Without content strategy, even a great CMS won’t help much

We’re in the process of redeveloping oswego.edu — which includes a switch to the Drupal content management framework and migration of 10,000 pages — but we’re also trying to redefine why our website exists: for our users and why they come to our site.

Rick Buck, our web technical lead, and I gave a Winter Breakout session that we thought would attract maybe a dozen or so people … only to learn it was moving to an auditorium with more than 60 people anticipated. Yowza! But this definitely means we have many stakeholders very interested in the process, and that’s a great thing.

While the new content management system is one attraction, our presentation also focused on what’s most important: content. As I like to say, “A content management system creates neither content, nor management, nor a system.” The other two involve a lot of work but without good content that helps the people who come to your site do what they need to do, you’re really limiting how many improvements you can make, no matter how great your CMS is.

To start the journey toward content strategy, we sent the editors of 140+ accounts a web content brief (below), a Google fill-in document that asks four important questions:

  1. Who is/are the audience of your pages?
  2. What are the most important tasks your site(s) visitors want to accomplish?
  3. What are the primary actions you want site visitors to take?
  4. What are your top priorities for your web presence this year?

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(Disclaimer: We borrowed ideas for the above from other colleges, because they are awesome.)

Since we sent the form on Monday, we’ve been quite impressed with submissions. Editors are putting a lot of thought toward audience, tasks and goals … some of the foundations for content strategy. We haven’t been in a position or had the staffing nor time to go with this approach previously, so I expect it to change a lot of the site’s content going forward. And that’s a lot of work, but worth it in the long run.

We’ve already started content audits on various accounts — identifying what’s there, if it’s working, if it’s relevant — that we can share with site editors and then collaborate to see how it all lines up with the web content brief. We’ve also introduced questions — the 5 Ws of reviewing web content I’ve posted previously — to ask while evaluating every page and/or deciding whether to create a new page.

We’re still very early in the journey toward sitewide content strategy and a more awesome oswego.edu. It includes a CMS, yes, but we hope that it’s ultimately defined by improved content. How will it go? Stay tuned.

2 Comments

Filed under Web

2 responses to “Without content strategy, even a great CMS won’t help much

  1. Tim, you’ve made my day. My week, actually.
    I love how you put the Content Brief into a Google form to keep it all organized. I hope you’ll keep us posted on how the collaboration progresses. The distributed/collaborative web editing model can be very tricky sometimes!
    Stay in touch!
    http://www.converse.edu/web/contentbriefs

  2. Tim

    LYDIA: Thank YOU for having such a great brief to model from! I do plan to keep all posted as we progress. Cheers!

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