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.
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.
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.
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.
The renowned web developer and content strategy advocate, Jonathon Kahn, once said,
“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.”
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.
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 the usability.