Is Structured Content a New Hope for CMS?
By Misty Weaver
User experience and content management systems seemed to follow to their own paths from development to user interface. Users were always at the center of user experience design. However, when it comes to CMS, a critical user’s needs may not have translated to the WISYWIG interface.
A conversation that started last year merged when Rachel Andrew mentioned Karen McGrane’s work in The Future of Content Management. In her Smashing 2012 presentation, Andrew shares her view from the technical side of CMS development. She describes specific examples that confuse and confound the people who ultimately need to add content to the system. As she points out, when this happens, a client’s most common interaction with a CMS is swearing at it. Instead, developers need to break down boxes and blobs and address lowered expectations to create an authoring and editing experience that truly supports content.
"Today, a content audit isn’t just an odyssey through your website; it’s a window into your content’s nature."
In an excellent new article in Smashing Magazine called "Content Knowledge is Power," content strategy superstar Sara Wachter-Boettcher tackles the subject of content auditing, a topic near and dear to our hearts. Sara talks about how taking time to understand the content you have ensures that the content is supported in the design, allows you to design realistic scenarios, and not incidentally, lets you clear out the bad, outdated content. Planning for mobile and responsive designs makes it even more important to understand what you have and what experiences your content needs to support. Use a content audit to make your existing content work for you, not against you.
And to conduct that oh-so-valuable content audit? Use CAT, of course!
Planning on attending Confab Minneapolis? So are we! The event has sold out but there are still excellent opportunities to share, network, and learn with content strategy peeps all over the world.
Content Strategy Workshops, July 11-12
Of course, Content Strategy Workshops in Vancouver, BC July 11-12, 2013 promises to be a rich, tactical experience for everyone. Hands-on workshops and talks focused on building skills and making use of tools make this an excellent choice for practitioners. We're thrilled to dive into content audits with attendees, getting beyond the spreadsheet into actionable insights and results. Register now.
Content Strategy Forum, September 11-13
The world-traveling CS Forum alights in Helsinki, Finland, this year, hosted by Vapa Media. The Call for Speakers is open through April 30, so there are just a few days left to take the opportunity to share your knowledge.
We've had the honor of attending both previous CS Forum events and applaud the CS commmunity for making this such an inclusive and informative event. This is an excellent way to learn how content strategy is practiced around the world, meeting and sharing with people you might not otherwise encounter outside of twitter.
We're happy to announce that Paula Land will be presenting at Content Strategy Workshops Summer Session, July 11-12, in Vancouver, BC.
In her session "From Inventory to Insight to Action," Paula will lead attendees through the process of turning a content inventory into an audit, including examples and discussion of various types of audits and how and when to use them. Attendees will learn how to pull insights out of the audit and present them to stakeholders. To make the session extra-relevant, attendees will work on an actual web site and the resulting recommendations will be delivered to the site owners after the workshop is over.
We are excited to announce that we’ve just released a bunch of new features and fixes to CAT. Here's what we’ve been working on.
In Job Setup:
In Job Summary and Job Details:
In Resource Details:
In Job Comparison:
We've also added unicode support and lots of other tweaks behind the scenes to improve speed and performance.
If you like those features, wait 'til you see what we’re queuing up next! If you want a say in what we should add to CAT, please contact us—for example, we added the H1s at the request of a user. We want to make CAT the most useful content inventory and audit tool out there and we rely on your feedback to help us improve and extend our features.
A recent project in which we were auditing content against a set of personas got us thinking about what a useful tool they are. In the latest installment of our Inventory into Insight series, we look at how to use personas in content audits. Seeing your site content through the eyes of a well-developed persona that represents a target customer or reader type can be very enlightening and can provide very actionable insights. From helping improve writing style, to suggesting better entry points, to showing the gaps in your content, and much more, personas are your friends.
This new article builds on the others in the series to provide guidance on how to continue to enhance your CAT content inventory and turn it into an insight-generation tool.
How do you measure content effectiveness? We've posted a new article, the second in our Inventory to Insight series, called Auditing for Content Performance. This new article discusses how to use basic analytics data in your audit process to identify content that needs attention or new content to be created.
How we move from tactical to strategic thinking for content
Two new surveys have been released on the subject of the content strategy job market: Jack Molisani offered a general overview of the career path with his LavaCon survey, while Firehead Ltd released the fifth installment in its content strategy job market series.
Both offer great insight into the gaps between job title and actual work. The LavaCon survey looks at the sources from which practitioners draw their content strategy knowledge. In the Firehead survey, we see the obstacles that may be preventing widespread adoption of content strategy in organizations. Reviewing the results led us to contemplate how to address skills and knowledge gaps. We’ve listed summaries of what struck us most and next steps we saw. We hope you’ll feel moved to add your opinions.
Many paths to content strategy
The breadth of job titles and sources for learning content strategy are excellent take-aways from the Molisani survey. We like qualitative data—go figure! From web production to public relations, we’ve taken different paths to content work and it’s great to see what experience comprises the field. Most respondents identify that they’ve learned content strategy on the job and through trial and error as well as self-teaching through books and websites. Not surprising is how many people learned content strategy as a response to the need to solve content and system problems.
Mind the (experience) gaps
Those knowledge paths may also lead to experience gaps, as we see in the Firehead results. Part 5 of their survey identifies a skills and experience shortage. Employers are having a difficult time finding content strategists with the background to solve enterprise level problems. Employers also find themselves facing challenges in cost, availability and recruitment of content strategists.
From inventory to insight is more than just our tag line, it's the theme of a new series of articles. We kicked the series off today with A Template for Content Inventory and Audit, which discusses how you can use the data available in your CAT crawl as the template and foundation of a content audit. In subsequent articles, we'll dive into the different types of content audits—auditing for content performance, competitive audits, auditing against personas, and more.
By Kerry Carnahan Ellis, Guest Blogger
Conducting a successful content audit on your brand-story web site
Great things often come in small packages. It’s just as true of brand-focused web sites as it is of jewelry (and truffles!). And just like jewelry or truffles, a good brand site shows its beauty via quality. Given limited space, attention to detail makes all the difference.
Content inventories and audits can play a valuable role in getting these details right by providing a solid foundation for an effective (and smart!) content strategy. However, there’s an art to applying content inventory and audit best practices to smaller, brand-focused sites. The trick is focusing on the strategic value of your content. Done well, your audit will add meaningful depth and insight to an overall strategic discovery process, and set the stage for a successful engagement.
Why this approach? Because brand-story site updates are about the big picture. They’re characterized by a focus on a company’s value proposition, the relationship the company wants to have with its customers, and (usually) a starting consensus that the existing site needs a major overhaul. In this environment, site stakeholders (especially executives) are usually far more interested in opportunities for strategic site improvement than they are in an extensive analysis of how well the current content is (and isn’t) working. They know they need to redo the content, so the big questions are “what” and “how.”
From this starting point, you can make a number of strategic decisions about your audit and inventory design. First is how to best scope your audit to your objectives. What do you really need to know? Usually, it’s the degree to which the current content is (or is not) meeting brand and business objectives, where the important gaps are, and how much content work will likely be needed to achieve the new objectives. To accomplish this, you can keep much of the work at a high level, focusing on your audience’s information needs and usage paths as well as a high-level set of stakeholder content requirements. A basic review of your pages is usually sufficient; nitty-gritty, component-level audit work is unlikely to be worth the additional effort.