Curating Information for Brand Storytelling & Engagement

a field note from

User Experience Influences Brand Storytelling.

This Field Note came out of a need to direct a Client’s writer in providing content for a large-scale informational site. The copy that I received from the writer was prosaic, however its linearity was limiting to the process of creating an engaging user experience due to its structural similarities to an editorial website’s contained story, or a one-off print layout format.

Therefore, I proposed a series of steps to the Client and writer, explaining how we could collaborate on the writing process, by further assuring them that it was in their best interest to do so in order to better represent their brand message across the digital ecosphere. First I compared the UX process to the Writer’s. Then I focused on the resulting deliverables of the UX process, and how it could be used as an outline for content development.

A Writer’s Outline

Most writers that I know tend to write in modular structures or groups of ideas. Of course it is very similar to the raw brainstorming process that unleashes initial thoughts. Putting these pre-writings into a structure that supports a premise, with an overarching theme, including archetypes, and other story devices, is always the goal. Yet the result of the story, with all its plot twists and turns, usually take on a linear flow from page one to x, the end.

A UX Strategist’s Outline

Creating a website user experience (UX) is very similar to the content writing process — with perhaps more emphasis on how the content is “placed” and “accessed” by the user across the site’s information architecture (IA) and individual screens within its flow. Each access point and story arc could be self-contained or expand upon each other. Such curated information architecture user flows and screen schematics, can be used as content outlines for copywriting & actionable brand messaging.

Step 1 — User Research
Understand the intended audience along with their expectations. Create user stories (personas) for each key user type that form the brand’s audience. Personas are profile-based information about the audience (users) and their goals for interacting with the story. This includes their potential behaviors and expectations from the brand. It also includes competitive analysis as well to be better informed of external attractions.

Step 2 — Content Strategy
Define the brand’s story goals, the general voice of the brand, along with intended messaging. It is the premise of the design and writing to come.

The premise is informed by the Client’s core brand values. The direction they want to take it in is how the story is to be told to its audience. No matter how the story is told: be it a marketing directive, ad campaign, social blast, a simple newsletter or other efforts across integrated pathways, consistency of the premise across them is paramount to the identity of the brand.

Step 3 — Site Structure or Macro-Level Curation
The fun really begins here —at least for me. This is the Information Architecture (IA) for the online experience. It involves weaving the story’s flow objectively, from one step to another, across the contents that are possible on the site. This curation is usually on a higher level and also lends itself to an outline for the content with “buckets” of ideas and features forming the basis for content development. It also further defines other venues of storytelling as part of the information paths — for example external micro-sites, social media, companion apps, landing pages, other content and resources, etc — forming a digital ecosphere, a mini universe for the brand’s story to be told in a cascading tapestry to expand upon. Above all, the premise of the brand story needs to be consistent.

Consistent Curation of Information is key to content development for brands and their stories across the digital ecosphere.

Step 4 — Screen Wireframe Schematics or Micro-Level Curation
Creating a wireframe is similar to telling or writing a story. It uses the macro-level curation or Information Architecture(IA) to further define each content item in an engaging manner. It is a micro level curation of how the story evolves within a digital screen, and presents itself for the user for interaction across other screens in the flow to reveal targeted brand messaging.

The content placed within such a document is never the final copy — it is a placeholder on a descriptive level to communicate the need for final copy-writing.

The Outline

Use the Micro-Level Curation from Step 4 as an outline to write content on a screen level— defined by the story, audience, along with the curated path and details. This step can potentially occur simultaneously with step 3, based on the curated path from it, as an outline for content writing.

In Conclusion

The best online user experiences are derived when the user’s informational needs are curated by designing the flow of information as user scenarios, prior to writing actual content. This ensures that the focus is on accessing information and engaging with it, rather than having to retro-fit copy that’s suited for print design — or in other words a linear process. In addition, these user flows should be consistent in its premise, audience needs and story directives across all integrated venues for expanding the message in the digital ecosphere.

The above article is my final draft to what I had originally published on Rhythm’s The Digital Beat on April 3rd, 2014. Special thanks to Kristin Bush for posting it on her blog.