Recently, I was fortunate to be asked to contribute to HOW Magazine’s interactive column. I…
I don’t like the word “content.” There, I said it. It’s a hollow word that doesn’t mean much to me as a designer. People never say they’re going to “consume content”— instead they look for information or entertainment.
Replace the word “content” with “information,” and now we’re getting somewhere. Content is really all the information that you wish to share (in our case, in a digital format) with communities of customers, users, readers, or, more generally, the people who engage with your brand. This information could come in many forms: video, words, images, graphics, interactive elements, and more.
While my view of content is a practical one, it is also strategically essential to the success of every project. When we set out to design a new website or app, a vital first step is to understand all of the information it will contain. It’s during the first phase that we uncover the audience profiles, the uniqueness of the brand, and our client’s action goals for each audience. We use our findings to come up with a comprehensive strategic information plan, detailing out the information that will be most effective for each audience.
In this plan, we carefully consider which vehicle will be right to convey the information. These vehicles include video, copy, longer-form text, images, etc. Clients will often say, “I want video on a page,” but never say “I want words on a page.” To me, they are the same thing, information, but with two different delivery vehicles. We choose the best vehicle to attract and engage the audience and move them toward action.
From there, we move into our Information Architecture phase – notice we don’t call it “Content Architecture”…who does? It’s in this phase that we structure the information based on its logical flow and the experience that will excite the audience(s) and deepen their interest in the brand. We look at the information from many different angles, prioritizing and grouping it in an optimal way. We chart out the user experience—how each person will get from one place to another. We always allow for flexibility, knowing that the content, or information, will be changing and evolving with the business.
It’s only after we get all of this right, that we move into the design phase. This is where those information elements, now logically organized around the desired audience experience, get wrapped with the brand identity. Design is where we serve up the messaging and visuals in a way that reflects the true essence of the brand.
Our final phase includes developing the backend and front end, interface technology so that the final product—website or app—functions the way we intended, allowing the audience to seamlessly navigate and interact with the information.
Whatever you decide to call it, the bottom line is that information is the key building block for every digital project we undertake. Taking the time upfront to develop a sound content, or information strategy, ensures an efficient project and a sustainably successful outcome. And, that’s the truth.
See how we helped Crown Royal streamline their content while reimagining their brand and redesigning their web site.