Future-friendly content

You can’t make assumptions about how people will access your content; the device and platform they use, the context of use, the task they’re actually completing.

You have to make sure your content is available everywhere, so you can service the increasing diversity of how people access it.

Trying to embrace this flexibility has been one of our biggest challenges and has meant we’ve had to take a new look at our processes, workflows and strategies; all with the goal of making our content as future-friendly as possible.

Karen McGrane, in her recently published book Content Strategy for Mobile, sums it up succinctly:

It is your mission to get your content out, on whichever platform, in whichever format your audience wants to consume it. Your users get to decide how, when, and where they want to read your content. It is your challenge and your responsibility to deliver a good experience to them.

Preparing for the future

This isn’t just about making our website work on a mobile, it’s about making our content as accessible and structured as possible, and about getting it ready for a future of unpredictability and complexity.

The biggest challenges we faced as a team was not design- or development-related, but all around content.

We suffered from a lack of consistency and organisation, with content grouped together in structures that were sometimes far from clear.

Bottlenecks within our production workflows and a content management system that was fragmented all contributed to a lack of a clear content strategy.
An opportunity to improve on that became one of the defining principles of this process, one that is still continuing and doesn’t just end with a new website.

Get organised

Taking time to examine and evaluate your content is one of the best bits of advice we can give. If you take the time to put the structure in place, content creation becomes so much easier.

We took it as an opportunity to rethink our processes and workflows for how we produce content. As we’ve outlined previously we took a mix and match approach to align our content to its most appropriate technology.

We took a product-based approach to the core website that meant every resource is now grouped together by content-type. We introduced topics, created a case study repository, and moved our tools and templates into Google Drive.

It’s helped us to prioritise content – having our key resources on our core website and having supplementary content hosted somewhere that best suits their purpose.

Our CMS (WordPress) was carefully considered so that we could not only manage content, but customise it around content-types and taxonomies to make our content meaningful to our end-users.

Discussing this last week within the team, we talked about embracing constraints and making our content more consistent. This wasn’t just about overall consistency but was at a micro-level as well; in terms of navigation, titling, meta data, images, sections, asides and quotes.

Start now

This process is ongoing and will develop as we react to the ever-changing nature of the web. However, by taking the time to think about it now, we’ve put a roadmap in place for producing content that’s flexible and focused on the long-term.

I think the content strategist Sara Wachter-Boettcher puts it best when she says:

Technology will change. Standards will evolve. But the need for understanding our content—its purpose, meaning, structure, relationships, and value—will remain. When we can embrace this thinking, we will unshackle our content—confident it will live on, heart intact, as it travels into the great future unknown.

Start thinking about your content strategy, your workflows and your processes to ensure your content is ready to embrace this challenge.