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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Technical Communication and Web Content Strategy

  1. 1. Technical  Communication   +   Web  Content   Strategy  
  2. 2. strategy is an emerging discipline, one that technical communicators shouldbe aware of.
  3. 3. WHAT ISCONTENT STRATEGY?“Content strategy is about publishing.”– Erin Kissane"Content strategy is to copywriting asinformation architecture is to design.”– Rachel Lovinger"Ultimately the content strategist’s centralquestion is this: what strategies can Iimplement to improve the content?”– Tom JohnsonStill wondering?
  4. 4. WHAT DOES WRITINGHAVE TO DO WITH IT?“Most of the content on the web is text.Text instructs, guides, informs, confirms,communicates, connects. [Text] is the mostcomplex kind of content to produce, andit’s the easiest to lose control of.”Kristina HalvorsonContent Strategy for the Web
  5. 5. WE CAN DO BETTER.“Ever wonder why so many websites featuredense, unreadable prose? Force you tonavigate through pages of brochure copyand legalese? Look like they backed up atruck full of PDFs and dumped them in thecontent management system?”Karen McGrane"Content Strategy for Everyone (Even You)”, Interactions
  6. 6. The existing process is flawed.Most web projects start with design and functionality,leaving actual content for subject matter experts totake care of.Planning is focused on the launch of a web site, noton the life of a web site.Even the most brilliantly written/designed contentcan be lost if it does not fit the delivery vehicle.
  8. 8. CONTENT MANAGEMENTSYSTEMSA Web Content Management System (WCMS)is a software system which provides websiteauthoring and administration tools designed toallow users with little knowledge of webprogramming languages or markup languagesto create and manage the sites content withrelative ease. wikipedia.orgConfused? Think of it like this …
  9. 9. When things are difficult …
  10. 10. … technology makes things easier.
  11. 11. Starting a website used to be difficult. Design Coding Hosting Writing
  12. 12. “Webmasters” required many tools inorder to design, code, and deploy a site.
  13. 13. Content management systems put all thesetasks behind a user-friendly interface. Hosting Coding Design Writing CMS
  14. 14. Now anyone can publish on the web.
  15. 15. (Anyone.)
  16. 16. Businesses quickly adopted the CMS model.Web teams can package an empty website template(design + code) and quickly hand it over to subjectmatter experts.The subject matter experts use the simple CMS entrytools to add content (no code or design skills required).There was increased site consistency (branding) andsites could be updated often.Everyone was happy.
  17. 17. Except…
  18. 18. mostlyThe content was crap.
  19. 19. Many web projectsfollow this process. •  Layout •  Visual Branding •  Coding (HTML, CSS, Javascript) •  Testing •  Content Management System •  Maintenance & Optimization
  20. 20. Experienced web teamsuse a more formal process. •  Goals & Requirements •  Audience & Purpose •  Information Architecture •  Site Map •  Layout •  Visual Branding •  Coding (HTML, CSS, Javascript) •  Testing •  Content Management System (CMS) •  Maintenance & Optimization
  21. 21. When did we write all this important text? •  Goals & Requirements Discovery •  Audience & Purpose •  Information Architecture Structure •  Site Map •  Layout Design •  Visual Branding •  Coding (HTML, CSS, Javascript) Development •  Testing •  Content Management System (CMS) Delivery •  Maintenance & Optimization Right before the site launch.
  22. 22. A CMS reinforces the existing process. A CMS with a functional design template is handed off to the site owners as a packaged product. Discover Design Develop Deliver All the “work” is focused on building the tool, not what goes into the tool.
  23. 23. Content strategists suggest a new process. •  Audit existing content, Analyze, and Plan for the Creation, Delivery, and Governance of content •  Information Architecture •  Site Map •  Content Management System •  Content Creation and Delivery (into CMS) •  Layout •  Visual Branding •  Coding (HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc.) •  Testing •  Maintenance & Optimization •  Content Governance (Lifecycle)
  24. 24. WHY WILL TECHNICALCOMMUNICATORS MAKE GREATCONTENT STRATEGISTS?“Content strategy is clearly gainingmomentum as a discipline alongside otherdisciplines related to tech comm, such ascontent management, informationarchitecture, usability, and informationdesign.”Tom JohnsonI’d Rather Be Writing (
  25. 25. Web content often uses threerhetorical modes. Inform Engage Persuade
  26. 26. Technical communicators can apply rhetorical principles to creating web content that is ClearAppealing Actionable
  27. 27. This semester,we surveyed the following topics. Collaboration with local experts Discovery of organizational culture Document design Analysis of audience and usability Ethics of persuading readers to action/acceptance Editing for clarity (“less is often more”)
  28. 28. Important abilities of a content strategist includeCollaborating with stakeholdersListening to content ownersAuditing existing contentAsking “Who cares?” and “Why?”Tying content to business objectives and user tasksImplementing editorial calendars
  29. 29. THE BOTTOM LINE.“We are learning how to be thoughtfuland effective communicators. Becoming acontent strategist would also let us planand control the entire lifecycle of anycontent we create: how it is used, changed,and retired.”daniel spillers
  30. 30. DANIEL of Arkansas at Little Rock