Technical Communication and Web Content Strategy


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A presentation I built for a research paper about Content Strategy for a Theory of Technical Communication course at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

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  • What happens when a technical communicator is given responsibility for recommending what content is delivered based on business objectives and user needs? What happens when a technical communicator is allowed to plan the way his content will be used, changed, and retired (lifecycle)? Image from
  • Kissane, Erin. "Content Strategy Is About Publishing." 03 Mar. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2010. <>.Lovinger, Rachel. "Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data." Boxes and Arrows: The Design behind the Design. 26 Mar. 2007. Web. 04 Dec. 2010. <>.Johnson, Tom. "The Increasing Momentum of Content Strategy." I'd Rather Be Writing. Web. 04 Dec. 2010. <>.
  • Halvorson, Kristina. Content Strategy for the Web. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2010. Print.
  • McGrane, Karen. "Content Strategy for Everyone (Even You)." Interactions 17.3 (2010). ACM Digital Library. Web.
  • Technical communicators should become content strategists as a way to protect their content for the entire lifetime of a website.
  • "Web Content Management System." Wikipedia. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. <>.
  • You can edit a web site directly in your browser, while viewing the website. You can organize your site into hierarchies. You don’t have to code the site, just use a template or theme that takes care of how things look and how they work. All you have to do is focus on uploading the content.
  • This is great, right?
  • This is not always a Good Thing™.
  • The visual design is the easiest way to conceptualize a site.
  • We at least had some idea of what the site should do and how it should be organized.
  • This process actually has roots in project management (5D Methodology) where it is Discover, Design, Develop, Deploy, and Debrief.
  • This forces design and development to take into account the actual, real content that will be delivered in the finished product.
  • Engage = narration/description
  • Halvorson, Kristina. Content Strategy for the Web. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2010.
  • Technical Communication and Web Content Strategy

    1. 1. Technical Communication<br />Web Content Strategy<br />+<br />
    2. 2. Content strategy is an emerging discipline, one that technical communicators should be aware of.<br /><br />
    3. 3. What is content strategy?<br />Still wondering?<br />“Content strategy is about publishing.”– Erin Kissane<br />"Content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design.” – Rachel Lovinger<br />"Ultimately the content strategist’s central question is this: what strategies can I implement to improve the content?” – Tom Johnson<br />
    4. 4. What does writing have to do with it?<br />Kristina HalvorsonContent Strategy for the Web<br />“Most of the content on the web is text.Text instructs, guides, informs, confirms, communicates, connects. [Text] is the most complex kind of content to produce, and it’s the easiest to lose control of.”<br />
    5. 5. We can do better.<br />Karen McGrane"Content Strategy for Everyone (Even You)”, Interactions<br />“Ever wonder why so many websites feature dense, unreadable prose? Force you to navigate through pages of brochure copy and legalese? Look like they backed up a truck full of PDFs and dumped them in the content management system?”<br />
    6. 6. Most web projects start with design and functionality, leaving actual content for subject matter experts to take care of.<br />Planning is focused on the launch of a web site, not on the life of a web site.<br />Even the most brilliantly written/designed content can be lost if it does not fit the delivery vehicle.<br />The existing process is flawed.<br />
    8. 8. Content management systems<br />Confused? Think of it like this …<br />A Web Content Management System (WCMS) is a software system which provides website authoring and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage the site's content with relative ease.<br /><br />
    9. 9. When things are difficult …<br />
    10. 10. … technology makes things easier.<br />
    11. 11. Starting a website used to be difficult.<br />
    12. 12. “Webmasters” required many tools in order to design, code, and deploy a site.<br />
    13. 13. Content management systems put all these tasks behind a user-friendly interface.<br />
    14. 14. Now anyone can publish on the web.<br />
    15. 15. (Anyone.)<br />
    16. 16. Web teams can package an empty website template (design + code) and quickly hand it over to subject matter experts.<br />The subject matter experts use the simple CMS entry tools to add content (no code or design skills required).<br />There was increased site consistency (branding) and sites could be updated often.<br />Everyone was happy.<br />Businesses quickly adopted the CMS model.<br />
    17. 17. Except…<br />
    18. 18. The content was crap.<br />mostly<br />
    19. 19. Many web projects follow this process.<br />
    20. 20. Experienced web teams use a more formal process.<br />
    21. 21. When did we write all this important text?<br />Right before the site launch.<br />
    22. 22. A CMS reinforces the existing process.<br />A CMS with a functional design template is handed off to the site owners as a packaged product.<br />All the “work” is focused on building the tool, not what goes into the tool.<br />
    23. 23. Content strategists suggest a new process.<br />
    24. 24. Why will technical communicators make great content strategists?<br />Tom Johnson<br />I’d Rather Be Writing (<br />“Content strategy is clearly gaining momentum as a discipline alongside other disciplines related to tech comm, such as content management, information architecture, usability, and information design.”<br />
    25. 25. Web content often uses three rhetorical modes.<br />
    26. 26. Technical communicators can apply rhetorical principles to creating web content that is<br />
    27. 27. This semester, we surveyed the following topics.<br />
    28. 28. Important abilities of a content strategist include<br />
    29. 29. The bottom line.<br />daniel spillers<br />“We are learning how to be thoughtful and effective communicators. Becoming a content strategist would also let us plan and control the entire lifecycle of any content we create: how it is used, changed, and retired.”<br />
    30. 30. Daniel spillers<br />University of Arkansas at Little Rock<br /><br />@almostdaniel<br /><br />