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Gimme Content : Part 2

May 2, 2014

Did you miss Part 1 of the Gimme Content series? Click here to get caught up! Or, read on for Part 2 of the Gimme Content series: Crafting a Content Plan.

Content Strategy

Plan Briefing, Assessment and Research

Preparing a thorough set of questions before beginning any design work helps to outline all the general necessities for the project. It is important to articulate the who, what, where, when and why of every element of the site. Without formulating these questions, a designer cannot properly frame the project in a way that appropriately informs/persuades/delights users. Designers can sometimes help author pieces of the story, but there isn''t anyone better than the client to tell their own story.

  • Identify target audiences. In what scenario will the application be used?
  • Get the story. Or at least get a rough outline or estimated word counts for content areas. How else can the structure be planned out?
  • Prioritize important messages. What should the user see on the site first?
  • Identify key business goals. Establish calls to action. What should users do on the site or gain from the site?
  • Form a competitive analysis. See what already exists and if they have specific elements that could be utilized in a similar way, or if they have things that can be improved upon.
  • Develop an inspiration board. Along with the competitive analysis, gather inspiration or examples of applications that have specific elements that demonstrate the interactivity or design idea in a successful way.

Establish Empathy: It Is All About the User

Understanding the primary audiences for the site by creating user personas and scenarios also helps to plan out the behavior of the site''s interface. A great user experience designer knows their target audiences well, and tries to put themselves into their shoes to better understand their personality type. Everyone has something different to communicate to others, so by understanding their direct needs, the design can strive to become a more meaningful and thoughtful experience.

It starts with asking questions like these:

  • What is the tone of voice and personality like?
  • What are their values, needs and desires?
  • What is their level of understanding and intuition on the latest technology?
  • What browsers and platforms do they commonly use?
  • What do they want to accomplish?
  • What are the main objectives?

Questions like these can help to understand the user’s wants and needs.

By understanding the people who will use the design, you can avoid the trap of designing for yourself, designing for the sake of winning a competition, or designing for the sake of feeling "state of the art."

Organize the Data: Sitemap + Wireframing (The Content Architecture)

Wireframes are the skeleton of the website and typically help to lay out some of the essential elements needed to reach all objectives for a particular product, service or event. Content areas, page navigation structure, headings, sidebars, call-outs, visual placeholders, buttons and more are thought through during this stage. This process always helps to visually plan out the flow and the scale of the provided content before other design decisions such as color, typography or other details are conceptualized.

We ask questions such as:

  • What is our platform? Is the grid static or flexible? 
  • Will all the links fit in the site navigation? Should we change the hierarchy?
  • How many products will be featured in this section?
  • How big should these description boxes be?
  • How many news articles should be featured? Will the story fit correctly in this container?
  • Where should we fit placeholder images and call-to-action buttons?
  • Will this super-cool interactive div-reveal thing be feasible in development?

Wireframing answers some of the most basic and fundamental questions pertaining to the way content is framed, and the way functionality is integrated. It quickly and roughly visualizes the space without getting too caught up in the details just yet. A lot more iterative content editing and establishing the way it flows in a given space should be done much earlier, before getting caught up in tiny design details. It allows developers to do more testing ahead of time, so problems can be solved earlier. It is not fun when a problem occurs later, and the whole design process is started all over again.

Once this stage of planning is complete, then more thorough design questions can be approached, such as:

  • How do we keep the branding recognizable or color schemes consistent?
  • What typefaces will be appropriate for representing these stories in a legible and aesthetic way?
  • What will the headings look like; what should their sizes be?
  • Will it need a background color to separate it from these other surrounding sections?
  • What will the buttons look like; how will their hover-states work?
  • How should the photography tell the story? What should the composition be like?
  • Will we need icons and illustrations?

While all this content is being planned out, written and styled, it is important to make every piece useful and suitable for the audience. Hopefully, if we have most of our questions answered, all that''s left is to refine all the collected information. How do we ensure that the information is organized into a delightful experience? Stay tuned…