Content is all the stuff that lives on your website or intranet. Defining what your content is, where it lives, what it's purpose is, and how you're going to manage all of that "stuff" is content strategy.
But someone had to create all that content that you've been tasked with managing, so how did they go about creating the best stuff, instead of the subpar stuff that is the definition of how we all feel when we talk about information overload?
Get in and get out
As much as we all would like to think that our corporate websites are cozy, fun places that our users want to spend the day browsing with a cup of coffee, the reality is that users come to a site with a question, or a goal or problem in mind that the intend to solve as quickly as possible. Don't hinder your users task by making them wade through a confusing faceted navigation system, or hoards of old, unusable information. If your site succeeds at helping the user accomplish their task quickly and efficiently, they're likely to be pleased, but not think much of it, before moving on with their day. If your site mercilessly takes your user on an unsolicited tour of your site by having to blindly click around until they stumble upon their answer, they will remember it, and they will complain about it.
I still remember the day I wanted to try a new restaurant I had seen while driving around in my neighborhood, but when I went online to check out their menu, I almost abandoned my desire to eat there entirely, based on the sheer difficulty I faced in just trying to find their menu online. Go ahead; try it. Maybe you'll find it in fewer clicks than I did. The point is, don't make finding answers a struggle. Make it easy. They might not write a Yelp review about it, but they won't have negative memories associated with your brand either.
Eye-tracking analysis studies show that users are more likely to quickly scan through navigation tabs, headlines, and the first few bits of information in a paragraph, rather than settle in to read the whole page word-for-word. We all know your writing is worthy of The New Yorker, but you won't retrain users to read your website like a novel, so do them a favor by crafting your content into:
- Bulleted lists, with
- Easily scannable subheadings, and
- Using key words (but fewer words overall)
Using fewer words doesn't equal easier writing
I believe finding your voice is the first step in creating concise, yet actionable, content that is true to your brand. Starting with a style guide (like the amazing one MailChimp uses) will help guide you towards content that is clear and consistent across your entire site, without sacrificing that dry sense of humor your colleagues know you for. But it isn't just your desktop site you need to consider when writing content; more users use mobile devices as their primary connection to the web and extra considerations should be made around streamlining tasks, navigation, and the amount of content to sift through.
I say "faceted taxonomy" you say, "huh?"
Unless your audience is a bunch of content nerds, limit your usage of undefined jargon - not everyone gets as excited about synonym rings (sad, but true). Writing good web content means writing in a way that helps translate big, complex ideas into accessible bites of information. This doesn't mean, "dumb it down", it means give us definitions and clear language, e.g., no acronyms, please.