Content strategy: UX minus page layout or IA over time?

Yesterday I visited a hip Shoreditch drinking spot to attend a seminar and networking event called Content Strategy, Manhattan Style.

It was an interesting experience – not least because it’s always fun to watch tribes other than your own doing their thing. There were quite a few asymmetrical haircuts in evidence but also rather a lot of spectacles and pot bellies – I think I may have been treading on that hallowed ground where geek meets new media whore.

On arrival, most people seemed to assuage any feelings of social awkwardness by grabbing an iPhone and poking it with a sense of urgency (as I noted, sitting alone on the sidelines waiting for my companions to turn up and writing pointlessly in a scuffed notebook – I’m old-school me). I realised later that most of them were Tweeting furiously to each other throughout the event. In fact suspect there may have been more Tweeting than speaking.

One chap approached me with completely unwarranted familiarity and pointed towards his iPhone screen with a knowing smile. I didn’t have my specs on and I didn’t want to get too close to him for obvious reasons so I couldn’t tell what it said, but it was obviously a Twitter screen. After a few increasingly embarrassing false starts he managed to convey that he’d wrongly identified me as some Tweeter who’d invited people to come and say hello to him, identifying himself as the bloke in the purple sweater. How we laughed when we realised there was more than one purple sweater in the place!

There were three expert Americans and a British journalist on the slightly raised stage and us audience members were standing casually around the room nursing drinks – pub gig style.

I wasn’t really sure what they were going to talk about – and to start with it seemed they weren’t either. They opened with some rather platitudinous remarks about the importance of keeping on top of your web content and how pleased they were to be earning money to tell people how to do this. I bet you are, I thought.

The PA system was awful so I missed quite a bit of what was said but I don’t think there was all that much added to these opening remarks: it really is a good idea to stay on top of your web content because allowing it to get out of hand sends the wrong signal. It seems the people who do this for a living are called content strategists.

There has always been a lot of smoke and mirrors around website creation and maintenance and it’s still a young industry but I was still struggling to accept that content strategists are in any way necessary. The notion that anyone who has a website upon which they depend to any extent for their livelihood could be foolish enough to neglect it or allow it to be swamped by out of date content seemed ridiculous.

That’s until I recalled the ludicrous complexity of corporate life and how easy it is for massive websites to get completely out of hand because of the relentless focus on new content.

And how companies tend to throw plenty of resource at the creation of sites but rarely anything like as much to maintain them properly.

And how rare it is to find sites where you can point to one person with the authority to change anything who has a proper grasp of both the workings of the site and the strategy of the business it’s supposed to serve.

It was around then that I realised it’s been nearly three weeks since the last blog update on this miniscule site of mine – and that’s despite having been a proto-content strategist of sorts myself a decade ago and responsible for many acres of web real estate since.

My wise friend Tweeted the following after the event, “So, in summary. Content strategy is UX [user experience] minus page layout. Ta da! New consultancy offering!”

To which someone replied, “I prefer ‘content strategy is information architecture over time’”.

Maybe content strategy should be the next big thing after all.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 at 10:35 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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