Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

Ok so it’s time for another post in my ongoing series (see my last post) on our efforts to revamp the top level of our organization’s website. Today, I’m moving from theory into practice: here’s the steps we are following to wrangle our online tasks into topics. essentially this is how we are going to determine what our landing pages will be.

1. Task identification. We combed through our websites, our org’s service inventory and our Program Activity Architecture to identify tasks that could be accomplished online.

Through hours of slogging, we uncovered over 100 tasks, which we compiled in a big inventory spreadsheet.

This list is likely incomplete, but I’m hopeful that it covers enough breadth to be representative.

We did not prioritize tasks through this process — more on that will come later.

2. User-led categorization. Next, we fed the tasks spreadsheet to our consultants for conducting user research. They recruited and interviewed 13 users based on audience criteria that we already had in hand. In these interviews, our consultants asked participants how they’d group these tasks into categories, and what they’d call the groups they created — in other words, an open card sort.

3. Analysis of the research results. The consultants then analyzed the results of the card sorting interviews and came up with a preliminary list of 25 categories across our main user groups (this was somewhat expected, as we have a wide-ranging mandate). Important point here: since this was an open sort, the names in this list were derived from the words used as category labels from the research participants themselves. This means, they are a key indicator of our clients’ mental models and the language they use when encountering our content. Similar to what Gerry McGovern calls “customer carewords.”

4. Refinement. We felt that 25 different topics was a tad high (e.g. it would form an overly long list if used as a search facet), so we worked with the research data to further refine this list down to 12 categories. We are currently working with our internal stakeholders to validate our work.

5. Tagging. Through the evolution of our topics listing, we’ve been updating our tasks spreadsheet to ensure our topic labels are assigned properly to each task. Aka tagging. Some tasks fall under more than one topic, as they should. For this tagging exercise, we’ve drawn again on the data from the card sorting interviews, but internal stakeholder feedback and editorial judgement both play a role as well.

For now our tagging by topic still lives only on our big tasks spreadsheet, but once we implement in our CMS, we hope to be able to apply in a variety of ways — not only for our landing pages, but also for various forms of search and browse navigation.

But we’re not done yet.

Next steps:

1. Within these categories we need to prioritize the top tasks that will be surfaced on our top level landing pages. We’ll look at web traffic, client surveys, call centre data and internal stakeholder feedback to make that determination.

2. Further user testing is required. We need to plug these topics into the navigation prototypes that we are building and field test them (again with honest to goodness clients from outside the firewall) to see how they function in practice. We fully expect further tweaks.

It’s not a perfect process, but it looks like we’re on our way to a topic-based categorization for our org’s tasks that can be completed online.

We’re hopeful that this means when it comes to actually creating our landing pages, we will be able to present our key tasks in ways that make sense for our clients.


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Atomic !Tasks are the atomic level of web content. They are the basic building blocks that make more sophisticated chunks of content (pages, modules, etc) possible.

I mentioned last week that we are re-doing the top level of our website to be more responsive to our users’ needs.

One of the key things we are working on is a series of topic-based landing pages as an aid for our clients in finding and understanding the key tasks that can be accomplished on our site.

But what will be presented on these topic pages? Tasks of course. We’ll be grouping related tasks together, in ways that are are logical to our clients.

So if I were to push my chemistry metaphor further, these topic pages made up of groups of related tasks are like molecules made up of atoms that are bonded together.

Via a combination of tagging and well written copy, not to mention solid design and UX, we hope to be able to build our landing pages — and more — by combining and recombining our tasks in various ways, like a chemist creating different molecules out of their atomic building blocks.

(ok ok so by now I’ve pushed the analogy past its breaking point. Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Next post will move from theory to practice and outline how we are wrangling our tasks into topics.

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What’s my basis for content strategy? In other words, what’s the purpose of my web content?

I’m taking a service orientation.

Working in government, my starting point is that people using our web content are doing so because they have specific tasks to complete. They’re not coming to our websites for fun. They’re coming because they need to get something done. This isn’t just an assumption, we’ve seen it in all the research and data we’ve collected.

So I’m taking a page from Gerry McGovern’s work and using top task management as a basis for content strategy: the primary purpose of web content for my org is to assist people in completing the tasks that they come to us for online.

So, how can our content help people with their tasks? Three ways:

  • find the task (marketing or promotional content, landing pages and other forms of nav content)
  • understand the task (explanations, instructions, guides, help)
  • complete the task (forms, workflows, transactions, or contact info for handling the task offline)

Now, I’m part of the team responsible for the what we call the top level of our web content, i.e. the home page and key landing pages at the top of the sitemap. I don’t actually have any control over the places on our site where the tasks themselves are actually situated. Given that, I want our web content to act as a funnel that delivers people efficiently to the tasks they’re there to accomplish. This means that findability first and foremost is my focus.

By findability, I don’t mean SEO. (Well I do, sort of. But that’s fodder for a separate post.) And at this point, I’m not even talking about digital marketing that takes place offsite — in social media or through Adwords or what have you. (We’re just not there yet, we need to fix our core website first.) So I’m really talking about those landing pages I mentioned above. I don’t want them to be a reflection of our org chart or an A-Z list of our program and branch names — that’s too internally focused, unintelligible for our clients from outside the firewall. I want our key landing pages to make sense of the tasks that our clients can undertake on our site, especially the ones that they see as most important. I want these pages to approach our content from the client point of view.

That’s the basis of my content strategy. Pretty simple really.

In my next post, I’ll outline how we’re working to use landing pages to make our primary tasks findable by our clients.

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I’m three years behind the times.

In my last post I mentioned my frustration with the (mis)use of the words “content strategy” that I was seeing via what Google alerts was sending me.

Then I read this, from 2008:

To make things more difficult, it seems that for some, “content strategy” is merely the latest in a sad parade of meaningless buzzwords. Particularly among marketers, it’s subject to furious name-dropping. To see what I mean, try my recipe for a dreary evening: set a Google Alert for every mention of “content strategy” and its derivations, read the results, stir well, and set oneself aflame.

The more things change the more they stay the same…

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Whenever I need to get up to speed on a new topic, one of the things I do is set up a Google alert. Since content strategy is pretty new to me, I dutifully set up an alert on “content strategy” a few weeks back.

I’m pretty surprised at what the Googlebot has been feeding me. More or less a steady diet of posts on creating new content, whether for feeding the beast that is social media or for improving search engine rankings or for making money in the news/entertainment industries (sometimes all of these at once).

Which has kinda come as a shock.

Having read @halvorson‘s book and also keeping an eye on what @rlovinger, @rsgracey, @kissane and others have to say (via my content strategy twitter list) — I’ve got the sense that content strategy is as much about quality control and managing what’s already posted as it is about creating new stuff.

& Controlling the content spiral speaks to me — I’m a gov webbie after all, and we’ve got pretty serious issues in that area. So what I see as an important piece of any strategy for managing your content is how to handle paring it down.

So why all this blah blah about more more more content?

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Meaningful Brands

Umair Haque on the evolution of branding:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

What’s a meaningful brand? According to @umairh, a meaningful brand signals that a company is at a minimum not actively doing harm, while having a tangible positive impact on people’s outcomes or quality of life – it makes them better off in very practical terms — for example, helping make people smarter or fitter or better connected or more productive, etc.

The big shift in branding that Haque is describing here seems to me to align really well with government. Us govvies never really could work on a status-based level anyway (somehow “pay your taxes – all the cool kids are!” just doesn’t cut it).

But the idea of a brand that not only does no harm, but contributes positively to my quality of life? Sign me up. If people’s expectations really are shifting to what Haque calls “allocentric demand” – from valuing individual status to valuing health, nature, future, society, community, then this really aligns well with what in my view the institution of government is supposed to be about.

Here’s a thought that occurred to me as I watched this video again:  is this just a case of the private sector just catching up to where gov has been all along?

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Here’s an example of a common mobile frustration alluded to in the comments on my last post (http://wp.me/paqt7-pj).

Several people in my networks have been sharing links via Twitter to an article in Backbone Magazine on some of Canada’s e-government wins : http://ow.ly/2Fr8w

Last night and this morning, I’ve tried to click through from different tweets while reading via mobile — but instead of being served the article I want, I keep getting bumped to the front page of Backbone’s mobile site: http://m.backbonemag.com/ While there’s other interesting stuff on that home page, it’s not what I wanted to read, so highly frustrating.

This is an example of what commenter Aaron called “forcing [users] to the mobile interface based on detection” and correctly identified as a major no-no. The solution? I think Aaron’s approach makes sense:

I think the ticket is to push for mobilization (top tasks interface) supported by miniaturization (mobile-friendly stylesheets).

The problem with a top tasks interface is that it is usually only served up to those coming in on homepages or major landing pages. With the propensity of Google searches (especially on smartphones) the mobile interface is never even seen to those landing “deep” in content pages. Forcing them to the mobile interface based on detection is a major no-no. Miniaturization would reinforce the content linking strategy, such that mobile users would not be unduly inconvenienced when navigating from mobilized version to standard website content.

So basically: when pursuing your mobile web strategy, your first objective should be to avoid frustrating your users: don’t prevent them from getting at what’s available on your “normal” website.

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