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Content Strategy + User Experience = Great Web Content
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Content Strategy + User Experience = Great Web Content

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Some days, being a user experience professional can be lonely. You research and survey, and create a beautiful set of personas that get stuck up on a cube wall somewhere, as they fade into blind......

Some days, being a user experience professional can be lonely. You research and survey, and create a beautiful set of personas that get stuck up on a cube wall somewhere, as they fade into blind spots for those who are supposed to use them. Meanwhile, some content manager is sitting in a cube, mulling over an inventory, wondering what's useful and what's not. Too bad that poor content manager is poking around Google Trends and making assumptions on instinct alone. They might as well both be blowing bubbles in the wind.

Alice Coleman and Christy Brewer were brought into a web site redesign project at the same time. Coleman is an accomplished user experience pro. But Brewer is a jack-of-all-trades, having only dabbled in user experience research as an extension of her editorial and content creation background. Brewer knew better than to pretend she could play in Coleman's world, and began asking questions that sprang from her journalism training. Soon, they were finishing each other's sentences, and found a clear and concise way to illustrate that what Brewer needs is exactly what Coleman provides.

Brewer and Coleman moved past nomenclature and into the land of bubbles to visually define the relationships between persona research and content development. Using standard UX practices of identifying key tasks, search behavior data and web analytics, Brewer and Coleman's bubble illustrations map the path from guessing at valuable content and strategically designing content that meets actionable organizational goals.

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  • Some days being a user experience professional can be lonely. You research, survey and create a beautiful set of personas only for them to get stuck up on a cube wall somewhere as they fade into blind spots for those who are supposed to use them. Meanwhile, some content manager or writer is sitting in a cube mulling over an inventory, wondering what’s useful and what’s not Too bad that poor content manager is poking around Google Trends and making assumptions on instinct alone They might as well both be blowing bubbles in the wind. User Experience and Content Strategy are two disciplines still new to the agency structure And they’re shaking up what agencies know about creating content for both digital and traditional publishing.
  • The Account Teams know their client and the business goals. Sometimes, Account goes native, and argues that they know the users best. Experience Planning knows the channels and how to reach the target. But only if you give them the right target to hit. Project Management can offer solutions used on previous projects, because they’ve been involved in a lot of projects. Writers study the angle, hook and style most likely to lure in the target. Too bad people rarely listen to the writer. The client may or may not have the right information on their client. This is a cautionary tale of a project we were involved in, just after it started. Of course, it suffered the same start. But, by having a fresh set of eyes and some research, we were able to come up with a way to define content strategy’s role and reinforce the value of user experience in the planning process. The project was a redesign for Navy.com, the US Navy’s recruiting web site. It was a lonely process at first, but we were able to pull together the entire team to deliver an experience and content that was much more relevant to the people the Navy wanted to reach.
  • [Alice] Blatantly obvious that I needed to ask the most obvious question: Who exactly are “the people”? [Christy] Are we speaking in the right language? Acronyms? We weren’t making the process obvious or easy, and reinforcing that perception gap. Attitude was, publish the info WE think they need, and people will come and get it.
  • We were violating the first rule of user experience. We were also violating the first rule of writing. (Know your audience) Navy audiences: Moms, women, medical, divers. We can talk to them all but first we need to understand who we’re talking to, and understand them as people. Navy for Moms… Then we realized that the approach was essentially to target who the Navy needed, and treat them all the same way.
  • Content Strategy operates on the same principles as UX: understand the business need, but also understand the target audience so that the content can appropriately bridge the gap and connect people.
  • Why are we creating content? To fill a need. This is why content people spend so much time learning as much as they can about their audience and crafting just the right hook and following through with a relevant call to action.
  • Validate or refute the pillars we were given. They passed the smell test, but were they comprehensive? You can’t do your work until I’ve done mine. Wait, you can’t do yours until I’ve done mine.
  • [Christy} The goal isn’t flawless wireframes or a content inventory. It’s the web site, stupid. [Alice] New to the agency structure… on a good day, we follow this process.
  • Research… sources and lightbulb. Not necessarily waterfall, but just a way of organizing.
  • [Alice] Everyone thought they knew how to create personas. Add to that the formal discipline of the user experience professional creating research-based personas with a content strategist who uses the same objective sources to research a content strategy, and everyone was stepping all over everyone else’s toes. At least CS and UX realized they were doing the same thing, and could work together. Lots of research sources, everyone had content. Traditional research from solutions planning, general audience, keyword research, social media research, web behaviors, Navy for Moms. Create a persona that had representation from each group. Everyone saw their persona represented, which helped us all get buy-in. Currently and aspirationally
  • Articulate keyword research, web analytics and social media/conversation monitoring reports. CS gets a chance to bump up findings against something real. Account personas were based on Navy goals, not research. CS and UX have a chance to be more objective and holistic. This is a visual representation. Persona development usually stops here. Big mistake. Content Strategy requested one specific addition to these personas. Hey, what’s that colored pie graph doing there?
  • Articulate personas expression as a scenario. Why do UX people build scenarios? Once everyone was comfy with the personas, we needed to explain what those personas want to do on the web site. Each persona has five primary tasks, and identify how they would first encounter the site.
  • Aside from answering the key questions for each person featured in persona research, content on Navy.com must focus on how they interact with a web site.
  • Less distinct buckets of content, and more a ratio of content from each bucket. There absolutely is a spreadsheet behind this: What are people talking about? What are they searching for? What content already exists? Quantitative, relational representation of what the user needs. At one point, account and Navy thought that each pillar was a separate person.
  • Alice introduces the function of task lists, Christy hijacks. For our officer persona, his first question absolutely is around career advancement. It turned up in social conversations, keyword searches, and web site analytics.
  • Site map was the most challenging. Lots of info on the current site, lots of content to create, lots of needs to meet.
  • An expression of the information architecture, as informed by the research to date. Categories are named according to keyword and conversation research to ensure we continue to speak in terms of the user. Begin to refine your editorial strategy here. Collaborative. Is it clear where Information Architecture falls? Oh well… we simply worked together. Logical structure, plus food for thought on how we wanted to build natural paths through the site so people can find the information they need.
  • Wireframes are the organization of the user experience in terms of features and functions. Get into the heads of the personas. If we start here, how do we get them where we need them to go? Navy, of course, is always pushing to get people to the “request information” form. But we understand that a lot of other things had to take place before people would feel comfortable. Each feature and function requires content. I don’t have to remind a group of CS people that content is more than words or “information.” But you may have to remind everyone else.
  • Swap seats; UX professional becomes your navigator. Evergreen.
  • Point out that we don’t proceed sequentially through each persona, but pick the top primary task for each and work simultaneously, but without overwhelming the approval system. Here’s where account/client comes back in with the business goals. Prioritize first by major goals, then by level of gap.

Transcript

  • 1. Content Strategy + User Experience Blowing bubbles together Creating better web content through research, not guessing Alice Coleman, VP User Experience Christy Brewer, Content Strategist
  • 2. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Are We Missing the Point?
  • 3. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 It Starts with the Usual Suspects Client Project Mgt Account team Experience Planning Writers
  • 4. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Brands Must Solve Real Needs Perception gap What consumers need MEPS, DEP, Ratings, ASVAB The Navy?! Do they even take women? Do you have to swim? What you say about yourself
  • 5. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 “ To create workable and beautiful products we must understand our users...and we are not our users .”
    • For over 30 years Alan Cooper has been a pioneer of the modern computing era. His groundbreaking work in software invention, design and construction has influenced a generation of programmers and business people—and helped a generation of users. Alan is the author of two best-selling books, About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design and The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, and his visionary ideas and outspoken style make him a popular speaker. Whether you know him as the "Father of Visual Basic," the inventor of personas, or the guy who thinks software should be spanked, we know him as the man whose ideas are the foundation of what we do.
    - Alan Cooper Strategic Mistake
  • 6. Content Strategy Bridges the Gap Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010
  • 7. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 “ People’s behavior makes sense if you think about it in terms of their goals, needs, and motives.” - Thomas Mann Thomas Mann (6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. Set a Logical Foundation
  • 8. Case Study: Navy.com Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010
  • 9. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Research Personas Scenarios & Tasks Sitemap & Wireframes Usability Research UX & CS: Really That Different? User Experience Process:
  • 10. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Research Personas Scenarios & Tasks Sitemap & Wireframes Usability Research UX & CS: Really That Different? User Experience Process: Content Strategy Process: Research Audience Analysis Topics, Key Questions Headlines & Planning Content Building
  • 11. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Personas & Content Research
    • Research sources:
      • Usability test results
      • Current website metrics
      • Keyword research
      • Conversation analysis
      • 3 generational studies
      • 3 community-specific studies
      • Industry reports like Groundswell, Forrester, Gartner
  • 12. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Personas Aren’t Pinups
  • 13. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 User Scenarios Hide Clues
  • 14. Top Task Reveals Top Question Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 How will the Navy help me establish my career? How recent is their equipment? Would I really be on a sub for six months? When will I see my family again? How can I pick a career path in the Navy? I don’t know where to start. I really want to talk to someone who’s made this decision; why on earth do people choose the Navy? If I want to be an officer, do I really have to go through boot camp?
  • 15. Pillars Don’t Map to Personas! Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Each persona needs a mix of content from each of the strategic pillars, to varying degrees The Process Tools Community Thought Leadership Lifestyle
  • 16. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 People Need a Mix of Content
  • 17. Tasks Lists are To Do’s for CS Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010
    • Careers
      • 1.a Advancement
      • 1.b Benefits
      • 1.c What career suits me?
      • 1.d Technology
      • 1.e Teaching/Mentoring
      • 1.f Travel
      • 1.g Post-Navy career
      • 1.h Pay
    • 2. Navy Life
      • 2.a Being an officer
      • 2.b Women
      • 2.c Diversity
      • 2.d Locations
      • 2.e Length of Service
    • How do you become an Officer?
      • 3.a Talk to other Officers
      • 3.b Find a Recruiter
      • 3.c Application
      • 3.d Officer recruitment and process
    • 4. College Funding/Loan Repayment
      • 4.a College funding
      • 4.b Grad funding
      • 4.c Tuition repayment
    • 5. What are other people saying?
      • 5.a Share
      • 5.b Discuss
      • 5.c Ask questions
  • 18. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Blowing Bubbles – Together The Process Community Thought Leadership Lifestyle Tools
  • 19. Pillars, Personas & Mix Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 John needs Process Olga needs Community Ann-Marie needs The Process Drew needs Thought Leadership John Adams Potential Recruit Olga Mendez The Influencer Ann Marie Bowen The Counselor Drew Brown Potential Officer The Process Tools Community Thought Leadership Lifestyle Ben Horton Medical Officer Ben needs Thought Leadership
  • 20. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Rules of the Site Map
    • It’s the organizational hierarchy of site content
    • It does not illustrate user flow or paths
    • It provides a high-level inventory of all functional pages within the site
  • 21. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 A Content Strategy Sanity Check
  • 22. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010
    • Wireframes organize the user experience in terms of features and functions
    • Provides rank-order and relational importance of content elements
    • Depicts the features and functionality of the site, but not the design
    Content Strategists are informed by and provide information for wireframes Rules for Wireframes
  • 23. Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Wireframes + Content = Good!
  • 24. Building Informed Content
    • Content inventory spreadsheet - Detailed, page-by-page inventory of content, qualitative evaluation of needs met
    • Recommendations - Specific areas of content to keep, retire or rework
    Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010
  • 25. A Gap Analysis Everyone Will Get Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010
  • 26. Prioritize Content Creation Better Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 1 2 3 1A 1B 1C 1D 1E 2A 2B 2C 2D 2E 3A 3B 3C 3D 3E 3F
  • 27. We’re Speaking the Same Language Content Strategy + User Experience = Better Web Content Brewer/Coleman, IUE 2010 Perception gap What consumers need The Navy gives women opportunities not available anywhere else. Do I still have to swim? What you say about yourself
  • 28. Content Strategy + User Experience Blowing bubbles together Creating better web content through research, not guessing Alice Coleman, VP User Experience Christy Brewer, Content Strategist