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Digital Strategy Meets Content Strategy

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Friday, November 9, 2012

It’s easy to read the Digital Government Strategy and think it’s all about the technology—all that talk about open source platforms, joint purchasing agreements, APIs, security and privacy. But the document also has huge implications for those of us who work on the content side of the shop.

On the content team at HHS’s Web Communications Division, we’ve launched “Digital13,” a project designed to make sure our content strategy is in line with the Digital Government Strategy. Here are some early thoughts about what alignment with the strategy means for us:

  • Make all content mobile-ready. This means using plain language and creating content using the “inverted pyramid” style (put the important stuff first). It means using bullets, lists, and clear subheads whenever possible. It may mean using a “bite/snack/meal” approach, so small-screen scrollers can get the gist quickly, pick up key details fast, and dig into the whole enchilada only if they want to. Happily, this style serves desktop users better too. It’s what web content should have been all along.
  • Rethink images based on mobile and metrics. Those snazzy rotating billboards: Do metrics show they work? How will they play in mobile environments? What about those “We want more images on the page just to break things up” flourishes? On the other hand, lightweight infographics can explain a lot in a little space, and may make yards of wordage unnecessary. The Digital Government Strategy presents an opportunity—no, an obligation—to revisit your visual approach.
  • Organize content around topics and language that make sense to users, not the organization that produces it. Nobody cares which unit produced the report. Put all the reports on the same topic together, regardless of who produced them, so users will find them in one spot. Don’t label a tab “Acquisition Policies.” Try “Getting Contracts,” and present the content as a how-to. That’s probably what site users want.
  • Quit thinking “webpages.” Think about chunks of tagged content that can be used in lots of different environments—mobile devices, responsive design layouts, social media, APIs, RSS feeds, etc. And, of course, webpages.
  • Use feedback to improve your content. You must have a process for using performance data--from metrics, surveys, usability testing, focus groups, and so on—to improve your content. This should not be an annual or a blue-moon redesign effort. It should be continuous, an organic part of your workflow.

That’s just the beginning, but it’s already a pretty disruptive start. We’ll keep you posted on how things go throughout the year we’re calling Digital13. You do the same.

What changes are you making to your content operation to align with the Digital Government Strategy?

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