Maybe it’s the time of the year in Oregon (late summer), but I keep running into a ton of hotrod shows here and there.
During several short trips, I passed a ton of old hotrods either driving around town, or on the highways of Central Oregon. Some of these vehicles just looked pretty and shiny and probably couldn’t drive any faster than 60MPH. Some were absolute beasts.
Recently, I actually stopped at a hotrod show to check out some of these old jewels. There were some old-school cars with modernized exteriors that retain their Americana charm alongside 2012 auto “bling.” These same cars had 400-horsepower engines hidden within their candy-coated chassis. They were older, yet elegant and powerful. They reminded me a little bit of how many organizations treat their web content and the kind of value that these organizations can get back from their investments.
So, as web professionals, we’re all either helping organizations at an agency, freelance or are perhaps in-house. Are we working with super modernized content? Are we working with classic looks, modernized? Perhaps tinkering around with the jalopy still? The vehicles that stick around the longest and give their owners the most value, enjoyment and overall “bang for their buck” are the ones that have the maintenance and care required to keep their running smoothly. Isn’t this the same for content?
Let’s briefly explore where and why old content can hurt without proper maintenance.
External content: marketing, information and entertainment experiences.
As web professionals and consumers, we see this stuff all of the time. It’s the experience of buying some RAM off of Newegg, shopping for a new dress at Urban Outfitters, finding out more about Spider-Man from Wikipedia and even checking out fun things to do in Bend, Oregon at its tourism site.
Seeking the pain: Some of us use this stuff. Others help plan, build and maintain it. If the content is painful to use, who can we inform about these issues? How do we learn more about whether or not our content hurts? User research and live user testing come to mind. That’s one way of finding out more about how to improve content and treat it like a sustainable business asset.
Discovering how to improve these content experiences is just a third of the fight. We need to take these findings and create a pathway for designers to help us solve for our problems. Once these solutions launch, the final third of the fight is to create a method of measurement to discover even more about how our content rocks, but also how it may still pain users in its latest iteration.
Internal content: data manipulation, presentation and input methods.
This stuff is a bit more insular depending on where you work and what you work on. However, it’s still content. It has users, it has objectives and it has people relying upon it to work properly. Maybe it’s a sales and marketing app or process. Maybe it’s a company intranet.
Unfortunately, if you use a software as a service (SaaS) for a lot of organization functions, it’s a little more difficult to influence how this content works since it’s usually pre-packaged. If you’re in a more open source environment where you can suggest changes to improve workflow, as a web professional who wants to make the most of content strategy and its principles, I suggest you take advantage of this!
I have the luxury of working closely with the IT department as a communications-type with my employer. We grab tons of data day after day, create new ways of finding more data about ourselves and our customers and create content solutions that allow us to tighten up our costs and improve the likelihood of improving business with future content initiatives.
Seeking the pain: We justify these projects by using the same data to show how the painful usage of our internal content hurts our bottom line. No one likes it when the bottom line hurts. It sucks especially for smaller organizations who need to make the most of every dollar.
Like other content projects, it’s the data that informs us of the best decisions to make and to fuel the methodologies that allow us to maintain and sustain content. Data lets us scrub the engines clean, oil them and ensure that they’re running to the best of their ability.
If it's hurting the organization, audit the heck out of it.
If my car isn’t working properly, I’ll get advice about it from my mechanic. If I’m not feeling well beyond simple ailments like the cold or flu, I’ll get a medical opinion.
When our content is busted, or is showing signs of wear and tear, e.g. troubleshooting reports, user research discoveries of crappy experiences, why do organizations tell the marketing or communications departments to just “handle it,” or pass that burden on to someone who perhaps doesn’t have a lot of their table.
Just like how we take our valuable vehicles to a mechanic or rely on the knowledge and experience of a professional physician, we need to rely on proper web professionals to audit and recommend fixes for our content. Once leaders can get a handle on that, we can take the old jalopies and clean them up. We can refit them with high-performance parts and tidy up the exteriors.
Content can do great things for organizations that take great care of it. Let’s start those conversations now.