I recently was reminded of one of my favorite diagrams which depicts how content strategy is often ignored.
It’s this simple:
Right?! Doesn’t every website you’ve ever visited have this problem? Just swap out “university website” with “news website” or “health insurance” website … or anything else. I particularly love the “full name of school” part. At least there’s that.
This is the consequence of not conducting user research and of not understanding your content and where it lives within the hierarchy of the site. A simple study of at least three target users would reveal this “buried content” problem.
For anyone who has ever examined the behaviors of concurrent visitors to a website, this issue would become blatantly obvious if you’re watching how visitors are getting to your content. Users may be entering your site from a social media site or even from search (kudos to you if they are!) but what about the ones on your homepage? Why aren’t they finding this content? Are you burying the items of content your users actually want and instead flooding your homepage with, well, what they don’t want?
What stakeholders want vs. what users want
The problem often times is stakeholders will want to have certain items of content be prominent on a homepage. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which are sponsored content items, content which is pushing a specific campaign, and branding.
As designers and content strategies, we have to meet those demands. These are the people who are paying us, after all. However, somehow we have to find a way to compromise and get this space shared with the content are users want. Showing stakeholders the numbers (metrics on user behavior) can help solve some of this contradiction. But we need to put the work into gathering these metrics.
That’s our job — pleasing our stakeholders and our users. There is no one or the other.
Knowing our users and their behavior is the first step.
One simple task
- Identify the most sought-after piece of content on your website. Do this either by going back through your analytics or examining your concurrent visitors. Examining your concurrent visitors may be a better idea since the most sought-after content on your website might change depending on the day, month, year. Who knows. I am hoping you do.
- Next, you’ll want to recruit at least three target users who, preferably, have never visited your website before. They are people who would seek use for this content item.
- Give them a simple scenario and task, such as: You want to ___, so you go to ___.com for (the content).
- Observe them. I suggest recording the screen. This can be done remotely, of course.
This simple little task will reveal so much. It will reveal whether this content is findable from your homepage and whether it’s actually helping your users successfully complete the task, which is another issue in itself. But for now, you want to know about the former.