You want content strategy with that?

A Wordle of startups.co.uk's article "What makes a good website?"

A Wordle of startups.co.uk's article "What makes a good website?"

For all the speed of the world wide web, some online concepts can take a long time to filter down.

Even the micro-blogging behemoth Twitter was shunned by most businesses and web users for years before they decided to join the noise.

Content strategy is nothing new, but it’s becoming an increasingly audible buzzword among the web community these days, with many interaction designers and UX experts acknowledging that most websites are “all about content”. But how long will it be before “content strategy” actually means anything to customers?

Getting the concept

At the moment, there’s very little recognition. And no surprise – even among the recently launched Brighton Content Strategy Meetup group, a lot of time has been spent defining the concept.

Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web, defines content strategy as planning for “the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”

(Perhaps we should clarify and say that the “content” she’s talking about is anything that can be read, listened to or watched on your website.)

At Lark, we’ve also edited and launched print publications, and it’s worth noting that strategy is equally important here too. But let’s stick to online for now.

Web wise

When it comes to (re)launching websites, customers still typically see “content” as the final and least tricky piece of the jigsaw. Unlike the technical build and design, it is also often the part they decide to do themselves. (Especially if they think of content as just the words.)

We have seen companies spend huge amounts of money on a new technical back-end and design for their site, only to replicate a navigation structure and content architecture that plainly fails to meet either their business goals or satisfy their visitors. It might be beautifully shaped and have smart functionality, but it’s still not fit for purpose.

Finding room

So what’s the fix? The tricky thing for many – including those in the web community – is figuring out where something like a content strategy comes in the current digital delivery process.

Thousands of websites are revamped and put online every day. You clearly don’t needa content strategist to launch a new website.

Some of the confusion is due to role blurring. Many digital agencies / development teams will create your site architecture. A good designer should consider your user journeys / user experience.

The danger with bypassing a more editorial / content-led approach is that organisations often fail to address some of the bigger questions around their web presence, and don’t set out the right approach to meeting those organisational and user objectives.

Note: there are many fantastic developers and designers out there who will take on this role (even if they’re often not paid for it). They’ll ask and listen to the client and suggest, for example, that the organisation doesn’t have the resources for a rolling news site and that an aggregated / curated blog would provide better content, cost less and be more manageable for their small web team.

Typically, though, you just get what you ask for. Which could be a site that looks better but is impractical to run. Or one that makes it harder for your users to access the information they need.

Content win

So what should we do about it?

Part of the solution is to change how we think about content. I think many people still equate content with copywriting – filling in the Lorum Ipsum text on already designed templates.

In future posts, we’ll look at how to change this mindset, explore the four main components of content strategy, and showcase some examples of great content strategy in action.