Confab Central 2014: Big Thoughts on Digital Governance

sign reading "Welcome to Confab Central"Following last year’s most excellent experience at Confab, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend again this year (now rebranded as “Confab Central,” as Confab Events has expanded to offer events for several specific audiences) but was a little nervous that it wouldn’t be as good an experience the second time around. I needn’t have worried. While there were perhaps fewer presentations that blew my mind, every session I attended was solid and gave me something to think about, and there was a great mix of inspiration, big-picture strategic thinking, and hands-on tactical ideas to bring home via one’s to-do list – as well as networking opportunities with hundreds of very smart, very friendly content strategists.

Thanks to a Professional Development Grant from the IU Bloomington Professional Staff Council, this year I was able to attend one of the optional full-day workshops presented the day before the conference proper began. These workshops ran from 9:00-5:00 with a lunch break (during which, thanks to aforementioned networking opportunities, the learning did not stop) – so it really was a full day of filling up my brain with new ideas and big thoughts. I knew I should’ve emptied out some of those memorized 1970s song lyrics ahead of time in order to make some extra brain space.

My workshop was “Doing the Right Thing: Web Governance for Your Organization,” presented by Lisa Welchman. As we’ve been so focused here on planning the launch of the Libraries’ new website, I’ve had many thoughts about governance at that level – who should be responsible for what content (things like library services, “About the Libraries,” the home page, etc. often require input from multiple sources, but someone has to be the final arbiter of what gets published), how CMS training should be managed, whether at least some content needs to be approved prior to publication, whether anyone other than the content creator/owner should have the authority to delete content if for example it turns out to be duplicative or is so outdated as to be less than confidence-inspiring, and so on. These are all nuts-and-bolts, tactical questions – and as it turned out, Ms. Welchman’s workshop focused on much more big-picture, strategic issues.

Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t useful. I learned a TON, and thinking about the big questions of governance at the organizational level definitely helps me to understand how the local/tactical issues should be approached. I may not have the authority to say “okay, you associate deans, go into a room and don’t come out until you’ve outlined a digital strategy for the Libraries” – but thinking strategically is useful for anyone at any level, I believe.

As Welchman began describing what she meant by “governance,” I realized that here in the Libraries, this structure is incredibly large and complicated. We’re talking not just about the content creators, editors, coders, etc. who make the Libraries’ website happen – but also about other digital presences (social media, LibGuides, digital collections, this blog), and about responsibilities that fall under the purview of Library Technologies Core Services, UITS, etc. all the way up to the Vice President for IT. The Libraries’ digital strategy and policies are governed both by the Libraries’ mission and overall strategic plan and by larger University-wide strategies and policies. Our governance structure is also influenced by people and groups outside of IU, such as the consultants with whom we contracted to help migrate our website and even those responsible for outside services we use. (As an example, some social media services make it difficult to change the name of an account, so if you want to change your branding from “Herman B Wells Library” to “IUB Libraries” it can be tricky.)

Clearly, we’re not talking about a “web team” of half a dozen people who could sit down in a room together!

So I didn’t come away from this workshop with a to-do list of actionable ideas, but with a better understanding of some strategic concepts:

  • Governance as the mechanism by which strategy is implemented
  • The difference between standards (guidelines for getting work done) and policy, which is set at a much higher level of the organization (“if you break it someone might get sued”)
  • Lisa Welchman: “I don’t believe in ‘best practices.’ I believe in stuff that works.” You should learn about best practices, but then adhere only to the ones that actually make sense for your work.
  • The difference between policy authorship and policy stewardship – oftentimes the part of an organization that is really good at writing policy is different from the part that is really good at managing existing policy.
  • Best ways to communicate standards to your community – this is something that is very applicable to my day-to-day work managing web content that is created by dozens of authors. When you create a new “best practice” you need to communicate the standard for it, provide a deadline for compliance, and then measure compliance in a structured manner.

I’ll continue to review my notes from this workshop and from the rest of Confab Central – watch for future blog posts featuring more of my 2014 takeaways.

Besides the snacks, that is. Once again, Confab did not disappoint in the food department – they take really good care of us there! One of my takeaways may have been a few pounds, due to deliciousness like this in between sessions:

menu for afternoon snack at Confab Central, featuring local cheeses

Those Minnesotans, man. They know how to throw a party extremely useful professional conference.

As a side note, Lisa Welchman’s book, Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, is due out from Rosenfeld Media in the near future. It should be worth a look.

Your Website is a Verb: Some follow-up resources

My thanks to the wonderful folks at Confab Central for the opportunity to present my lightning talk “Your Website is a Verb: Persuading Librarians to Let Go.” For anyone who might be interested in looking into the topic a little further, here are a few readings I’ve found particularly enlightening.

Confabber Hilary Marsh has some slides on Content Strategy for Library Websites which help outline the specific problems we face in this environment.

Amanda Costello’s Confab 2013 presentation “I Don’t Have Your Ph.D.: Working with Faculty & the Web” was important in shaping my thoughts about working with librarians, who are a lot like teaching faculty; I’ve used several of her tips with success.

Aaron Schmidt maintains (correctly, I believe) that Library Websites Should Be Smaller. And in “Give Them What They Want,” he also looks at what might happen if the library website disappeared (noooooooo!) and what that tells us about our users’ needs. The latter article is more relevant to public library sites than to academic/research libraries, but it’s a useful perspective nonetheless.

Rebecca Blakiston at the University of Arizona has a very good article on Developing a Content Strategy for an Academic Library Website. If you’re not affiliated with a library that subscribes to the journal this is published in, see if you can get it via Interlibrary Loan or something. (IU folks, you should be able to access the article.)

I mentioned briefly (heck, everything was brief, that’s the whole point of a lightning talk) that one of the special problems libraries face is our plethora of subscription-based vendor-provided resources, with their dizzying multitude of different interfaces and options. This strays beyond content strategy a bit, but this article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed talks about discovery tools – one of the big guns we drag out in an attempt to tackle this problem. It also features IU’s own assessment librarian (go Andrew!). As Researchers Turn to Google, Libraries Navigate the Messy World of Discovery Tools.

Finally, I keep coming back to good old Ranganathan and his Five Laws of Library Science – especially “Save the time of the reader.” Claire Rasmussen wrote a fantastic post on the Brain Traffic blog a couple of years ago that literally had me bouncing up and down in my seat with how nicely it ties together the basic principles of librarianship and those of content strategy. Plus, best title ever: Do It Like a Librarian: Ranganathan for Content Strategists.

disorderly, overstuffed bookstore shelves
how not to do it! photo credit – flickr/ jessica

You can find the slides from my lightning talk at https://iu.box.com/webverb.

Update: Slides are also available on Slideshare – http://www.slideshare.net/annehaines/your-website-is-a-verb-persuading-librarians-to-let-go

Your Website is a Verb: Persuading Librarians to Let Go

Loyal readers of this blog (hi Mom!) will recall that last year I attended an amazing content strategy conference, Confab. I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to attend again this year – and in fact, thanks to a Professional Development Grant from the IU Bloomington Professional Staff Council, this time around I get to include a full-day workshop the day before the conference proper. So excited!

So when the Confab organizers sent out a call for lightning talk proposals – five-minute talks, using twenty slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds – I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Lo and behold, when I was on vacation last week – I was in the middle of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, of all places, when I happened to check my email – I got the amazing news that my proposal had been accepted. (The Johnny Cash Museum is very very cool, by the way. Highly recommended.) I’ll be presenting along with six other content strategists on May 8th – here’s the list of topics, and here’s the proposal I submitted (the rule was that it had to be three sentences):

Your Website is a Verb: Persuading Librarians to Let Go

In a large academic research library, “KEEP ALL OF THE THINGS” is a legitimate part of our mission. While that’s a useful mission when it comes to books, it spells disaster for a website, something that became both painfully clear and critically important to address during a recent CMS migration. I’ll talk about persuading librarians – a tough crowd – to let go of some of their content in the interest of providing an active and engaging experience for their users, and I promise not to invoke that song from “Frozen” in the process.

I’m super excited, a little terrified (last year every presenter at Confab was amazing, so they have high standards), and really looking forward to hearing what the other presenters have to say!

Confab 2013: Outside the Comfort Zone and Loving It

panorama of Confab room pre-keynote

I recently had the opportunity to attend Confab, a conference devoted to learning about content strategy. Since this wasn’t a library conference, or even a higher ed conference, I knew I’d be outside my comfort zone a bit – and indeed I was. Among the 611 attendees there were a few librarians/library folks and a small contingent of higher ed people but the fellow attendees I spoke with came from all over the map, representing everything from government and non-profit agencies to companies like Whirlpool and Wal-Mart, as well as quite a few independent consultants and contractors. Compared to the demographic at a library conference, the crowd was somewhat younger and slightly (but only slightly) geekier, with a gender balance not too different from the library world – decidedly more women than men.

Trays of cake pops at the Confab reception
I am not kidding about the cake.

I may have been outside my comfort zone, but I was quickly made to feel right at home. Now in its third year, Confab has developed a reputation for being well-run and for great food, particularly cake – Betty Crocker is one of the conference sponsors! – and it exceeded my expectations on both counts. (Let’s just say that if someone talks about the “Confab Four” they are probably referring to the weight they gained, not a mop-topped quartet of Liverpudlian content strategists. Nobody will ever go hungry at Confab, that’s for SURE.) This is a conference organized by user experience professionals, and they have clearly given careful thought to the user experience of the conference itself – from the beautifully-designed program booklet to the reliable Wi-Fi bandwidth, from clear (and even witty) signage to helpful and friendly volunteers, the organizers obviously wanted us to be able to use our mental and emotional energy for learning and connecting rather than for dealing with confusion or frustration.

Sign reading "Don't Freak Out - Additional Bathrooms Upstairs"
Helpful and witty signage.

The Confab program included lots of interesting-sounding sessions, and at times I found it difficult to choose – but all the sessions I attended turned out to be quite good and gave me something to think about. Not only that, but over the two full days, not one presenter stood there and just read me their slides, and they were quality slides too – in two days I spotted only one typo on one slide. That’s pretty amazing.

While it wasn’t necessarily a new-agey, touchy-feely conference, neither was Confab a technical conference. Like the field of content strategy itself, its focus was on that slightly-nebulous intersection of communication and technology. As such, there were some assumptions made about attendees’ technical knowledge – for example that we understood the basics of web publishing and using a content management system, and were somewhat familiar with social media (the Twitter stream for Confab was quite active and provided a useful backchannel throughout the conference) and current online culture. It was also assumed, correctly, that most attendees were word-nerds and that wordplay would be an effective way to get one’s point across. Probably the best (worst) (no, best) example of this wordplay was when closing keynoter Paul Ford used the example of an apple pie contest, with complex and extensive rules for what constitutes “apple pie” (can it include bacon?) and the specific roles of everyone and everything involved (apple farmers, bakers, judges, ice cream), as a metaphor for web content governance – and foisted upon us the term “pierarchy.” Yeah. It was that kind of a thing.

Kristina Halvorson delivering the opening keynote
Kristina Halvorson drops some content strategy learning on us. Yes, that’s a giant CONFAB of light on the stage.

Early the first morning, Confab mastermind Kristina Halvorson‘s opening keynote set the tone by running down the top ten things content strategists always hear from clients; the murmurs of recognition throughout the room demonstrated that even though we may work in very different organizations with very different projects and clients, we all face many of the same issues – for example, “we have too much content.” This is equally terrifying (I was hoping maybe somebody somewhere had the answers to everything? Sigh) and reassuring.

Jared Spool’s Day 2 keynote, “Experiencing Delightful Content,” was – if I had to choose – the highlight of the conference for me. (I say this with some reluctance, as there were multiple highlights and really the conference was more than the sum of its parts – it’s almost impossible to single out any one presentation without the context it gained from the other talks and the zeitgeist of the conference as a whole.) Spool talked about what it takes to make your web content go beyond “usable” to providing an experience of delight for your users. You can make your content “not suck,” he pointed out, but simply removing frustrations isn’t enough.

Making content delightful requires dancing at the convergence of a number of different aspects of user experience, as seen in this slide:

"Delightful Content Design" surrounded by its components
slide from Jared Spool’s keynote; photo by @editoriaLife

Many of the sessions I attended – including Corey Vilhauer’s “Empathy: Content Strategy’s Hidden Deliverable,” Amanda Costello’s “I Don’t Have Your Ph.D.: Creating Content with Experts and Specialists,” and Jonathan Kahn’s “Digital Governance Fails Because We’re Afraid of Cultural Change” – focused strongly on the “soft skills” of communication with users and content creators, project management, and change management. As Vilhauer noted, “content strategy is made of people!” Since a significant part of my job involves herding cats working with content creators throughout the Libraries, these sessions were tremendously helpful to me. Working with people is a huge part of the “strategy” in content strategy! In many ways these themes were what set the tone for the entire conference, as we were encouraged to listen, to become change agents, and to ask “why” at every turn. Katie Del Angel sums it up nicely in her blog post, “The Touchy-Feely Side of Content Strategy: #ConfabFeelings.”

Every session I attended, in fact, was helpful to me – but I was grateful for the Twitter backchannel, which allowed me to peek into some of the sessions I did not attend. Sometimes I got great nuggets though I probably missed out on some of the context within which they were presented, like this one re: the importance of structured content:

Watch this blog for future posts with more specifics about some of the sessions I attended, as I have time to write them up. (And feel free to fire up the official Confab Minneapolis 2013 playlist on Rdio as you read. It’s pretty cool.)

You can find slides from many of the Confab presentations on Slideshare.

Homepage Content Strategy

Georgy Cohen recently wrote an article on Meet Content about developing a strategy for content on a homepage. It is often argued that a homepage isn’t as important today because of how a user accesses content. While this may be true for some websites, it is definitely a myth regarding academic library homepages.  A well-built academic library homepage creates a positive brand statement and efficiently guides the user towards the needed content through consistent “information scent”.  I think the following academic library homepages are noteworthy and are examples of well-organized content.

Harvard Libraries: This recently redesigned homepage put the search tool front and center, but also provides descriptions of library jargon and academic sources. Initially I didn’t know what HOLLIS was but beneath the search box a quick description described the resource. I was also drawn to the red icons in the right resources sidebar. This breaks up the text and draws attention to popular services.

Ithaca College Library: This homepage is one of my favorites because it is simple and efficient. This site only uses one drop down menu, while the rest of the toolbar resembles a mobile layout design, with key content, like books and articles, in large text. I was able to find the link to JSTOR in seconds.

Marygrove College Library: This homepage is one of the few academic libraries that efficiently uses drop down menus. There are also only three columns of text which cuts down on unnecessary front page content which can often be distracting from the main toolbar.

Northeastern University Libraries: This homepage also has a toolbar with numerous drop-down menus, but each item in the drop-down is paired with a one sentence description. This is most useful for the new library user or those unfamiliar with library jargon.

Web Content Strategy for Libraries

I didn’t go to ALA Annual this year, but if I had, I would probably have tried to go to the LITA preconference about web content strategy. As we look towards our upcoming website redesign/migration, we are actively thinking about our content and how best to present it for our users. Those of you who attended my Writing for the Web presentation at the Libraries’ In-House Institute, or who read my blog post summarizing that presentation, are familiar with Kristina Halvorson’s definition of content strategy:

Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

The ALA preconference sounds like it was a good introduction to content strategy as it applies to organizations and websites like ours, and to how it should be implemented from the very beginning of the design/redesign process. Presenters Christopher Evjy and Nina McHale have posted their slides, and they are worth at least a quick look:

Opening slide of Web Content Strategy slideshow
This image will take you to the slideshow

As always, I am interested in any feedback, questions, opinions, or chocolate! (Just checking to see if you were paying attention, there.)

 

Content Strategy: It’s what librarians already do.

"This Is Very Important" is painted on a bench.I have very little to add to this article but wanted to link it here because it is so, so good. As my colleagues know I have been on the content strategy soapbox of late, especially in light of our imminent website re-architecting/redesign. I’ve also been known to quote Ranganathan at unexpected moments, because his Five Laws of Library Science are still incredibly relevant to everything that we do to serve our users (and frankly, also because it’s nice that something I learned about in library school is still relevant – as opposed to, say, the pre-CSS HTML I spent hours hammering away upon!).

So when I came across this article on the (always excellent) Brain Traffic blog by content strategist (and former academic librarian) Claire Rasmussen, in which she looks at the Five Laws and applies them to the work of content strategy, I found myself bouncing in my chair with excitement. (Yes, I am a huge nerd. This is firmly established. Can we move on?) Librarians who create content for the web should read this and consider how the principles of content strategy can help us to achieve the basic goals and principles for which librarianship was developed in the first place. It’s what we already do, and content strategy will help us do it on our website too.

So read this, please, and if you have comments I’d love to hear them!

Do It Like a Librarian: Ranganathan for Content Strategists

 

 [image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/valeriebb/290711738/]

Writing for the Web

Comic: Venn diagram depicting intersection of "things on the front page of a university website" and "things people go to the site looking for"

I presented a workshop on “Writing for the Web” at the Libraries’ In-House Institute in early May. While I could certainly go on and on about this subject, here I will just provide a quick(ish) wrap-up and share my list of suggested readings. (You can find my slides and reading list at https://iu.box.com/s/3665524cdd7bf24464c9.)

Clear communication is essential to delivering an excellent user experience, which is why we have a Website Editor (me!) in the Digital User Experience department.

Writing for the web includes a broad range of strategies:

  • Style/usage (and careful proofreading – typographical errors impact our site’s credibility)
  • Understanding user needs
  • Content strategy

Who’s reading your content?

  • Who are you writing for? Different audiences respond to different terminology, tone, context. For example, if international students or stuffy faculty members are part of your expected readership, you probably want to avoid slang.
  • Context. Where are your readers in the research process? What have they already read?
  • Metrics can help you understand your readers – in the Libraries we use Google Analytics and Crazy Egg.

How are they reading your content?

  • People read differently on the web. They scan pages quickly.
  • LESS IS MORE – don’t bury the important content in filler
  • Mobile devices are heavily used, especially by college students. Will your content work on a smartphone or on a tablet? Does it need to?
  • Content may be repurposed. It might be included on a class page, listened to via a screen reader, shared on Facebook or Pinterest, maybe even (gasp!) printed out on paper.
  • Content structure and metadata make it easier for your content to flow into these various containers. Improved content management systems make this easier to accomplish.

Some practical suggestions.

Content Strategy!

Kristina Halvorson: Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

  • Plans – there is an overall plan for how content is created, stored, displayed, used and reused
  • Creation – style guide, training for content writers, metadata strategy
  • Publication – editorial strategy/workflow, appropriate use of metadata to help identify, organize, and reuse content
  • Governance – responsibility for content is clear; standards are communicated to content providers; content management systems are optimized to help writers provide well-managed content; search systems and info architecture are optimized to help users find and use published content; content lifecycle is defined so that content is regularly reviewed (ROT analysis: Redundant, Outdated, Trivial)
  • Useful content – we understand our users’ needs and provide content that helps them to further their goals
  • Usable content – content makes sense to our users; they can find what they need and they know what it is when they find it; it is placed in appropriate context for them

To sum up: We need to talk to our users and listen to them so that we understand why they are here and what they need to do. We can then create calls to action that make sense to our users and help them fulfill their goals.

Suggested Readings:

Continue reading “Writing for the Web”

The Facts About FAQs

There are many different ways that libraries can provide help and guidance to patrons in finding the information they’re seeking online. Web 2.0 applications, such as wikis and blogs, have become increasingly popular for this purpose. These tools deliver information about library resources and services while allowing users input via comments or (in some cases) editing privileges. Another way to help online users is via chat services, available now in many academic and public libraries. Instant messaging allows users to receive feedback and advice almost immediately with all the context and messiness of their question in mind. This is particularly useful for less common questions and unique situations. But by far the most ubiquitous online help resource is the FAQ.

While the FAQ does not have the personal touch of an instant messaging service or the collaborative features of a blog or wiki, it has some distinct advantages. First, the large majority of users are familiar with the FAQ format. Many websites, whether commercial, personal, or informational, have an FAQ section. So if your patrons have used the internet before, they’ve most likely encountered at least one FAQ. Second, unlike a chat service, it does not require library staff to be immediately available. Although maintenance is a must (as will be discussed in further detail below), the FAQ is an independent animal that can, if properly constructed, be trusted on its own for a little while.

That said, there are many situations in which an FAQ is not appropriate and there are an infinite number of ways to execute an FAQ poorly. In this A List Apart article, R. Steven Gracey is particularly critical of the FAQ. It’s not all condemnation for this universal help tool, however. Gracey also gives some excellent pointers on how to make an FAQ effective and (gasp!) helpful for users. When done right, the FAQ can be a valuable tool for library websites that supports good content by making it discoverable to users. Below I enumerate some points made by Gracey, and a few of my own, on how to create an FAQ that is not a crutch for bad web content, but a scaffolding for good web content.

  • Include actual questions. If a real person has never asked some variation of the question, it probably doesn’t belong in your FAQ. After all, FAQ stands for “frequently asked questions,” not “questions I really think my users want to know, but they’ve never asked because they’re just too darn shy.”
  • Make it easy to find. If your FAQ isn’t findable, you’re in trouble. Big trouble. People are looking for the FAQ because they can’t locate the information they’re seeking. If the FAQ is difficult to find, you will have grumpy users.
  • Keep it manageable. The point of an FAQ is not to document every fact that can be found on your website. A scan of 112 academic library FAQs done at the University of Notre Dame revealed that some library FAQs had as many as 400 questions included. That’s too many. Period.
  • Maintenance! Seriously. If your collections have changed, or if you’ve had turnover in your staff, of if you’ve moved the copy machines, or if the sun has risen, there’s probably something that’s out of date on your FAQ. Update and weed frequently. Add when needed.
  • Make it searchable OR sort by category. No one wants to look through all 400 of your questions to find the answer they’re looking for. Allowing users to search or to scan categories makes the process a whole lot faster and less frustrating.
  • Assume the user won’t find her answer. Never suppose your FAQ can address every question. Provide a link or contact information somewhere on the FAQ page where the user can go for further help. In Libraryland, this will most often take the shape of a link to the chat service (if available) or an email address for a reference librarian.

This list is by no means comprehensive, and it is largely a product of my own experience with FAQs, rather than any kind of authoritative study. Questions (frequently asked, or otherwise) and comments welcome!

Image courtesy of flickr user Ciccio Pizzettaro

Nice to meet you, Content Strategy (A polite introduction)

If you hang out in the same general virtual space as information architects, user experience specialists, and the like, you may have started hearing the phrase “content strategy.” (Or maybe you haven’t – but I bet you will.) What the heck is that, you may wonder? And what’s that got to do with me?

Wonder no more. Reader, meet Content Strategy. Content Strategy, meet Reader.

As an emerging discipline, content strategy is one of those multi-talented beasties that draws from many different disciplines and sources. In general, it includes:

  • elements of editing, of curation, of information architecture, and of user experience design.
  • the process of managing – not necessarily creating – the content on a website (you know, the actual reason people come to your website in the first place), making sure it’s clear and usable, making sure there’s no ROT (content that is Redundant, Outdated, or Trivial), making sure information is displayed in places and in contexts that make sense, and so on.
  • analyzing and inventorying the existing content on a website, identifying redundancies and gaps.
  • managing the metadata on the site, so that people can find what they are looking for.
  • working with all of the site’s content providers to help them create content that is clear, timely, and consistent with the overall style and mission of the site.
  • selecting a content management system that will work with users in such a way as to make it easier for them to create good content, and will help them to repurpose content so that it can display in multiple places rather than rewriting it over and over (once for the mobile site, once for a branch library site, once for a policies page, once for a link on Oncourse… you get the idea).

Sound like stuff we might need to do with the IUB Libraries website? Well… yes indeed! Whether or not you hear the phrase “content strategy” in the near future, some of what you’ll be hearing from DUX as we move forward towards a better website will be driven by the principles of this emerging discipline.

If this all sounds kind of intriguing, here are a few resources that will help you understand content strategy a little better.

Start here: The Discipline of Content Strategy by Kristina Halvorson. This article from A List Apart is a nice introduction, covering some of what I mentioned above and more.

If you liked that, you might want to read more articles on content strategy from A List Apart; it’s one of the topics they cover regularly. Check out, for example, “Infrequently Asked Questions of FAQs” – and then think about whether an FAQ is really the best “container” for the information you are offering your users. That’s content strategy in action!

Another introductory article I really like is “Content Strategy Can Save Us All From Slobdom” by Meghan Casey, from the Brain Traffic blog. This is not an in-depth article, but it uses a metaphor many of us understand all too well – trying to clean up a cluttered, messy bedroom. Read through the entertaining description of how the bedroom problem is solved and you will clearly see how the content strategy process works and how it can help your website be neat and tidy, with its contents easily findable. Plus, it has Fraggles! What’s not to love? Brain Traffic has much, much more to offer the budding content strategist or the curious onlooker – highly recommended.

For those of you (myself included!) who still love books made out of paper, here are a couple that we can recommend; DUX has desk copies of these but you may have trouble prying them out of our grubby little hands (we’re actually referring to them with some frequency as we begin to evaluate our website and plan a content analysis):

Content Strategy for the Web book cover Halvorson, Kristina. Content Strategy for the Web.
Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2010.
The Elements of Content Strategy book cover Kissane, Erin. The Elements of Content Strategy.
New York: A Book Apart, 2011.

Of course, most people who serve as content providers for a website like ours don’t need to become content strategy specialists. Not at all. But understanding the basic concepts will help you to understand how to create better web pages, and why DUX makes some of the decisions that it does about the Libraries’ website as a whole. (And as a bonus, it seems that content strategists are often pretty good writers – a lot of these articles are very readable and even entertaining!)

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Leave a comment on this blog post, use the “Contact Us” form, or talk to anyone in DUX! We’d love to hear from you.