The forgotten middle child of digital projects

By andy on February 7, 2016 — 2 mins read

Oh, woah, is the middle child. The kid stuck in the middle of resource-sucking elders and needy younger siblings. Too old to require newly purchased items, they receive the gentle-wears of older siblings. Yet, the middle-est are to young, to be afforded the luxury of the youngest, namely the age gap precludes purchase of new items due to wear and tear…

Alright, where am I going… Web content is often times the middle child of the design process. Often, overlooked until it is too late, or not examined at all. As designers, we want certain length headlines, certain character count line-lengths across devices, and other utilitarian copy-esque needs. Sure, we dabble with old content, wishing we had new content. But are we really looking at the context? Are we effectively examining the context of all content? Often visual style and technology decisions are made without understanding the true context and audience needs required from the content.

There is a simple solution, and it doesn’t require a content strategist. Let’s just choose to give a fuck. Let’s ask the hard questions, be the squeaky wheel. Can content strategy be integrated into your sales and discovery process? I think it can, and further more your client will love you for it.

So what are basic questions/tips we can ask of project owners to better prioritize content at the beginning of the project?

  1. Outside of design and technical needs, does your ‘digital space’ effectively communicate to your target audience? (Now just wait, and listen… Or wait through the awkward silence…) They may respond with a myriad of things, that will instantly steer the conversation to strategy.
  2. Make an observation, and probe for rationale – I see on the “About” page that _____ , can you explain this process to me? Detail, or process observations, can unlock better ways to communicate user goals.
  3. Examine the mundane first. Analytics can be your friend here, look for those underserved pages, that have high traffic. Are user goals being met?
  4. Talk about the homepage/design the homepage last… Focus on people, context, and the mundane process first. This will build consensus between stakeholders. Overtime, this minimize the “big” battles that often occur over emotional responses to change, especially on gateway regions, like the homepage of a ‘digital space’
  5. Make context become a topic during weekly stand-up’s

After all, a little bit of context is better than none. Taking these small steps, will slowly help evolve design processes to better embrace a more content friendly web. Let’s all, despite being the oldest, youngest or middle-est children better embrace content and context in our next web projects.

Side note; I am thankfully on the older spectrum of sibling birth order.

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