Content Strategy for a Redesign

An Excerpt from Smashing Chapter 3 1/3

Colleen Jones Posted by
Colleen Jones

May 18 2012

smashing_chapter2We’re living in a crazy but exciting time for digital. Sooner or later, you will face a redesign. When your platforms become outdated, your user or customer neeeds change drastically, or your organization has new goals, a redesign will make sense. (But, please, don’t redesign for the sake of redesigning, as Lou Rosenfeld points out.)

Content strategy is an essential part of a redesign. That’s why I was delighted when Vitaly Friedman, editor-in-chief at Smashing Media, invited me to contribute a chapter to their new book about redesign. Here’s a small excerpt from the chapter:

1B. CONTEXT REALLY IS EVERYTHING

Context basically means your situation. To examine your context is to consider all of the important influences, from your goals to your users’ wants and needs. A great content strategy balances these influences well. Let’s take a closer look at the elements of context.

What Are Your Redesign Goals?

Hopefully, your redesign goal goes beyond developing a more attractive website. What are you trying to accomplish most? Here are a few typical examples of goals for a redesign:

  • Improve the user experience and, in turn, improve a metric, such as conversions.
  • Change or update the brand to attract and engage the right users.
  • Integrate more social and content marketing elements, such as a blog, reviews and links to social channels.
  • Implement a new platform or content management system to make managing and updating the content easier.
  • Make the website responsive to mobile devices.

Your goals might be completely different, and that’s OK. The point is that you need to have a firm grasp of what you’re trying to achieve so that you can make smart decisions about the content. For example, if your main goal is to change or update the brand, then a priority for your content would be to create a tone and style for the content that matches the tone and style of the design.

Who Are Your Users, and What Content Do They Use, Need or Want?

The design research about your users will be handy for your content. Hopefully you will already have a grasp of your users’ interests, roles, and goals. If you have personas that describe major user groups, then you can add content considerations to those personas. I typically add answers to these questions:

  • What tasks are users trying to do, and what content will support those tasks?
  • What decisions are users researching, and what content will help them decide?

For example, my company once worked with a university’s college of business to make the content about its three MBA programs less confusing and more compelling. We helped the college discuss and write down the following:

  • Who are the users (in this case, they were different types of prospective students)?
  • What content do those users need to decide between the three programs?

Seasoned managers, for example, need different content in order to choose an executive MBA program than twenty-somethings need to choose a full-time MBA program. While this university had a vague sense of the difference, the exercise of thinking through the users’ needs helped it decide what content to cut, keep, and add. To verify, correct and expand what you know about your users, look at the data.

Look at Your User Data
Take a gander at any performance data you have, such as:

  • Analytics (for example, what content people view);
  • Emails and calls from users;
  • Comments on your blog and/or social channels;
  • Survey results.

You are looking for any signs of the following:

  • Content and tones that users like, find useful or respond to well;
  • Content that users don’t understand or think is missing.

Don’t Have Much User Data? Gather Some With Quick Testing
If you don’t have much data about your users, then at least do some quick testing on your current website. Ask at least five people to visit the website and answer questions like the following. Pick the ones that make the most sense for your situation.

  • What does this organization do?
  • What is this product or service?
  • What is your impression of this company or product? How would you describe it?

Observe what they do, and listen to what they say. You’ll quickly get a feel for whether the content helps users answer those basic questions.

WANT MORE THAN A SAMPLE?

So, the above sample gives you a taste of how complex the content issues for a redesign can be. To help guide you through the complexity, the full chapter about content strategy goes through six major steps for a redesign, from planning to implementation. The entire Smashing Book 3 1/3 includes chapters from top designers and developers, offering a complete perspective on redesign. For more about getting your hands on this handy resource, check out the Smashing Media website.