Clean Up Your Content UX!

Posted 3/25/2015 6:12 PM by Chris Pauley

At AJi we’re big advocates of content with purpose. Having a content mission statement is the first step in developing focused, successful content. The next step is taking that same intentional approach down to the ground level. Attention to detail during content development is the next step to being a great content marketer.

Before getting into attention to detail, I want to make sure I’m clear on what detail is. In my opinion, detail (relating to UX) is not necessarily small. For example, content plans have details just as much as their content items. When discussing detail, I find it important to focus every bit as much on the large as the small.

Align Detail and Mission

The most important UX question (or content marketing, or most anything) is why? Knowing you don’t have an answer is just as important as having an answer, as this tells you the next area to focus on. However, there’s an answer that can be very damaging if it goes unchecked. This answer comes in many flavors, but it boils down to two familiar words: Just because. This answer is actually not an answer, but many times it is taken as one.

When you encounter the just because answer, it’s time to focus on detail. This can either be a fun or frustrating process depending on your mindset, so I encourage anyone heading into this to see it as an educational experience. Begin by questioning every detail of your content UX. When everything’s been questioned, find ten more things to question. Remember that details don’t just lie on the micro—but also the macro—scale.

Why do we have 2x as many posts about coffee brewing processes as bean choices? Why is our call-to-action color green? Why is our content delivery cycle every two weeks?

Obviously not everything can change, but knowing things that could be better if they could be changed is useful information too. This is also a good time to get to know how your readers have been experiencing the content on both a large and a small scale. Take this into consideration when questioning your content UX. The goal of this exercise is to get from ‘why do we…’ to ‘why don’t we…’.

Why don’t we start posting on Wednesdays to align with our #WarmDrinkWednesday campaign? Why don’t we use the orange accent in our logo as the call-to-action color for better brand alignment?

The ideas that come out of this may be incredibly simple and seemingly obvious, however ideas are never formed if they are never given a time and context in which to develop. Hold each why don’t question up to the content mission statement. The valuable solutions push content toward that statement. If they push it away from that mission, they are not valuable. Lastly, if they are not related to the mission in any real way, they may have relevance to other documents such as a brand and style guide; make sure to consult these documents as well.

Point A to Point B – Where are you leading the reader?

While every piece of content needs to conform to the content mission statement, the individual pieces of content need to have a similar mission or purpose on their own. This is easiest to think of as a story or path in which you are leading the reader. It’s important to know where you want to lead the reader. What do you want them to question? What do you want them to learn?

Having answers to these questions allow for focus to be given to the best ways to go about leading the reader from point A to point B. Similar to a courtroom trial, the jury isn’t going to be convinced of your case until they see some evidence. It’s your job as a content developer to get them to ask the right questions, give them the information they need to draw conclusions, and not give them all the answers up front. This process is a core element in developing content UX. There’s no one good way to do it, and sometimes variety is a good thing when talking about content UX.

Knowing how to best lead readers through a piece of content is all about that UX relationship. Knowing how readers want their content, runs right along with knowing what content they want. When that starts to develop properly you can even ask questions like how readers like different types of content. Good content produced or delivered incorrectly might as well be bad content.

Developing a good process or set of principles for better content UX in this way, is all about personas. Which persona is most interested in the content you are developing? How are they receiving it? Are they interested in quick information? Education? Thought provoking material? The same content can be presented different ways depending on what the reader expects or wants, for instance:

5 Methods for Better Coffee Brewing

Brew Off: Pour-over vs French Press

Cut the Caffeine: Benefits of the Pour-Over Process

Lean Content: Cut the Fat

Content length definitely falls into the list of things that should be questioned when discussing content UX. However, one thing that no content benefits from, is pointless, or ill-focused ‘fluff’. Anytime you’re writing an extra paragraph (or let’s face it, even a whole post) that doesn’t have a direct purpose other than to fill space or keep up with your release cycle, stop writing. Poor content is more harmful than a lack of content.

Many times we need to push the length of content for SEO reasons, and it’s always hard to push content out regularly without just developing poor content once in a while. However, there are ways to get out of that rut. It’s worth taking some time and finding a broad topic (or several) that you enjoy writing about (and that fits within your content mission statement), and save it for these moments. I’ve found this can even turn those days you feel like a content producing robot into a nice day when you finally got an opportunity to write that piece that’s been in the back of your mind for the past few weeks. Essentially it’s like creating a content backlog for a rainy day.

At the end of the day, the important thing to keep in mind is that every piece and aspect of content that gets developed, needs to focus on that content mission statement and the readers the content is being developed for. After all, having a content mission statement means nothing if that content doesn’t have an audience! Keeping those two things in mind constantly, will eventually make the content creation process a little easier, as many constant questions about your content will already be answered when you go to develop that content.

Pursuing attention to detail in content development is best done in practice. Take some extra time when writing your next piece of content and persistently ask yourself why. Having a fresh set of inquisitive eyes will be helpful as well. Make sure every detail is focused on both the content mission and the reader.