Raise Content Above the Savage

When I used to design sites for my own small clients, I eventually settled on a very crude Content Strategy approach, in an earnest attempt to extract the information I needed to make an intelligent design.

I would ask clients to email me with a written description of their (say) homepage, containing between 5–7 “messages”, and to put a priority on each message. Something like this (with priorities numbered in brackets):

Welcome to Company X: We make awesome (1)
Buy This (2)
Buy That (2)
Read This (3)
Read This (3)
Read This Also (3)
And Read this (3)
Click here (4)

I made it clear there can be *only one* number one priority. But you can have multiple twos and threes, for example. It’s a very crude system, but it really helped me to layout the information. And it really helped to avoid rounds of changes.

The clients still often perceived these “messages” like post — something to be delivered. Akin to stating “Here is my house” to a neighbour, and not expecting a reply. And often no thread would tie these “messages” into a coherent discourse. Akin to a rambling drunk, obsessed with his own belongings.

You see, I really like to believe clients want to talk with their customers, not at them. And I see a web page as a thread of conversation. Or, at the very least, if a client doesn’t want to converse with a customer, at least tell a good story, right?

This may sound obvious now, but this was before Content Strategy or even UX had really taken off.

Even now I still find most clients — even very large ones (or especially very large ones) — are still lacking a very clear content strategy: This is like speaking before thinking, and my father had some very concise idioms to describe this behaviour in small boys.

I write this post with the simple desire to add more weight to the balance very much *for* thinking before speaking, very much *for* content strategy before all else.

So, please, clients and content strategists, let’s work together to change machine-gun messaging: “so that, through a learned discourse, we may rise above the savage, and closer to god”.