AEA Chicago 2009: Content First

An Event Apart Chicago 2009 Session 3 was Kristina Halvorson, talking about content, content, content.

These notes are more sketchy, not because the presentation wasn’t good, but because it was more of an impassioned plea than a how-to that I could take notes on

  • not just copy to be dropped into a template, it’s content–the “stuff” people are looking for
  • How did we get here?
    • Information Architecture gave rise to
    • Information Design
    • When the web came along, it was seen as primarily visual, so primarily visual people get hired
  • Big Problem: the person who defines the content doesn’t own the content
  • Must stop seeing content as a feature
  • No more lorem ipsum — content should come first; design around the content

Site comparison

all about product photos/price, no space for benefits/description
when copy-writers finally fill in the template, you end up w/ small fonts, cramped, busy page
top 5 things people want from personal finance software
top 4 triggers to get people to want to use personal finance

Page tables vs templates

  • Page table defines what content should be on the page and where, whereas a template is a design with spots to fill in with whatever
  • Priority 1: Messages
    • what should the user come away with)
    • Label them by importance: 1a, 1b, etc
    • Tell the writer WHAT to write in what order
  • Priority 3: Contextual contact us
  • Not "launch mentality" but a renewable ecosystem

How to Start

  • Get content involved early on
  • Design around content


Can/do designers & developers have impact on content development process?
If nothing else, you see content poured into design/structure.
You can/should also ask who owns the content.
What is an example of content requirement?
on this portion of Page X, there must be a list of product one benefits
What can you do for a new site, where the content doesn't exist yet?
Plan for andcreate the cycle for maintenance
How do you motivate clients?
Help them see how users are reacting to their site (shame)
Help them to see their content as a business asset, not a commodity
Show them user research; businesses rarely test content in research; show that Users can't find what they’re looking for
How to deal with what happens to the site after launch (client work; after the hand-off)
Sell them maintenance plan/requirements
Deliver them a plan for maintenance
Do organizations need to hire someone for content?
Organizations don't want to realize they're a publisher, and any publisher needs oversight. (so, yes, I guess)