It goes without saying that content is a super important part of any CMS project, be it new, redesign, re-platform, or simple enhancement. It is the ‘C’ in CMS after all. However, it can be easy for the client, and us as the designers, to get caught up in the design and push the management of the content down the road or simply pass it on the client as something they need to worry about.
The reality is our users, the people we’re trying to engage, don’t separate the design from the content. In fact, the content is probably the only reason they’re even engaging with your product. This means the design and the content have to be treated as partners.
In this article I’ll use a delicious food metaphor to discuss one approach C2 uses to help clients identify and define a content structure to make their product launch successful.
One of the best ways I’ve found to discuss content with clients and really help them understand its role and importance is through food. It’s simple, identifiable, and everyone loves talking about it. The process of researching, selecting, and making a meal are surprisingly similar to kicking off a new project with a client and these similarities can help bridge the gap between the design and the content structure.
What are our users hungry for?
The first step is understanding the business goals and why we expect our users to use the product. If the business goal is to sell tacos, and users expect to eat tacos, then we probably shouldn’t structure our “content” around pasta and cheeseburgers. This is our rather obvious metaphor for structuring the right kind of content to engage users and make the product relevant to their needs.
This is why we use the discovery phase to gain insight into the problem(s) we are trying to solve. What are the goals for the project and how are we going to reach those goals by engaging our users. The next step, after gathering as much information as possible, is to begin to define the areas that need to be focused on to be successful.
Setting up the recipe.
This is when we focus on making sense of all the possibilities we’ve identified at this point. What recipe do we want to use? What ingredients matter most? What’s feasible? These are the questions we’ll use to begin to create our content structure.
What recipe do we want to use? This is where we identify the core strategy for the content. If the taco recipe we choose calls for filling, sauce, toppings, and a tortilla, then that’s what we should focus on. This is where we identify what the content is made from, not what the content is. We don’t need to debate corn or flour tortilla, but we do need to make sure were not using a slice of sourdough.
What ingredients matter most? If the filling is the most important part of the taco for customers then that should be a priority as we build our recipe. The key content on the site that resonates most with users should be defined and the design should highlight and showcase these elements to drive engagement and user satisfaction.
What’s feasible? This is an important but often overlooked question. What type(s) of content can our clients realistically maintain? If our recipe structure calls for a filling and we highlight Zebra Tacos, that’s probably not a sustainable ingredient. Likewise, a design experience devoted to HD video assets may not be sustainable for a client with limited resources or a small content creation team.
Structuring the menu.
This is the step where we help plan, document, and deliver a guide for production of the content. We develop simple rules to help the cooks choose the right ingredients and when/where to use them. We might decide at launch that our menu will have 4 main fillings; beef, pork, chicken, and veggies. This enables the prep team to easily identify what should be used and what should be ignored. These guidelines are ones client content creation teams can use to begin resourcing and preparing to add to their site while they have time during the development phase.
This can also help with internal adoption of a CMS, because if a content editor is easily able to grab content, create a new page on their site, and have it actually match the desired design — then we’ve created a sense of trust that the team is set up for long-term success implementing content.
If all has gone to plan, the business goals have been cared for, the design looks great, the content creators are making engaging content, and our users are digesting (see what I did there?) the content and addressing their problems we set out solve.