If you manage your corporate website, which houses content from multiple departments or business lines, you probably recognize this scene: You’re summoned to a meeting with some internal web clients who own some of the content. They complain that they don’t have enough exposure on the site. They articulate the problem this way: “We get no traffic to our content!” This means that “Our peeps can’t find us!” The solution is obvious: “We need a prominent spot on the home page in the main navigation!” Read More
Two years ago, I had my first experience of implementing a content management system (CMS). I will withhold all names of organizations, people, and platforms to protect the guilty, but let’s just say it’s painful even now to recall the confusion, the groping, the anger, and the desperation that my group went through. There are probably support groups out there to help us recovering CMS implementers, but in case you’re teetering on the brink of your own CMS implementation, about to go over the edge into the abyss, I want to offer some perspectives from our experience.
There’s been conversation recently, especially on the Google group for Content Strategy about what it takes to be a content strategist. What’s the background? What’s the education? What’s the experience? And how do I get to be one?
I don’t think I risk too much by suggesting that no one claiming the title of content strategist started out life as a content strategist. It’s a journey of self-discovery: “Oh, so that’s what I do!”
In my opinion, the path to becoming a content strategist begins with love—the love of content.
“Content types” are among the least understood, and yet most potent, aspects of user experience and web design. Most people encounter them for the first time when implementing a grand-scale content management system (CMS) because you have to define content types before building templates for each kind of content you’re going to publish. (Everything I know about content types began with Bob Boiko’s Content Management Bible, and I recommend it to anyone facing a new CMS.)
Because they associate content types so closely with CMS, some make the mistake of equating content strategy with content management. They’re not the same thing, though they are certainly related. Your content strategy specifies the content types that will then be modeled for your CMS.
I want to take some time, then, to tell you what I understand about content typology, so that you’ll be able to address content types in your strategy.
Colleen Jones (@leenjones), one of my colleagues from the Content Strategy Consortium (#csconsortium) recently published, “Toward Content Quality” on UXMatters.com. In it, she presents her cool checklists to use as heuristics when evaluating content quality. She’s invited feedback on the checklists, and so I am writing partly for that purpose, but also to put forth a complementary technique.
Colleen’s checklists cover the most important aspects of evaluation, but they imply (to me, at least) that a whole lot of background is already understood, such as the users’ needs, the overall strategy of the site, and most importantly, the measures against which one might gauge the success of the content under review. I don’t mean any criticism at all; I think she’s just more generous than I am, presuming someone has given these issues at least a little thought.
I’d like to propose a parallel activity to a heuristic evaluation of content, which I’m going to call a heuristic description of the content. Instead of saying whether the content meets specific success factors (e.g., does the content do this effectively?), infer from the content itself what its goal is and describe it as fully as possible.