December 19, 2016
Effective Web Experiences Pt. 1: Goal-based Strategy and Intelligent Content

Web management is a strange alchemy. To make gold you need to blend art and science, mix with hard work and a handful of insightful strategy.

Websites come in many shapes and sizes, each with different requirements, but all sharing the same principals for success. Whether you have an existing website, or plan to build a new one, your website needs to be positioned to succeed.

To help you build a successful website and customer experience we've outlined the eleven key strategies you'll need to employ. We will be offering all eleven in the next few months in this blog series. 

What's Your Web Strategy?

Before you start building your next web presence, you need to define your website strategy. The first question you need to ask, what is the goal of your website? Is it to build brand awareness? To capture leads? To support existing customers? Or is it a combination of many goals for different audiences and business groups.

These goals are high level, but you need specifics to know if you’ve been successful. You can use the SMART goal methodology (specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound) to set specific goals. For instance, increase traffic by 80% by March 31 to increase brand awareness. Or, increase qualified leads by 10% and increase conversions by 20%.

Once you have your goals clearly defined you need to define your audience. Who do you want to reach and how do they want to interact with the website? Define your target audience(s), what tasks they perform on your website and the relative importance of each task. There are many methodologies, like Design Thinking, Narrative and Journey’s, or Human Centered Design that can help you see your website through the eyes of your customers and build empathy into your interactions. 

With this information, you can see what content and functionality your website needs to provide, including what is most important to bring to the top for each audience. As you monitor website performance, you continue to refine your audiences' needs and how they interact with your website, enabling you to continually optimize the experience for each audience.

Ultimately you need to define the task, target the visitor, optimize the experience, measure the results. This is an iterative process that helps you give your customers what they need.

Great Content, Designed for Reuse

Now that you have a solid handle on who you are trying to reach and what content they want to consume, you need to start thinking about how you will create that content.

Great content doesn’t need definition, but here it is: The best content to the right person in the right context. Great content is by far this is the most critical aspect of your website.

Your content strategy will be defined at a high level by your overall web strategy and goals. Creating great content requires understanding the needs of your visitors and crafting article, images, videos, and other martials that speak to your visitor, reflect your brand's voice, and create deeper engagement.

To deliver great content you need to think about the content structure. Structured content, or content designed for reuse, is content that you create and manage separately from how you publish it. Structured content enables you to create your content in such a way that it can be used anywhere including your website, your customer-facing business applications, your social networks, or a mobile device. It also enables you to display the content in different formats and views.

Essentially you are creating content once and publishing it anywhere. The industry acronym for this is COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere. COPE is a new approach to content management for many organizations. Typically, you think about content by delivery channel, in this case, the website. COPE means you thing about content across multiple channels and contexts. Designing for content reuse shifts the initial content planning and development up a level, outside of any one channel or device. Structured content development supports not only the ability to present a single source of content for all publishing channels but also the ability to personalize the content for a wider range of use cases or visitor segments.

To enable the creation of content for reuse across channels and applications, you need to plan:

  • Document the different channels, applications, and devices that need content. Look for where you can reuse content, including individual content elements and how you present it.
  • Perform a content audit. What content is already created, where is it used, how is it used? What content do you need to create? Where and how will that content be used?
  • Create a taxonomy and metadata plan - define detailed content types, including their metadata elements and how they are related to each other. Your content model should be able to describe how your content is created and how it can be reconfigured and reused.
  • Consider bringing in a content architect who can help you organize your content and recommend the best approach to structuring it for re-use.
  • Technology helps you implement a content reuse model. Your CMS should offer not only the ability to create structured content, but also features and functionality to intelligently deliver the content.
  • Store your content in a CMS that supports XML, JSON and other formats that provide a rich content definition.

You may be focused right now on developing the best content for your website, but do it in a way that allows you to take that content and use it in other places. If you use the COPE approach from the start, it becomes a consistent component your normal content planning and development process.

More to Come!

Stay tuned for the next post in this series where we'll talk about the importance of responsive design. Other topics you'll learn about as we move through the series include: personalization and content targeting, optimization, website performance, analytics and much more.

Posted by Dave Hillis
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