December 30th, 2008 at 4:56 pm
Building a website is thought of mainly as a design and development challenge. And it certainly is. That’s indisputably the bulk of our business…ninety percent or more of our leads come to us seeking “web design” or “web development”, or both. Now those broad terms can mean all kinds of things when we start asking our questions. Every project is different. But ultimately that’s where the demand is, and that’s what our business supplies: web design and web development.
However, at some point (earlier the better) the client, the designer, the developer, or (oops?) the end user will each have to stare down the words on the page, and evaluate the message they comprise (or the damage they cause). There is nowhere to hide when it comes to content. If it stinks, the user will give up on you. So you work on it too make sure you don’t waste your time and money on a fancy website that speaks gibberish to the customer.
Would you believe that very often, almost always, the content strategy task of building a website can be just as involved with and urgently important to your ROI as any aspect of design or development? If that is overstating the case, it’s not by much.
What is “content strategy”, you ask?
Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.
Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place.
Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all: it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants. (See: your company’s CMS.)
Content strategy is also—surprise—a key deliverable for which the content strategist is responsible. Its development is necessarily preceded by a detailed audit and analysis of existing content—a critically important process that’s often glossed over or even skipped by project teams.
At its best, a content strategy defines:
- key themes and messages,
- recommended topics,
- content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements),
- content gap analysis,
- metadata frameworks and related content attributes,
- search engine optimization (SEO), and
- implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance.
There’s a lot more to digest in this very enlightening article, plus many others on the subject of writing for the web you should really check out. We can’t recommend A List Apart enough if you really want to know what goes into building a better website.