Websites, social media and apps are such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives that it’s hard to imagine a time when we made decisions about products or interacted with services simply by picking up the phone or looking at a printed catalog and completing an order form. . We all love the benefits that the digital revolution has brought; it empowers us as consumers, helps us make more informed decisions, brings individuals and communities together, and ultimately gives us access to previously unimaginable amounts of data and information.
Yet there are drawbacks to this revolution. Sometimes it can feel like we’re drowning in content. People have never been more empowered to make decisions, but conversely the potential to be overwhelmed with information has never been greater. What strategies do we adopt when dealing with information overload? Unknowingly or not, we have all become more demanding and savvy consumers. We weed out or ignore the clutter and unnecessary content vying for our attention, habituate ourselves to curating content based on our needs and interests, and look for trusted sources to validate any decision we need to make when it comes to parting with our hard earned cash. .
When using digital services and products, people expect to get what they want easily and then move on. If they can’t get what they need, they cast a brand in a negative light. And no matter how much a company proclaims its offering to be the best, if what customers experience is the opposite, then all its marketing efforts are in vain. This experience really gets to the heart of defining a brand: It’s not what one company says, it’s what other people say.
Thanks to Apple and Google, people expect products to, well… work. Think of the Google search box, it’s there in all its minimalistic glory providing a function and delivering it exceptionally well. The service speaks for itself. In the past, traditional marketing messages or communications were often used to justify, explain or announce (often less than perfect) products or services. Nowadays, without careful consideration these same messages can often be a distraction or worse, a hindrance in a user’s journey through a website.
[Tweet “Each piece of content that we add to our website needs to justify its existence”]
For website marketers this presents us with a big challenge. Every piece of content we add to our website has to justify its existence as it has to be related in some way to the user journey itself. If we don’t know why it’s there, then that content is potentially working against your customers and ultimately against the business.
In the Web Services Team we are tackling this challenge head-on by focusing on user needs before writing the first word of content. Our workshop process now helps customers understand who is using (or is likely to use) their web pages. This is informed by robust research and testing to build profiles (aka personas) of typical users with a list of the top tasks they are trying to perform. Armed with these main tasks and a clearly defined set of business goals, we then use something called Central model method to outline the content they need.
Sure, it’s still early days, but holding these workshops and hearing the discussions that come with them has been fascinating. Overall, customers have responded very positively to the idea of developing content that benefits users and the business at the same time. The project workshops are collaborative in nature and have often resulted in eureka moments where someone suddenly has a new perspective on how their website is being used. As we start new web projects, we encourage everyone with responsibility for their web pages, from editors to management, to get involved. The fruits of this process should be the engaging, proactive, relevant and accurate content that all who use our University website deserve.