At the recent UXCamp DC, two content-related sessions were held. I led the one on fitting content strategy into everything. But the the session on content modeling was quite interesting. We talked about how content management systems can be set up to make content more flexible. Someone asked how setting strict guidelines for the content on your website (by having a content strategy strategy) could make the content more flexible. Wouldn't it have the opposite effect?
It took a moment for me to think about that and explain why that is not the case at all. A web content strategy specifies what type of content needs to be on a website and how the different types need to be presented and related, among many other things. What it doesn't do is specify exactly where pieces of content go or what they look like. Therefore, having a content strategy in place allows you to make modifications to the how and where of the content without affecting the why. This makes it all the more flexible.
Confused? Here's an example:
After doing all research and due diligence, you develop a content strategy for a bike company that says you should always cross-sell products as well as blog about local bike routes and trips. So you build the content to relate products to each other as well as the blog posts. Maybe on the product page, you have a space for a listing of related blog posts. This helps someone who wants to buy a trailer to pull their kids find out where they can use it.
But maybe six months down the road, you discover that instead of blog posts, people are interested in user reviews. Now you can set up a review system and replace what was the blog post list with space for recent reviews. The blog posts are still part of the site, but you are relating them differently.
Without a content strategy, that relationship or space may not have existed and you'd have to start all over when you learned that users are interested in user reviews.
Ultimately, a content strategy sets you and your website up for success. It gets you thinking about what is possible, what is necessary, what is most likely to work, and then outlines a path to get there. It is a road map for a road trip which may have any number and manner of waypoints to get you to your destination.