Relly Annett-Baker

How to create good content on an imperfect web

by Jakob Dorph Broager
October 30, 2014
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Comments: Comments Off on How to create good content on an imperfect web

Content needs to be useful, flexible and adaptable to present-day demands. How do ensure that this is the case in your complex organisation?

UK-based Relly Annett-Baker, seasoned content strategist, has helped organisations, like the UK Cabinet Office and CERN, creating better content. At the J. Boye Aarhus 14 conference she will do a keynote on creating good content on an imperfect web and we challenged her to share how it is really done.

How do you create content processes that fits present-day demands?

There are so many places you could begin with such a big problem. My suggestion is look at your CMS and how people use it, and look at what stops them from doing their best work. This will probably lead you down a thousand other rabbit holes, so work out what you can fix now and what you need to fix soon.

From there look at how much the function of your content is muddled into the form. You want discrete, reusable chunks that you can adapt up for individual devices. Pouring it all into a WYSIWIG editor isn’t a good starting point – but it usually is the starting point. How can you change that?

How to create truly flexible content?

This answer could go on forever! The most important starting point is to realise what flexible content is and what it means for your business. Perhaps have everyone navigate some of the older parts of your site on a mobile phone – then together think about how that experience might be improved by designing content that can be used across a number of screen sizes.

How to make the most of content creators?

Trust them, train them, don’t split them off from the creation of web assets by siloing them in marketing, have them involved in user testing. The biggest problem I see is a fear to let them make mistakes. Coders learn by making mistakes and running tests to see problems. Content designers are very rarely given the same opportunity.

Also, there is the potential for overstep between managing and micromanaging content creation. Don’t assume because you can write good English that you are qualified to critique content work without sufficient context. I see too many ‘drive by criticisms’ of creators, and not enough space and time to experiment, iterate and improve.

What’s the major content strategy challenges in 2015 and beyond

Let me see … There are around 10 common screen sizes, but then there are smart TVs, smart watches, voice activation, networked devices talking to each other, personal HUDs. Then of course there is increased global trade, both business and consumer, requiring localization, a variety of different typefaces and scripts that might run right to left or top to bottom. Advertising will continue to evolve and consumers will continue to rebel against it, and there will be a continuation of splintering of channels.

I don’t make predictions but I think a good marker will be the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. London 2012 was the first ‘social media’ Games. I think by 2020 Tokyo the content creation space will be vastly different in ways not yet imagined. Designing for today’s devices is a backwards step. Designing for today’s people, by creating content that can adapt, is a much better bet. It’s a lot easier to create a workflow to change content that isn’t married to a device.

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