Content as an afterthought
Too often in the days of yore (or, let’s say pre-2011), content was seen as the last piece of the puzzle: something to be slotted in once a website or app had been lovingly designed and built. The content owners were given a list of content to generate, with limited knowledge of the proposed design or information architecture, or the rationale behind the project.

There are two fundamental problems with this approach. Firstly, this ‘slotting in’ is almost never that neat. While the design looked beautiful and the user experience was strong with a few lorem ipsum bullet points on the page, aesthetics and usability are seriously compromised when the ‘real’ content is added in, and those 3 bullet points are replaced with 7 long paragraphs, a diagram and a sea of footnotes.

Content is king
The more crucial issue with this way of working is that it marginalises content, making it a secondary consideration.
Ultimately, the content is how you convey your message: it’s the way in which you educate your audience, market your product, showcase your brand, advertise your event, or achieve whatever it is your project sets out to do. It’s also what matters to the audience - it’s how they’ll find you via search, it’s the reason they’ll stay on the site, it’s why they’ll share it and it’s the reason they’ll come back.

Of course UX and design are fundamental to the experience too, but content should be the beating heart which powers the project and drives everything else; the layout, the look and feel, the IA , the navigational structure, the tone of voice and so on.

Considering content at e3
Over the past few years, we have made a conscious change to the way we run projects here at e3, spending significant time in the initial phases considering the business objectives and audience needs, and what the content must communicate in order to meet these twin imperatives. The earlier in the process the project objectives are mapped to a content plan, the better.  Not only does this ensure that the content is focussed and relevant, but that it meets the needs of both our clients and the end users.

Prioritising content has always been necessary to determine the order of items on a page and the weight which they command, but the rise of responsive web design has brought content hierarchy sharply to the fore. We are now building sites that adapt and scale depending on the platform they are viewed on. This means that assigning a priority order to content (and considering the relevance/appearance of content in relation to the device it is being viewed on) is essential.

On a desktop layout four pieces of information may have been visible above the fold, while on a mobile view it may be only one, so it’s vital to select that one piece wisely.  Of course we know that users will scroll, but it’s still crucial that the most important pieces are the easiest to find.

So how to decide what the ‘most important’ things are, which format they should take and how device detection impacts the content served? Well, that’s the real challenge of content strategy.

We’re fans of ‘Content Strategy for the Web’ by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach – definitely worth a read.