“High-quality web content that’s useful, usable, and enjoyable is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can create for yourself online.” ― Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web
Government agencies rely on websites and other online tools with the view of informing, educating and engaging citizens. But how do we know if we’re actually effective in our outreach? What should we put on our websites and how should we say it?
Many government sites are laden with content that receives only a handful of page views. The balance between what users need and what we want them to see, between transparency and user experience, has never been more important. If users can’t find what they need quickly, we become just another inefficient drain on taxpayer dollars.
One need only look to the recent healthcare website launches where numerous states and federal agencies struggled to provide sites with a simple, effective user experience (on top of an actually working architecture). We must learn from these challenges and design resources that communicate citizens’ needs simply and effectively.
This is where content strategy comes into place.
According to Wikipedia, “Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media. . . . It is recognized as a field in user experience design but also draws interest from adjacent communities such as content management, business analysis, and technical communication.”
So how can I evaluate which approach is best for my organization? Content strategy is an evolving discipline, and schools of thought vary on best practices.
What is most helpful is to get out of the office and talk to people who face the same challenges. And you don’t have to look far to find the perfect resource to make that direct connection: the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW).
NAGW’s 2014 National Conference is devoting an entire day for its Friday Focus to explore content strategy. Along with informative presentations from top representatives in the field, the Friday Focus affords conference attendees opportunities for in depth discussions that generate new points of view for a fresh perspective on the work in front you.
If “content is king” then doesn’t it deserve the royal treatment? Shouldn’t we give it as much attention as other elements of our digital infrastructure? While the debate over what makes good content strategy continues, I’d really encourage folks to take the time to sit down with a group of colleagues and discuss the merits of different approaches. Only then can we truly serve our citizens and help ensure they receive the information they need and want to know.