The Case for Including Content Strategy in CMS Builds

If you’re a content strategist, you have likely heard a lot about the importance of being part of designing and customizing content management systems. But if you’re a developer, you may not have the same perspective.

On a recent project, I witnessed this firsthand. While I made a point of creating content templates, identifying content types, and designing governance practices with an eventual CMS customization in mind, the (external) development team was not prepared for the same level of collaboration. They looked at my deliverables as options, and when my ideas didn’t fit, rather than open a discussion they unilaterally made decisions. Unfortunately, the result was a CMS that didn’t fit the content needs or the editorial team’s abilities.

wreckingmylife Continue Reading


Building a Structured Author Experience

At this year’s CS Forum in Melbourne, Rachel Lovinger gave a brilliant talk about 10 (well, 8) things she has learned in 10 years as a content strategist. It inspired me to consider what we know as content strategists, as compared to what our users (particularly the editorials teams) know.

Rachel stressed the importance of author experience, explaining how necessary structured content is, in order to have easily findable, and thus usable content. She went over the basics of structured content, reminding us that it needs to:

  • Be stored separately from any display infrmation
  • Have content types identified
  • Be stored in discrete, manageable chunks

All of this is very important to us, as content strategists. But I suddenly remembered a client who told me how frustrated she was to work with Oracle, where she needed to build “links” and “assets” that could then be pulled into “sections” that could then be pulled into “pages.”

Our authors don’t care if their content is structured. Continue Reading


Communicating via Horn

I was biking with a friend over the summer, on a back road with no traffic. We took advantage of the empty road, biking side by side in the lane – according to Massachusetts state law, on roads without a bike lane we are able to take up the full lane, but we wouldn’t typically do that at a busier time of day, out of safety concerns.

As we came back towards a more populated area, we stopped at a stop light. Suddenly, as a car approached us from behind, there was a loud, angry HONK. We both jumped, and quickly moved to the side, feeling that mix of shame and defensiveness that comes from being honked at. But as the driver passed, she waved to us in a friendly way. Her honk had only meant to let us know she was there, not intending to reprimand us for being in the road. Continue Reading


No New Stories

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

― Mark Twain

Every so often we hear this fear, or this realization: there are no new stories. It’s true, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for storytelling. The next time a client (or your team) is worrying about what new “original” content they can provide for their customers, point them this way. Continue Reading


What Goes in a Content Style Guide?

A true style guide should include not only the visual brand elements, but the content guidelines. Since the voice represents the brand, content guidelines are a key component to any style guide. Last year, I recommended some of the content strategy deliverables that should find their way into a style guide to help both designers and content creators create their own guides.

I’ve since observed more and more style guides that get crammed with information, only to sit on the figurative shelf, unseen and unused. While this sometimes comes down to a lack of governance or undefined workflow, it’s also sometimes the fault of the guide creator. We put so much in the style guide, it becomes unusable.

With that in mind, how do you decide what goes into the style guide? Continue Reading


What Do Content and Feminism Have In Common?

Q: What do content and feminism have in common?
A: I don’t care if you use a different word to describe them, as long as we both know they’re important.

In a recent webinar, someone asked me “how do you handle it, when someone on your team asks you for text or uses the term words when they really mean content?” It’s a good question, since content strategists often get mistaken for copywriters, and we are still working to define our roles and educate team members on how we can best support them.  Continue Reading


Journey Maps for Content Strategy

When we talk about “strategy” it can mean a lot of different things:

  • Creating a set of plans for creating and promoting content over time
  • Setting up a plan for a content migration and content governance
  • Defining the content touch points for a user’s experience with an application or site

The first two fall clearly under the guise of “content strategy.” But the third falls in that nebulous “user experience.” Let’s explore the value of a content strategist on a UX project, specifically when it comes to identifying audience touch points. Continue Reading


House of Leaves, Interactive Books, and Ergodic Literature

I read my first interactive book when I was 3. It was called Pat the Bunny, and it required the reader to touch, scratch, and otherwise interact with the pages. Like most people, I outgrew these sort of books by the time I was 6. But last month I rediscovered interactive books, in the adult version: ergodic literature.

What is Ergodic Literature?

According to Wikipedia, ergodic literature is a book where “nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text.” In other words, a book where the words go up, down, sideways, and backwards, sometimes require moving back and forth across pages, or are written within smaller boxes on the page.


The ergodic book I was reading was House of Leaves: a film critique within a book within a book. I’m still not sure whether I enjoyed it, whether I would recommend it, whether or not it’s a “good” story or a “good” book. I can’t say it’s the most enjoyable read – it does require nontrivial effort – but it did capture my attention. What is most fascinating to me about ergodic (and interactive) literature though, is the emphasis on layout. And to me, a content strategist, the possible impact of ergodic literature on intelligent content. Continue Reading


Content Types vs. Not Content Types

Often, the concept of “content types” is one of the hardest things for clients to wrap their minds around. They begin talking about content types and instead begin talking about their different products, their target audiences, or their CMS fields. Of course, all of these are related, which makes the whole mess even more difficult to untangle.

What is a content type?

I’ve yet to see a clear description of a content type, and the best I’ve come up with is this: it’s a type of content.

However, in my experience a good set of examples is better than all the descriptions in the world.

Examples of content types: An Event, a Book, a Video, a Tweet, a Product

Why are these content types? They are things, or entities, that are made up of various content attributes. An Event might be made up of the attributes (or metadata fields) Event Title, Event Description, Event Date, and Event Organizer. Meanwhile a Book may have only one attribute: Book Title, or multiple: Book Author, Book Description, Book Image.

Why does it matter? Clients don’t need to understand what content types are, but content strategists need to set up their CMSs to accurately serve up the right content to the right people.