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Content types: The glue between content strategy, user experience, design, and technology


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Content types – the patterns of content in an organization's digital presence – are an essential building block for any effective redesign. However, content strategists, user experience designers, and visual designers have very different understandings of what "content type" means. By coming to a common understanding, these experts can work together to craft a smart, sustainable online presence. There are several purposes for identifying the types of content on a website:

- Identifying content models, which enable better presentation on multiple devices and power dynamically created collections
- Enabling rules for content creation, review, promotion, and expiration
- Making it easier for content creators to choose effective metadata

Technologists and content management systems tend to define content types very broadly, considering them equivalent to templates. Visual designers und user experience designers often define content types in terms of various elements and their size and relation to one another. Content strategists think about what the content is about, what its business rules need to be, and how it is surfaced.

Bringing these perspectives together ensures the most robust definition, conception, and execution of content types. This presentation looks at lots of examples of content types and identifies how they would best work in different environments and for different purposes.

Published in: Design
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Content types: The glue between content strategy, user experience, design, and technology

  1. 1. Content Types: The Glue Between Content Strategy, User Experience, Design, and Technology Hilary Marsh, Chief Strategist & President Content Company, Inc. 1  
  2. 2. h$p://  
  3. 3. a project system test buildstrategic design solution design deliver establish project
  4. 4. “A  New  Yorker's  View  of  the  World”  by  Saul  Steinberg,  New  Yorker,  March  29,  1976  
  5. 5. design team timeline deliver system test branding & identity couple ifs and a do loop user research visual interface design interaction design information design
  6. 6. technical architect’s timeline deliver system test graphic designer makes gifs architecture design code
  7. 7. business team timeline deliver design and build marketing plan business model focus groups (optional) end game! competitive analysis
  8. 8. What is a content type, anyway, and why should we care?
  9. 9. How many do we have?
  10. 10. How many should we have?
  11. 11. What is a content type? From Drupal: A single web site could contain many types of content, such as informational pages, news items, polls, blog posts, real estate listings, etc. In Drupal, each item of content is called a node, and each node belongs to a single content type, which defines various default settings for nodes of that type, such as whether the node is published automatically and whether comments are permitted. à Article, basic page, blog entry, book page, forum topic, poll, or custom
  12. 12. Definitions by my students •  Basic page with rotating header image •  Content page with left image •  Information page •  Sub-landing page
  13. 13. What is a content type? A specification for a structured, standardized, reusable, and mutually exclusive kind of information entity. --Jonathon Colman, The Language of Content Strategy
  14. 14. What is a content type? …the actual thing a user would read or use, like an article, a recipe, or a help guide entry. ---Sara Wachter-Boettcher Content Everywhere and a conversation on Slack
  15. 15. What is a content type? I believe it’s most useful to look at a content type as the ontological Thing you’re publishing, regardless of how the Thing is being expressed design-wise. ---Sara Wachter-Boettcher
  16. 16. h$p://  
  17. 17. 22  
  18. 18. Why are content types important? •  Search filtering •  Cross-linking •  Consistent presentation and care across the organization •  Reuse
  19. 19. 24  
  20. 20. h$p://­‐ obama-­‐bryan-­‐cranston-­‐table-­‐for-­‐three.html    
  21. 21. h$p://  
  22. 22. h$p://­‐alias%3Daps&field-­‐keywords=prince  
  23. 23. 6 considerations 1.  Elements 2.  Metadata 3.  Workflow 4.  Lifecycle 5.  Relationships 6.  Rules of operation
  24. 24. 1. Elements
  25. 25. 34  
  26. 26. 35   60%+ of our content
  27. 27. 36   Blog post News article Report summary Event session Press release Company history
  28. 28. 20%+ of our content
  29. 29. Event Conference session Course description Club listing
  30. 30. Not enough information
  31. 31. 2. Metadata/taxonomy Content  Type   Topics   Segment   Audience   Channel   AdministraNve   Amicus  brief   Announcement   ArNcle   Awards   CompeNNon   Course  material   Directory   Diversity   How-­‐to   Lesson  plan   Link   Membership   Model  rule   MulNmedia   News   Opinion   Policy   Projects  iniNaNves   Reports   Scholarships   Associate   Law  student   Lawyer   Legal  assistant   Legal  professional   Legislator   Media   Paralegal   Pre  law  student   Public   All   Lawyers   Media   Legal  Professional   Educators   Public   Law  student   Book   Audio  Tape   PDF   Binder   Media  Player   Paid  SubscripNon   CD   DVD   Periodicals   Course  Materials   Video  Download   eBook   Video  Tape   Online  Course   Public  EducaNon   Loose  Leaf   Audio  Download   Other  Channel   +  Legal   +  Profession   +  Laws  &  Cases   +  Geography   +  Commi=ee   +  Organiza@on   Collec@on   Business  Lawyer   Business  Law  Today   Business  Law  SecNon   Titles   Program/CLE   Materials   Commi$ee/   Subcommi$ee   Documents   Commi=ee   +  Substan@ve   +  Administra@ve   +  Taskforce   ©  Taxonomy  Strategies  
  32. 32. Topics Topics   Organiza@on  Geography   CFPB   FINRA   SEC   …   +  Africa   +  Asia   +  Europe   +  La@n  America   +  Middle  East   +  North  America   Legal   AdministraNve  Law   Admiralty  Law   AnNtrust  Law   Appellate  Advocacy   Banking  Law   Bankruptcy  Law   Bar  Services  &  Public   Service   Billing   Biographies   Business  Law   Career  Development   Children  and  the  Law   Civil  PracNce  &   Procedure   Commercial  Law   CommunicaNons  &   Media  Law   ConsNtuNonal  Law   …   Profession   ABA  AccreditaNon   ABA  Governance   Bar  Admissions   Bar  AssociaNons   Civic  EducaNon   Courts   Diversity   IOLTA   Jury   Law  Libraries   Law  PracNce   Management   Law-­‐related   EducaNon   Lawyer  Referral   Programs   Lawyers  Assistance   Program   Legal  educaNon   Legal  services   LegislaNon  Lobbying   …   Laws  &  Cases   +  Laws   +  Model  Statutes   +  Cases   ©  Taxonomy  Strategies  
  33. 33. 3. Workflow • Who creates? • Who reviews? • Who approves?
  34. 34. 4. Lifecycle Conceive Create Publish Promote Maintain Retire
  35. 35. 5. Relationships • What other content types would we want to surface with this? • What do we want to show them? • What do they want to see?
  36. 36. h$p://­‐to-­‐get-­‐in-­‐place-­‐to-­‐personalize-­‐experiences/  
  37. 37. 6. Rules of operation • When is this content type appropriate, and when should you not use it? • Voice/tone and writing notes
  38. 38. Real-life list of content types Article Author guidelines Backgrounder Bibliography Book Call for submissions Conference paper Contract report Day in the life Expert report Expert report related resource Experts list FAQ General Glossary Landing page Listing Login form News listing News release Publication mission
  39. 39. 48  
  40. 40. 49  
  41. 41. Collections Content “roll-ups”: •  Magazine issue made up of articles •  Podcast made up of episodes •  Photo gallery made of individual images •  Etc. Are these content types?
  42. 42. h$p://­‐papers/collecNons/greece-­‐and-­‐the-­‐eurozone  
  43. 43. Litmus test
  44. 44. What is the most common content type?
  45. 45. h$p://   General
  46. 46. 56   Let’s dig deep h$ps://  
  47. 47. Let’s take a look at some of them • Development-and-Ingredient-Innovations/Nanoscience/ Nanotechnology-Backgrounder.aspx • Food-Facts/About-FS-and-T.aspx • • solutions-managing-your-practice/coding-billing-insurance/cpt/cpt- • index.cfm
  48. 48. If you get it wrong… • One-offs – no pattern • Can’t create business rules • Content ROT • Inability to surface related content • Ineffective search filtering
  49. 49. Checklist: How to identify content types 59  
  50. 50. • Does it have a unique set of elements? • Does it require unique metadata, or would it use only some of the entire taxonomy? • Does it have unique workflow needs? • Does it have unique lifecycle needs? • Does it have unique relationships? • Is it created following the rules of operation?
  51. 51. h$p://   No one wants “general”
  52. 52. h$p://­‐and-­‐nature/elephants/   We all need to see that it’s an elephant
  53. 53. Want to learn more about content strategy? photo  by  John-­‐Mark  Kuznietsov    
  54. 54. Thank you! Hilary Marsh @hilarymarsh