In the world of digital production, there’s a highly debated chicken-and-egg question: Which comes first, design or content? The answer you select will drastically impact the speed of your project and the ultimate success of the website, mobile app or software you’re building. As you’re thinking about your next project, consider these reasons why the best digital projects start with a thoughtful content strategy and information architecture.
What Is Content Strategy and Information Architecture?
Together, content strategy and information architecture define the user experience. If that sounds important, it’s because it is. Information architecture is the blueprint of your website or product. It defines what pages or flows exist within a digital experience, how those pages are organized, and how users move through the experience.
A content strategy is more granular; it defines what content your user needs when visiting your site or product, how that content is organized on a page, and how you use content to drive your audience to convert (download an app, make a purchase, contact your company, etc.).
As you can see, these activities are highly strategic; they exist not only to help make the project more efficient, but also to ensure you’re reaching business goals along the way.
The Benefits of Strategizing Content Before Design
Content and information architecture are the backbone of a digital project, which is why it’s critical they’re addressed before you dive into designs. This approach has several benefits that positively impact your project and the team executing it.
Your Team Is Strategically Aligned
Content strategy isn’t about the menial details like what kind of blog posts you’ll write. It’s a high-level plan for how you’ll use content to achieve marketing and business goals. When you create that plan as a team early in the project, you all have a shared vision of what success looks like, and your team members can better contribute to that vision together.
Your Process Is Expedited
If you start with design and try to integrate content into it, you’re inevitably going to have to go through more iterations than if your designers had a content strategy to work from. Giving your design team a content plan helps them map out how to organize content in their designs early on instead of doing guesswork that will later be revised.
Your Team Is Empowered to Do Great Work
Asking a designer to design an interface without any content is like asking a contractor to build a house without a blueprint. They don’t have any context, they don’t know what the end goal is, and they’re set up to fail. On the other hand, when you empower designers with the knowledge they need to accomplish the task at hand, you give them the power to succeed.
Your User Experience Is Optimized
If you don’t spend the time planning how your users will find and consume information on your site, they’re going to feel that pain the most. Designing a website or product without a content plan will lead to a clunky, disorganized, confusing user experience — and it will also drive users to visit your competitors’ sites to find what they’re looking for.
Developing a content strategy might sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these three steps to ensure you strategize, plan and execute a great content strategy.
- Strategy session: Involve all project stakeholders in a strategy meeting where you collaboratively define the content and information that needs to be housed on your site. Include leaders from design, development, project management and any other relevant departments.
- Plan documentation: Synthesize your strategy into an executable and sharable plan that everyone on the project can refer back to ongoing.
- Ongoing check-ins: Take the time to refer back to your content plan throughout your project. Pull it up during design reviews to ensure your team is accurately executing the plan you created initially.
Designing a website without a thoughtful content and information strategy isn’t design — it’s decoration. Make sure your digital products are doing the work they were meant to do by starting with a content-first approach. You’ll set the project, your team and yourself up for success and prevent unnecessary frustration down the road.
- Tuesday June 12, 2018