved and many pages on the site, the first step is to take inventory of what you have. Content analysis or inventory can be as simple as looking through pages on a website or as complicated as managing a whole team of annalists going through 1000’s of pages and associated data. It is important to understand what you have already and its usually a Quantitative or Qualitative inventory and often it is ideally both.
Make a list of all the pages:

List all the pages on the website – use a computer to automatically generate page lists or it can be as simple as using an excel worksheet noting down, ID,URL, Page Title, Headline, Goal of page.
Use a CMS
Read or at least skim through all the pages and material
Take inventory of content that’s not on the website but has been created – video material, articles, pictures etc.
Categorize content by file / format / other criteria
You can certainly save a lot of time by starting with a computer generated list of web pages. All websites should be able to generate a site map which you can use as a list of pages, Even if you are working in a static page setup you can still use online site mapping tools to generate a site map and a list of pages.

Pay attention to all the different kinds of content you come across, perhaps a picture which is not suited for a certain page for whatever reason holds a story behind it, something which you can turn into great content. This is why interviewing people and asking questions is so important, it really uncovers the gems of content. Ask questions, the right ones, reveal great new content!

A Good Analysis can include:

A unique ID or tracking #
Description of the content
Content type / format
URL / Location
Location of the original
Author / Source
Last updated / Frequency
Condition: complete / needs editing / updating
Purpose /Served
Editorial Style: Technical, humorous, objective
Online readability: Is it scannable with subheading, bulleted lists etc?
Recommendations / notes of text / video etc
When working on a large website or with a team, you need to spend a fair amount of time getting your categories correct. You are in effect making a map to get back to certain content with the ability to know what that content is before you go there for final decisions. You need to test your category theories out on sample pages with various team members then meet back and assess its effectiveness. This map or route you are constructing back to raw data must work consistently effective enough to feed its result into a good content matrix.

Remember that most projects especially big ones go much more smoother if you break down the tasks into manageable It is really important not to get ahead of the plan and start to fix or create new content, While you are going through this preliminary discovery process your goal is to assess the current condition, location and status of the existing content and to collate it.

Content Gap Analysis:

A good content gap analysis is made up of a number of parts, essentially its a way to discover what you have on your website and what you need to add or fine tune on your web site in order to achieve your goals.

Its Part:

Whats missing
Whats working
What isn’t working
At this stage its all about brainstorming, exploring the possibilities, creating new ideas, crating a wish list of content which may work in the new website or redesign. As you create your Gap Analysis it is a good idea to periodically revisit your goals to see if you are still on point with them and who you identified was your target audience. Many people like to take their Content Analysis and turn it it into their Gap Content Analysis others prefer to make up a new sheet in excel like the one in our example. (insert screen shot here)

Content Gap Analysis – should include the following:

Topic / Title
Brief description
Goal ? Objectives: how does this content serve or meet your top goals
Ideal Format, video, animation, info graphic,etc.
Timeliness, Is your content evergreen, or does it need frequent updating
Current status; Missing completely, needs to be updated
Some people spend a little time and others a really long time on their Gap Analysis, whats important here is to realize that its an ongoing process, something to be regularly revisited as the project progresses and at regular intervals after the project has been completed. The best way to get your Gap Content Analysis going is to brainstorm ideas, and while there are many ways to create a Content Gap Wishlist, perhaps some of the following might work in your circumstance

Brainstorm ideas with clients or key staff members
Study the websites of your competitors and even unrelated websites you will be surprised where the best ideas come from.
Ask customers / clients what they want to learn / find when they visit the website, sometimes just asking outright questions brings up the holes in content.
Conduct A /B or Multivariate testing – sometimes your customer may not know what they want to find
Study the traffic analytics of the website to discover what areas are getting the most attention, what is the most popular and what areas might be the most worth developing further.
As you are developing your Gap Analysis, interviewing clients, customers and staff, and brainstorming with your team / client etc. make sure you emphasize to all parties that this is just and all about coming up with new ideas, new possibilities. There is no need to censor the ideas for fear of who will undertake a project etc. The goal here is to create the most comprehensive list of content that’s needed, a list of ideas which will open new possibilities and ideas for better creative content.

The Gap Content Analysis is all about helping your client and key managers understand what is possible, to provide and inkling of how new content might influence the company, how they might be better perceived, how it might impact sales, how new content might raise the website to another level, if they allowed their imagination to run wild.

This list of best ideas will have to tempered against and prioritized due to time, budget and resources.

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