Content without purpose is pointless
Within large organisations content is often managed and developed by different teams and individuals. This can often create disconnection and impede how users travel through the site. Organisations are built and run on the principle of solving problems, and while there may be lots of departments and processes involved in delivering these solutions, visitors accessing the website, searching for content, still think of your organisation in the context of these clear, simple purposes.
Why we sometimes confuse
Often content is developed and managed by disparate teams that operate in different areas of an organisation. They are specialists in their field who have a clear understanding of the content but it can lead to content that is disconnected from the needs and experience of the people for whom the content is intended.
Visitors rarely come to the website to access a single piece of content, rather they arrive with a circumstance or situation with which they need help. Often they may not know exactly what they are looking, only that they have a problem that they want us to solve.
To make a truly successful website it is therefore necessary to consider the content as a whole with a clear understanding of how our content is connected and how it realtes to specific tasks.
Content as tasks
Instead of viewing content as individual pieces of information, one web page, at a time, think about how that piece of information fits into the tasks people are trying to complete.
It is important to relate your content back to the different groups who are visiting the website and review the various steps and pages they need to visit in order for them to complete the task.
What does your audience want?
To properly understand the tasks that underlie your content it is important to relate it back to the different groups who are visiting the website and understand who our visitors are and why they came to the site in the first place.
Audience analysis is a large subject in itself and requires careful consideration. No matter how well your content is structured misunderstanding who your users are or what their needs are will lead to an ineffective website.
Audience analysis is not about demographics, it is about understanding your users situation and motivations and what your role is in their lives by thinking about why they have come to the site, and what problems they are seeking answers to.
Understanding key tasks
A clear understanding of the needs of your audience will enable you to deveop a clear understandng of the information you need to provide and how content should be arranged to enable them to complete these tasks.Reviewing content within this framework will help you to make some quick judgements about the content on the website.
- Does each piece of information help people to get from point A to point B?
- After reading a page, can the reader figure out what to do next? Does a piece of information make the task easier, or is it just clutter?
- If the visitor stumbles into the “middle” of a task, can they find their way back to the beginning?
- Think about the entire process of completing this task start to finish. What information do we want them to access and what do we want them to do?
Content needs to work within the broader context of the user journey
Just as pages are connected so too are websites. To properly understand and manage web content it is necessary to consider your web content within the context of a broader ecosystem.
All organisations exist within a larger community and represent a single, small segment of any visitor’s online experience and so any interaction between your organisation and your visitors is also likely to continue outside of your web space.
It is just as important to understand the context of your content within this broader problem that your visitors are seeking to solve and understand how and when to link to external services and content.