Content strategy is part of the overall strategy of a business. Its purpose is to achieve business goals.
The purpose of User Experience or UX is to satisfy user needs through meaningful content, utility, and ease of use of products.
Content strategy provides insights that are essential for the UX design process These insights enable the creation of a smooth user journey. Good content strategy leads to good UX design, and the end result is the achievement of business goals and the satisfaction of user needs.
Is Content Strategy a Part of UX?
There is a lot of overlap between content strategy and UX writing/designing. As a result, the terms UX writer / UX designer and content strategist are sometimes used interchangeably.
The reality however is that content strategy and UX are independent but related disciplines.
What is Content Strategy?
One of the best-known definitions of the content strategy was given by Kristina Halvorson in her book Content Strategy for the Web. Kristina is also the founder and CEO of Brain Traffic, a leading content strategy consultancy. According to Kristina, content strategy is “Planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content”.
The output of content strategy is a plan that covers
- The kind of content to produce: businesses usually produce multiple types of content such as blogs, videos, social media posts, newsletters, and online ads.
- The platforms to use: a company website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
- A schedule for sharing content on these platforms.
- Explaining how to create the content through a style guide, tone of voice, user personas, and/or competitor research
- KPIs to track the success of content creation efforts.
The Elements of Content Strategy
Kristina Halverson and her team at Brain Traffic came up with the content strategy quad that defines the elements to consider in every content strategy.
At the center is the core content strategy, the approach taken with the product or service to meet user needs and achieve business goals. To achieve that strategy most effectively, we look at four closely related components:
- Substance identifies what content is required to successfully execute and implement the core strategy, including characteristics such as messaging architecture, intended audience, and voice and tone.
- Structure focuses on how content is prioritized, organized, and accessed. Although structure can include information architecture (IA), it focuses more deeply on the content itself, including mapping messages to content, content bridging, and creating detailed page tables.
- Workflow explains how people manage and maintain content on a daily basis, including the roles, tasks, and tools required throughout the content lifecycle.
- Governance describes the policies, standards, and guidelines that apply to content and its lifecycle, as well as how an organization will sustain and evolve its content strategy.
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What is UX?
The term "UX" encompasses all aspects of a user's interaction with a business and its products and services.
In the context of digital products and services, UX refers to what a user feels and experiences while using and interacting with those products and services.
The Facets of UX
Peter Morville developed the User Experience Honeycomb to help customers understand the multiple facets of UX.
He notes that in order for there to be a meaningful and valuable user experience, content should be:
- Useful: the content should fulfill users' needs.
- Usable: products and services should be easy and intuitive to use
- Desirable: the emotive power of image, identity, brand, and other design elements should be considered.
- Findable: product and services should be easy to navigate so that users can easily find the content they need.
- Accessible: content should be accessible to people with disabilities.
- Credible: users should trust and believe what you tell them.
- Valuable: content should deliver value to users.
UX design plays an important role in product design. Its goal is to satisfy the needs of the customers, make product use easy and intuitive, and gain customer loyalty. The UX design process takes into account the different facets of UX. The UX design process is also guided by the overall content strategy.
UX Design Process
The UX design process is comprised of the following five key phases:
During the product definition phase, UX designers brainstorm around the product with stakeholders. This phase includes:
- Stakeholder interviews: interviewing key stakeholders to gather insights about business goals.
- Value proposition mapping: considering the key aspects and value propositions of the product: what it is, who will use it, and why they will use it. Value propositions help the creation of consensus around the product and match user and business needs.
- Concept sketching: creating an early mockup of the product.
This phase typically includes both user research and market research. The research phase can include:
- Interviews: a great product experience starts with a good understanding of the target users. Interviews provide qualitative data about the target audience, such as their needs, desires, fears, motivations, and behavior.
- Competitor research: research helps UX designers understand industry standards, successful and unsuccessful UX strategies used by competitors, and identify opportunities for the product.
The aim of the analysis phase is to draw insights from data collected during the research phase. The analysis phase of the UX design process can include:
- Creating user personas: user personas are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users. You can reference these personas during product design as realistic representations of your target users.
- Creating user stories: user stories help UX designers understand the product/service interactions from the user’s point of view.
- Storyboarding: storyboarding is a tool that helps designers connect user personas and user stories. A storyboard is essentially a story about a user interacting with your product.
During the design phase, product teams work on creating information architecture (IA) and the actual user interface (UI) design. An effective design phase is highly collaborative and iterative. The design phase can include:
- Sketching: sketching is the easiest and fastest way for visualizing ideas. You can sketch a drawing by hand on a piece of paper, on a whiteboard, or with a digital tool. Sketching helps the design team visualize a wide range of design solutions before making the final decision.
- Wireframes: a wireframe is a tool that helps designers visualize the basic structure of a future page, including the key elements and how they fit together. Wireframing acts as the backbone of the product, and designers often use them as a foundation for mockups and prototypes.
- Prototypes: a prototype is a simulation of the product. It can be either low-fidelity such as a clickable wireframe or high-fidelity such as a coded prototype.
- Design specification: design specifications contain the visual design elements required to transform prototypes into working products.
- Design systems: for large projects, designers typically create a system of components, patterns, and styles that help both designers and developers stay on the same page regarding the design.
Validation helps UX design teams understand whether their design works for their users. The team validates the product with stakeholders and end-users. The validation phase of the UX process may include the following activities:
- In-house testing: team members use the product on a regular basis to uncover any major usability flaws.
- User testing sessions: testing sessions with target users are very important. There are many different formats to try, including moderated/unmoderated usability testing, focus groups, beta testing, and A/B testing.
- Surveys: surveys are a great way to capture quantitative and qualitative data from real-world users. UX designers can ask different open-ended questions to get opinions on specific features.
- Analytics: quantitative data from an analytics tool can be very helpful for uncovering how users interact with the product.
Why is Content Strategy Important for UX?
Decisions related to content don't take place in isolation.
Content strategy connects a business's content efforts with business goals and user needs. It also creates a set of integrated choices between the following separate but interrelated areas of activity.
- User experience design: Who are your end-users? What are their content needs and preferences? How can you make content useful and usable to them, wherever and however they need it?
- Editorial strategy: What is your content’s point of view? What are the topics you need to address? Where and when will you deliver the content?
- Content engineering: How does your content need to be structured in order for users to find it? What models need to be in place for the CMS to deliver the content, wherever and however users and the business need it?
- Content workflow and governance: How does content move throughout your organization? What are the policies, standards, and guidelines that monitor its quality and performance?
These are not subdisciplines of content strategy by any means; rather, they are business and/or design functions that all have an impact on your content product. Content strategy manages the relationship between them.
What are the Benefits of Content Strategy for UX?
Content Strategy for User Experience focuses on the creation and governance of helpful user experience content. Content strategy in UX ensures that content is able to reach the user in the proper format at the right location and time; is compatible with visuals and branding; is accessible and useful and is able to support business goals.
Content strategy offers the following benefits for UX:
- Ensures UX content supports business goals: content strategy is influenced by the overall business and brand strategy. It provides a clear framework for UX design to ensure that all content created ultimately helps to achieve business goals.
- Ensures the whole UX team is on the same page: content is not created by siloed individuals, but rather by a team comprised of UX writers, UX designers, project managers, and editors. Content strategy ensures that the whole UX team is on the same page and moving in the same direction.
- Allows you to track and make changes where required: all content is not created equal. Some content will be successful while other content won't be. Having a content strategy in place allows the UX team to identify what's working and what's not. This allows the content team to make any needed adjustments to the content strategy.
- Helps production of quality content on a consistent basis: any business strategy is developed for the long term. Content strategy takes a holistic approach and helps businesses produce quality content on a consistent basis.
Content strategy decides the framework for all types of content that a business produces. It is a specialized role that is performed by content strategists.
In some cases, UX professionals collaborate with content strategists for the creation of content strategy. In other cases, they work independently. In either case, UX professionals put content strategy into action. The insights gathered from content strategy play a key role in developing user experiences that satisfy customers and help businesses achieve their goals.
Who is a Content Strategist?
In today's market, developing a content strategy is a specialized role and is performed by content strategists. The role of a content strategist includes planning and developing content strategies that use content as a way of meeting the needs of both businesses and users.
Sometimes other terms are used for the content strategist role. These include content marketing strategist, content marketing manager, content manager, content delivery manager, and content project manager.
Content strategists and other content roles form a content strategy team. The team collaborates and works together to define content strategy.
If you are new to UX writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our UX Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a UX writer, how to dominate UX writer interviews, and how to stand out as a UX writing candidate.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He had his first job in technical writing for a video editing software company in 2014. Since then, he has written several books on software documentation, personal branding, and computer hacking. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.