The Connect Labs crew were lucky enough to be a part of CSForum earlier this month. The theme of the conference was 'collaborating on content for a better customer experience'. We learnt a lot about creating meaningful, user-focused content – the challenges you can encounter and how you can overcome them.
Challenge #1: Stakeholder management
As Hilary Marsh put it in her CSForum talk, content strategy is an HR issue. Getting every stakeholder on the same page is probably the biggest challenge to creating a good user experience.
Before you begin creating content, you need to get everyone on the same page. Kristina Halvorson's keynote taught us that the best way to do this is to establish strong foundations for your content creation.
The foundations of user-focused content
Design and content principles
Define the principles that will guide content creation and design and unite the team around them. The UK Government Digital Service's design principles are a good example:
- Start with needs (user needs, not government needs)
- Do less
- Design with data
- Do the hard work to make it simple
- Iterate. Then iterate again.
- This is for everyone
- Understand context
- Build digital services, not websites
- Be consistent, not uniform
- Make things open: it makes things better
Naturally, having a clearly defined content strategy is a must for a good user experience. It's also essential for getting everyone who's involved in content creation, delivery and governance on the same page.
When creating your content strategy, don't confuse your company goals with user goals. Focus on what the consumer wants that you offer. Make it as smooth as possible to give them want they want. Put user goals first and you will have a better chance at achieving your company goals.
Roles and responsibilities
Clearly define each team member's role. Make sure every responsibility has been assigned to someone so that nothing falls through the gaps.
Challenge #2: Content creation
Creating content at scale
- Develop guidelines – style guides, voice and tone guides, vocabulary lists, etc.
- Onboard new hires – teach them how your brand communicates
- Make use of coworkers' fresh eyes and feedback for your own work
- Run workshops to train employees
- Do pair writing
- Share your experiences and knowledge among your team
Expertise can get in the way of communicating with the user, who in most cases is not an expert. To create user-focused content, make sure you:
- Use simple language – no jargon!
- Don't assume knowledge
- Stay on-topic – edit out unnecessary information
- Focus on how your audience will be using the information you give them
- Use the format that your audience prefers
Challenge #3: Internal focus and content silos
A lot of companies make the mistake of organising content by their own internal structure, rather than how it will be used by the consumer. Do what makes sense for the user and will best meet their needs. Don't silo content – put the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella together.
Hilary Marsh illustrated this point well in her slides:
Challenge #4: Misunderstanding your audience
Researching and developing your buyer personas is crucial and should be an ongoing process – your audience isn't static. Speak to your customers, listen to what they're saying and make sure your content shows that you've heard them.
We can study detailed web analytics, review the pretty demographics charts given to us by Marketing, and devise colourful personas to guide our work, but until we’ve actually spoken to our customers – preferably face-to-face – our understanding of their needs remains limited."