I finally got a copy of Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson. When it first came out, I read some of the introduction and I also downloaded a preview chapter. I remember feeling "yes, this is exactly what I go through!" I also thought to myself, in typical IA/UX fashion, "I know all this, I don't need to buy the book." I subscribed to the Brain Traffic blog feed, so I thought that I didn't need to read the book because here it was, all on the blog.
Buy the book. Read the book. It's worth it. Mostly for one chapter: Strategy.
What's so great about this singular chapter? It says everything that no one ever says about content. In my job, I feel like we skip right from total site strategy to information architecture and wireframes, then we provide some info about how to write for the web. What's missing? Um, possibly guidelines for what that copy is supposed to DO for the site.
Yes, content strategy is voice and tone and messaging. Yes, it adheres to a uniform style guide. These are obvious. What isn't obvious is the purpose of each page, and this is the very thing that causes big, messy, bloated sites, where, even after a "smart" IA/design, existing content is shoe-horned in for reasons like time and manpower, and also, because no one was charged with deciding what each page should/could do with its real estate.
Halvorson recommends that for each page, a person (not necessarily the copywriter) is tasked with outlining and defining the purpose of the page. She calls them "page tables" (literally, a Word page with a table on it). With this, the content strategist is able to set forth the page's goal and guide a copywriter in its creation.
Halvorson includes the following in her page tables:
- The page's title, objective, projected launch and content expert/owner.
- The primary page content is roughly outlined, with any messaging identified.
- Secondary and tertiary content are also outlined.
- Assets like photos and videos are identified.
- Source content is assessed to see if it is web-ready.
This page table also includes info about future maintenance, technology considerations and any outstanding issues. Pretty awesome, huh? Takes care of the existing content, refreshes it for its new lease on life, and underpins it for the future.
Now if only I had a job where I could do this!