Start Making Sense: Content Strategy In Web Design
One of the most effective ways to increase the UX on a site is with the use of content strategy. The problem, however, is that many site owners looking to launch a new site, or engaging in a redesign, don’t see content strategy as an integral part of the design process. Look at it this way – ‘web design’ at it’s core is pretty straightforward. People know what the deliverable is, and (generally) know what to expect from that process. When it comes to content, it’s not so clear cut – but the result is just as, if not more important, than the design aspect.
For many who may not be familiar with content strategy, ‘content’ may just be viewed as another way to say ‘copywriting’ – which is seen as either a last stop in the refining and editing process (checking for typos, consistency, grammar, etc). To clarify, the difference between ‘copywriting’ and ‘content strategy’ must be outlined.
Simply taking existing copy that a company has written for their business plan, core values or product information is not the same as what should be used for the web. This is regular marketing ‘copywriting’, that can be used for core messaging, usually in print. This kind of copy is meant solely to inform. Writing for the web, on the other hand, must be crafted to direct customers to take action – whether that be sign up, purchase, call or buy – the goal is conversion. The contextual process that gets a website user to their goal is known as ‘content strategy’.
While design may traditionally be more valued to the client, content strategy is the core of what will make the design work. Without it, a design may be seen as incomplete or even incoherent. When a content strategy process is implemented, not only is the design more effective, the outcome of the site’s analytics are far better.
The Content Strategy Process
Inventory and Audit
This is the ‘who, what, why, where and when’ of the process, and generally, the most exhaustive. Much of this information can be gathered in the kick-off process, but investigative work also needs to be done on competitive and marketplace analysis. A in-depth understanding of the brand or company that the site is representing is critical to correctly positioning the information. All of this information must be compiled and briefed to the design team before moving on to the design process and even wire framing.
When content is not being built from the ‘ground up’, content curation must take place. There may be existing content from a site that is being redesigned, or copy that is being pulled from various places such as print collateral like catalogs or product packaging. Some of it, of course, may remain, however – the challenge is to rework the content so that it makes sense for the web, writing for SEO and enabling the ideal user pathways.
Just as a backend team develops the code for the site, the content team is the first stop in beginning the structure of that framework. From defining the top navigation and creating calls to action – the content is truly informing both the visual and structural design of the site.
Beginning a web design process with content strategy is a way to ensure that the brand will be shown in the most authentic and easy to understand way. When a design and content team work in tandem to create the framework for graphics and content, the user experience will be fully optimized.