Content Strategy Development

Checklist

A content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content with the intention of reflecting the institutional goals and user needs. Usability.gov illustrates some common concepts in content strategy including:

  • Understanding how a user thinks and speaks about a subject.
  • Communicating to people in a way they understand.
  • Being relevant, factual, and up-to-date.
  • Being accessible to all people regardless of any special needs or disabilities.

As part of ACC’s web redesign, the web team used a common outline and structure to identify the content strategy for each section and audience of the new website.

  • Position statement
  • Expansion statement 1: Goals
  • Expansion statement 2: Top Tasks
  • Messaging Framework
    • First Impression
    • Value Statement
    • Proof

This outline was applied to each audience identifier specified in the creative brief. It serves as a starting point for the overall direction of content to reside within each section of the new website.  The creative brief outlines the audiences and gives a sense of the general personas or audiences that will interact with the ACC website.

Audience and User Types

Lead – A user who is interested in attending ACC or is gathering more information in order to make a decision. This user has not completed any key conversion tasks (apply or request information) and may just be exploring available programs, comparing costs, and finding out if attending would be possible for them based on program availability, financial concerns, or some other reason.

Prospect – A user who has completed a key conversion – either applying or requesting information.

Student – A user who has applied and selected an area of study or program. This user may have a record either within the customer relationship management software (CRM) or the college’s main enterprise resource planning software (ERP). This user may or may not have attended class yet and would be engaging with the college based on identification through one or both of these systems.

Business and Community – A users who has an interest in engaging with the college either due to business relationships, as taxpayers and tax paying entities, or because of some other interest.

Faculty and Staff – A user who is a current employee and engages with the college as part of their employment. This audience has special privileges and access to content and systems that may be restricted to a credential-based login system.

Content Strategies by Audience

Next Steps

The web team will use these content strategies in conjunction with the content audit to develop information architectures (IAs), or outlines, for sections of the website that match up with the audiences specified in the creative brief.

Research and Discovery: Content Audit

Card Catalog

An early step in any website redesign is to audit content that currently resides on your website. As part of ACC website audit, we focused on user groups and their content – whether for students, employees, or business and community users. While our audit identified some instances where content was intended for all audiences or has to be there for legal purposes, we found the audience structure held up well as a sorting box for the vast majority of ACC’s website content.

The web team marked each page within the Drupal content management system to correspond to the intended audience using Drupal’s functionality of taxonomies and content types. The audience taxonomy included the following categories.

User groups

  • Prospective students
  • Current students
  • Business and community
  • Faculty and staff
  • Topics: General

Topics

  • General (no specific audience)
  • Admissions (Prospective Students)
  • Financial Aid (Current Students)
  • Registration (Current Students)

The audit reviewed all pages that reside within the Drupal CMS. It included content intended for prospective students, all internal faculty and staff as well as topics and tasks intended for current ACC students. The audit did not review content outside Drupal, which includes academic department websites and faculty websites that contain instructional content. These content groups will be addressed in later phases of the web redesign project.

You can take a look at the completed audit by audience here: Content Audit Index

Evaluation

The college’s public-facing website is utilitarian rather than promotional and serves current ACC students well. In fact, the audit confirmed the fewest number of webpages on ACC’s site are intended for prospective students. These results are not surprising since the stated goal of the current site was to support the First Year Experience, in which a student accumulated important information over their first semesters at ACC. With an increased amount of on-boarding and advising support for new students under the Pathways model, the ACC website can instead focus on improving the prospective students’ experience.

Observations and Possible Strategies

The need for new audience identifiers emerged from the audit, as well as new ways of thinking about the content and tasks for these audiences. Prospective Students became Leads and Current Students became simply Students. A user is now considered a Student a soon as their application moves from the college’s customer relationship management (CRM) software into a proper student record.

While the current site organizes content by tasks rather than ACC’s organizational structure, the huge volume of content gets lost inside large homepage menus. The need to move toward “microsites” for these topics is clear. Common microsites in higher education include admissions, registration, and financial aid.

These topics often have multiple audiences within them, and it is acceptable to bring the topics forward as the drivers and creating content for the intended audiences within these spaces. An example would be the initial financial aid application process intended for new students, and the tasks and information that is needed for a current student to keep and retain their financial aid eligibility. Content for both of these tasks would exist in the same space but speak to different audiences.

Next Steps

The next step in the process is to develop the content strategies for each audience and user group. The team will then align existing content to these groups and identify and document additional content needs. These processes lead to the development of the information architectures (IA) for each audience. IA’s are used as “outlines” for content within a website and guide where content is natively located and accessed. IAs that will be needed include:

  • Top Tier – Leads and Prospective students.
  • Students – Current student tasks and information.
  • Business & Community – Community members and other groups that wish to engage with the college or receive specific topic information.
  • General Information – Content  that is not intended for any one particular audience.