Friday, December 30, 2011

Goals Written Are Dreams Achieved

When I'm not thinking about websites or content strategy, I'm usually knitting. In fact, I've just started a knitting blog where I share knitting-related thoughts and patterns.

Today my worlds intersected a bit. I came across a wonderful post entitled "Goals Written Are Dreams Achieved." While I'm not planning to sell my knitted objects on Etsy anytime soon, I thought the post really captured best practices for every association, corporation, nonprofit, or entrepreneur.

The post gave four tips for writing and measuring goals. I've paraphrased them and added a fifth.
  1. Write them as positive, declarative sentences.
  2. Be detailed.
  3. Share your goals with others, maybe in a blog post or on Twitter.
  4. Track the progress of your goals.
  5. Review and refine them on a regular basis.
 For a website, content strategy is key to enabling your business to meet its goals.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Content strategy -- the who, what, when, where, why, and how of content

People come to your site to learn something or do something, and your content strategy needs to reflect that you know what they come for and know how to help them do it.

Sounds easy...but it's actually not. In fact, often the cleanest, easiest-looking solutions actually were the most challenging to develop. Keep in mind that those challenges are absolutely worth tackling!

The question "what is content strategy" seems to be out there in the ether more than I've ever seen it. My take on it is that content strategy is the who, what, when, where, why, and how of content.

  • Who will be creating the content? Do they know how to write effectively for online consumption?
  • What content do your site visitors need in order to do what they came for?
  • When: How often should you publish new content? How often will you promote a particular piece of content?
  • Where should it live? What section of your site houses the information? Where will you promote it -- on your site, on Facebook/Twitter, in your e-newsletters?
  • Why: Do the folks responsible for writing and promoting the content understand both the business goals of the content, as well as users' goals?
  • How: Do you have a content management system -- both CMS technology and the related business processes -- to to get the information posted online efficiently and effectively? 
So, content strategy involves several different areas of your organization: content creators, communicators, marketing, and technology. All must be aligned in order for the content -- and the effort behind it -- to succeed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An open letter to mobile sites

Dear mobile site,

Most of the time, frankly, you’re awful. All too often, you don’t let me do what I came to the site to do -- something that your full site lets me do pretty easily. You present a small handful of options, but not the one I’m looking for. And to be honest, you’re ugly. I definitely appreciate good design on a website, so using you is just not a very pleasant experience.

Yesterday, I started the day as I usually do, checking email on my iPhone before getting out of bed. I got an offer from a clothing retailer for 20% off if I shopped during the week. When I clicked on the link, there were choices to see women’s, children’s, or men’s items. I was looking for women’s clothing – but there was some kind of overlay welcoming me to the mobile site, and it blocked my ability to choose women’s clothes (which I strongly suspect is this retailer’s primary line of business). I clicked on the children’s clothing link, and there, all I could do was drill down, not go to women’s clothes. Oh well – I guess they didn’t really want me to shop with them online. Effective mobile experience? I don’t think so!!

Then on my way home from work, I got a weekly update from a nonprofit career site. In order to see the open positions in Illinois, I clicked through to the site and it asked me if I wanted to go to the mobile site. I’ve clicked “no” each time I have visited the site, but apparently it’s too much for this site to remember that option. I got a request to remember my location – why in the world does this site need to know where I am? I clicked “no” once again. And in paging through the openings in Illinois, I had to carefully expand the page so I clicked on the “next” link vs. the one to the mobile site – yet again. There is an option to see all openings from Illinois at once, but it doesn’t work. Major fail!

I don’t mind scrolling around a “real” site on my phone. It’s a mini-computer, after all – not a Blackberry circa 1996. Bandwidth isn’t really an issue, and real sites have information in predictable places, and a real, defined user experience.

So mobile site, don’t get in my way – and give me the option to decline using you, permanently. If you choose to not do that, I will choose not to visit you.

Thanks for listening.