Content development

Content development is the process of identifying what information meets your users needs to complete their tasks, as well as meets your organizational goals. The process involves defining your users and identifying their tasks.

Understand your context

To publish information on the web you need to to understand how online content is different from print. Consider what information is already online, and who your information is for (audience). Determine your users' needs; determine your business objectives.

What is the difference between print and web?

What content already exists and who owns it?

Key points:

  • Review what content already exists
  • Determine if you are the person of authority

Before content is developed within your area:

Creation and publication of non-authoritative content leads to:

The correct way to reuse authoritative content is to link to it. If the information you want to reference is unavailable, incomplete, or incorrect, contact the functional authority to discuss the addition or reframing of the necessary content.

Who are your users?

Key points:

  • Find out who your users are
  • Define your users
  • Focus on your primary users

Many different users use your website; they may be individuals, business representatives, intermediaries and other professionals, media or youth. Each type of user is different and needs different content. Find out who your users are. Define each type of user so that you can provide unique information that meets each need.

If you need to develop content to serve many different users, focus on your primary users, or break your users into smaller groups with similar requirements.

What are their tasks?

Key points:

  • Define the users' tasks
  • Order and sequence the tasks if there are more than one
  • Consider all possible tasks

Users visit a website to complete tasks. Define your users' tasks and either prioritize them based on how frequently users perform them, or sequence them if they involve a series of smaller tasks. Users may also want to complete many tasks in one visit. Consider how you can make it easy for them to do so. Define users' tasks to understand their reasons for coming to your website. This ensures you provide the information they need.

What information do they need?

Key points:

  • Determine the content required to complete tasks
  • Ensure the content is presented logically or sequentially
  • Ensure the content is timely and relevant
  • Ensure the content is not redundant or trivial
  • Provide content feedback mechanisms and update content accordingly

Once you define users' tasks, determine the information they need to complete those tasks. Keep information specific to the tasks. Present it logically or sequentially in a location where users expect to find it. Ensure information is timely and relevant, not redundant or trivial.

Since you can’t identify all user needs, and because these needs change, content creators should provide users with a feedback mechanism. Content owners should be open to users' suggestions for changes and modifications.

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.

Elmore Leonard, author

What are your goals?

Key points:

  • Establish your goals for the content
  • Define how the content can meet your goals
  • Create a benchmark against which to measure your success

As well as benefiting users, the website needs to serve the organization's goals. To ensure that content balances business needs and users' needs, define the goals for the site. Decide how the content can meet these goals.

To evaluate success of the business objectives, do a benchmark assessment before you publish new content. Use analytics or other available data, such as helpdesk inquiries, to measure success.

Have a content strategy

Key points:

  • Meet users’ needs to achieve your business goals
  • Develop a specific content strategy for your area that aligns with the overarching one
  • Manage your content through its life cycle

It is impossible to design great user experience for bad content. If users cannot understand what they are reading, or if it is confusing or unnecessarily long, they cannot have a good user experience. Duplicate and competing sources of information across a site confuse and frustrate users. It often makes them give up on a task. If your content does not meet users’ needs, you cannot meet your business objectives.

In order to consistently generate good content that meets users’ needs it is important to have a strategy. A content strategy involves planning, prioritizing, developing, and managing content.

Having a strategy helps you:

Effective content strategy ensures your content is:

To create useful and usable content that enables you to meet your business needs, each area needs to develop a specific content strategy prior to creating content. Ensure that it aligns with the overarching content strategy for the whole organization, and continuously evolves.

Executing your content strategy means you have to commit to managing your content through its life cycle. Content can become less useful over time. Low content use, among other indicators, should trigger a content review.

To ensure that content remains relevant and current, content owners need to regularly review all of their pages and hyperlinks. Additional reviews may be necessary to respond to specific user feedback or legislation changes. Work together with an analytics team to determine how often users access your content and whether it is still valuable.

Identify redundant, outdated, or trivial content, and submit a request to remove it. When you remove content from an online environment, you are still responsible for keeping business records offline for the required retention period.

No amount of research, information architecture, interaction design, or usability testing can create a great user experience if the content isn’t useful and usable—if it doesn't help the user to get things done.

[…]in many organizations, more content is perceived as more selling opportunities, more user engagement, more help, more everything. But that’s rarely the case. [But][…] when content sucks – when it’s overwritten, redundant, hard to find, irrelevant – people come, look, and leave. […] By prioritizing useful and relevant over ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ and ‘just in case,’  you will magically dismiss at least half of your web content projects. That means you’ll free up time and money for things like planning and measurement, two content-related tasks that often get short shrift in the race to do more online.

Reuse, recycle, and reduce content

Key points:

  • Consider the impact of your deliverable on the entire content ecosystem
  • Reuse and recycle existing content; this is a sustainable way to innovate
  • Reduce your existing content, and create less content
  • Limit users’ options

You are ready to develop your content after you do the following:

Without good content, strategy, design, search, metadata (proper title, description, and keywords) or any other technical improvement cannot help users find the right information. Proper websites require a content strategy and governance. Content requires consolidation and responsible management across the entire content ecosystem. This is the only solution to information overload.

Individual project deliverables greatly impact the content ecosystem. While your business initiative might be great on its own, when you place it in the context of other initiatives and other information, these initiatives can cancel each other out. They can also compete for users’ limited attention. Ensure your initiative is part of the solution, not part of the problem:

Innovation does not mean creating more of something new. You can contribute to healthy innovation by reusing and recycling what is already there:

If you want to reuse and recycle content from outside your organization, be mindful of copyright

If there is no content that you can reuse or recycle, create less content, reduce your existing content, and limit users’ options:

Less content is not only more user-friendly, but it is also more strategic. A single instance of information leads to consistent, streamlined process, accountability, ability to measure success, and improves organizational agility.

Too much content results in negative impacts on both users and the organization:

Negative impacts
Impact on users Impact on the organization
  • Unable to find what users are looking for due to many broken links, irrelevant, and competing search results
  • Difficult to make decisions and complete tasks because it is unclear what information is correct, up to date, and whether it is comprehensive
  • Erosion of users’ trust and satisfaction, as they are overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated
  • Legal vulnerability due to competing or incorrect information
  • Financial and efficiency losses due to time wasted finding, comparing, contrasting, re-creating, and maintaining similar information. and
  • Erosion of the core values of sustainability and integrity

The more content you have, the harder it is to keep up with: it ages quickly, breaks our navigation systems, and starts piling up in ways we never expected. Suddenly, we find our users are struggling to complete tasks they came to do – gather information, make decisions, get help, share relevant content […]. A user doesn't want endless options. He wants the content he needs, when and where he needs it.

In […] 9 studies on information search-related time wasting, we found an average of 1.1 hours per day per employee being lost in unproductive locating of information, with some of the most authoritative sources even indicating up to 2 hours. This is a tremendous waste of time and productivity – 1.1 hours a day is more than 12% of total work time, summing up to more than 30 work days or 1.5 work months a year per person.

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