Live from Confab: Structuring Content to Empower Users

Structuring Content to Empower Users, by Lisa Maria Martin

Confab 2018 logoWe have many (many) ways to think about content. But how we organize content and how people find it can be a complicated process.

What are Ways to Organize Content?

  • Alphabetizing
    • Not great for final organizing (for users)
    • Excellent for research when you may need to find a specific page
  • Time
    • Days of the week are a method of organizing by time
    • Examples: calendars, event schedules, email inboxes, social media
  • Category
    • Examples: grocery stores, Netflix
  • Hierarchy
    • Whether by “Most popular” or Leaderboards

Principles of Categorization

This is where structure starts to take conceptual shape. Here are some rules to help:

  • Group like with like
    • It feels basic, but how do we determine what’s “like”?
    • How do the groups
  • Identify business goals
    • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • Identify audience needs
    • Can they see themselves here?
    • Can they see what they need to do?
  • Current state
    • What do we have to work with?

Steps to Organize Content

Start by recreating the site. Lisa uses, and color codes the different areas. This helps when she moves things around, because she can see (by the color) where it came from.

Then consider the future state. What are your content goals? What does your strategy say?

Empower the users. We can do this through the way we structure the site, and the individual pages.

Questions to Ask When Structuring Content

For site structure:

  • Does the navigation reflect your strategy?
    • This means not just slapping a label on, but thinking about how it reflects
  • Are your labels inclusive?
  • What story are you trying to tell?
    • Having everything available makes it all visible, but it doesn’t tell a story. It doesn’t show

For page structure

  • Does the visual hierarchy match the information hierarchy?
  • Do users know how they got here?
    • This could be breadcrumbs, or sub navigation, or just contextual text in the into
  • Are there clear connections between content?
    • Are the headers descriptive?
  • Is there a clear next step (call to action)?

For text structure

  • Are there heading tags?
  • Is the content accessible?
    • Transcripts for videos, alt text for images
  • Does the text use plain, appropriate language?

We need to structure with intent.

“Don’t get distracted by deadlines and feature requests. Think about the consequences of what you’re building.” -Caleb Thompson

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