First, by conducting a mega content audit of the predecessor sites, including Directgov and BusinessLink. They disposed of anything that served a need that could be met elsewhere (like keeping bees). 91,000 pages hit the rubbish bin.
'Simpler, clearer, faster'
The team then structured the new website so that information serving 80% of users appeared front and centre. Information for the 20% is still available through search engines. This 80/20 rule combined with the drive for concise, plain English (“do less, do it better”) has created a resource that sets the standard for website effectiveness.
On GOV.UK it’s easy to find things. Information is crystal clear. There are fewer pages but users are more engaged. It shows that a huge, complex and bureaucratic organisation can create useful simplicity. Best of all, it makes the business case for content strategy. £50-70 million saved on the project so far.
The Government Digital Service, illuminated by Sarah Richards, was just one of the successful case studies paraded at Confab London 2013 along with Disney, Merck, MailChimp and others. These triumphant stories, with the glut of fantastic talks, show just how essential content strategy has become to web design.
A few other highlights from the conference:
The Internet is mobile
Mobile is the first home of the Internet. Worldwide, poorer countries and demographics use phones and tablets to access the Internet, often exclusively. Can we justify continuing to design a web that sucks on mobile – telling these users that the Internet is not for them?
Mobile usage is increasing. It is a disruptive technology that will subvert the whole market. We need to stop designing for smartphones and tablets as an afterthought: in future they will be everything. 'Do mobile right; right from the start'. Via Karen McGrane.
Good writing is good writing in any context
As mobile marches onwards, it is more important than ever to learn to write well for mobile. Once you have learned how to do that: apply to everything that you write. Good writing is good in any context.
Kristina Halvorson echoed Karen McGrane’s thoughts – she wanted to write ‘AND ALL THIS APPLIES TO PRINT TOO’ on the last page of Content Strategy for the Web. Sally Bagshaw steered us away from platform-specific verbs (e.g. hover, click, pinch) and suggested that content should be structured by metadata, not context.
Content is a conversation – started by the user
Unlike print, which is pushed at the reader, web content is a conversation with your users. And it is a conversation that you do not get to start.
When a user arrives at part of your site, they are already conversing with the Internet – asking something of Google, linking from another site, wanting to complete a particular task. You don’t get to tell the user how to interact with you. But you do get to play a part in answering their questions, guiding them along, leaving a good impression of your organisation. Via Ginny Redish.
Voice and tone are the new style guides
One way to converse well with the user is through voice and tone. Voice remains the same but tone changes according to how your users feel at each point (compare sending a huge, important mailout to unsubscribing from updates). Don't waste time writing style guides – they’re freely available elsewhere. Create voice and tone guides, preferably in a very, very cool responsive website. Via Kate Kiefer Lee.
And so much more…
Confab London 2013 was a trove of useful delights, from Chris Atherton’s content map made from attitude-based personas and user journeys and Melissa Rach’s canny Content and Cash talk to Erin Kissane’s warning that data is not everything.
This has only been a taste, yet one that shows that content strategy as a service and discipline is growing up. If you’re still in doubt, try to find something that you need over on GOV.UK. And as you do, repeat this mantra: ‘£50 million saved so far’.