Here are a few of the things we talked about:
Create once, publish everywhere
Welcome to the splinternet – the thousands of different devices and platforms through which people now access your website. Designing a website for desktop computers alone means ignoring the smartphones, tablets, laptops, readers, social media platforms, fridges on which your site is currently broken.
Karen McGrane suggested that the answer is not to design uniquely for each platform (madness! – just ask Condé Nast). We need to find ways to create content that is robust, versatile, and ready to be sent anywhere and still work.
Content creators need help
… But how? Designers are tackling the splinternet with responsive design. What are the content creators doing? We all moan about content management systems, but Martin Belam gave some hope in sharing how The Guardian do it – with a better than average CMS and by categorising content properly at the start (via tags). It is time to think API (application programming interface) as a way to supply your content once to third parties and various devices.
What customers want: to accomplish tasks, quickly
Gerry McGovern lampooned the odd architecture of our websites (“How do I know if my question is frequently asked or not?”) and mocked the metrics that we track (a long time on page could be a long time of confusion). Measure speed. Users want to accomplish something specific on your site and fast. They’ll do it through links. Get them there quickly and satisfy their need.
The best content supports business goals
Melissa Rach defined content strategy as ‘using content to support business goals’ – and not using it for anything else. We can’t be ruthless enough in only putting hard-working content on our websites. And, although it’s obvious, the starting point is defining clear business goals and communicating them in the first place (see last point).
Sharing: marginalia and pay fences
One of the main advantages of web over print is that sharing is easy. Or at least it should be. Erin Kissane gave the thumbs up to the Kindle (sharing highlights and marginalia with friends) but suggested that The Times’ paywall has cut itself off from the lifeblood of the Internet: links. The New York Times, in contrast, have a pay fence. You pay for content eventually, but sharing is easy and there are sneaky ways in from social media channels.
Even the smallest word can change the course of the future
Don’t forget your copy: long, micro or meta. Catherine Toole, for example, talked about why ‘get’ is a powerful action word: because it leads to an outcome (‘get started’) rather than an action (‘sign up’). Des Traynor talked about filling the blanks – in the places that are waiting for user-generated content. Otherwise people won't know or care what to do. Google Wave, anyone?
Nail the names and message
Margot Bloomstein uses card sorting to help companies agree what they are about before any ideas are developed. The Guardian’s software architects and editors were locked in a room together until they had thrashed through agreed terms for the content and processes involved in their work. Nailing a common vocabulary for what you do and who you are gives you a bedrock of understanding for all the content that gets produced thereafter.
That is just a taste of the many ideas flying around at CS Forum 2011. For links to slides, audio and video from the conference check out the #csforum11 hashtag on Twitter and the Firehead round-up. Martin Belam made some excellent notes on some of the talks.
As for how content strategy helps your business specifically – that’s a conversation we would love to have with you.