Introduction to content-driven design — The Freelancer's Journey



The blank page. To many, it represents infinite possibility. To others, it's the third-most dreaded part
of freelancing when writing is involved. This one's the back of a lunch order, from
Chipotle. So, we're at the part where we've been entrusted
with building out a site for Rebecca and her design firm. And a lot of people might approach this by
digging into the design first, and that's a perfectly valid approach. But a lot of times, starting with the design
before you have a good idea of how the content on the site is going to be constructed and
organized leads to way more work down the road in projects like this. So we're going to start with the content strategy,
and the reason we want to do that is because we want to get an idea of how this business
is communicating it’s value. Of course, that starts with content. And we'll break this down into four parts. First we'll cover the reasoning behind starting
with content. Then we'll do value propositions, this is
what value we're providing to someone visiting the site. Then we'll cover mind control, or visitor
anticipation. Finally, we'll talk about when to use, and
when not to use, an FAQ. Now, before we go into the first part, sometimes
we'll say copy. Sometimes written content is referred to as
copy. Copy refers to written material, in contrast
to photographs or other elements of layout. Or so says Wikipedia, right here on the screen. In just as many words, copy is text. It’s the text we’re writing that ends
up on the site. Everything from the words on a particular
page to the text we enter in the website’s navigation. Let's dig into starting with the content. And first thing's first: we have this blank
page. And that’s the thing, before we start writing
the content for our website, we have so many questions, often no idea what to start writing. Enter: procrastination. The often-delusional idea that whatever you're
doing instead of writing is somehow less painful than the consequences of putting it off until
later. Procrastination usually involves focusing
on lower-priority things. And remember, we're on the clock. We're keeping detailed notes of how much time
we spend on client work so we can optimize over time. So a lot of people will do the wrong thing
for all the right reasons; they move past the content, onto the next step, design. It’s often why some people skip the content
step altogether and use lorem ipsum, filler text. It’s tempting. There’s nothing inherently wrong with lorem
ipsum, it can work in some cases. And we'll use it in parts of our design. But when it comes to a lot of client projects,
the real text, especially for the major components, things like the different pages of a site
or the major headings, figuring that out is invaluable, as early in the process as possible. And it's great because it saves a ton of time
and gives us a clear understanding of the site we’re about to build. And when we’re making a website for a business,
chances are, no one knows the business as well as those running the business. The questions we've asked, our call with Rebecca,
our client research, other conversations we have with her and her team, they’ll serve
as the basis for our content strategy. We're not sitting here waiting to divine the
answer as if it’ll just appear before us on the back of the lunch order. And the most important thing ever
[Keshav] Are you done with that? [McGuire] Not yet. [Keshav] Do you want anything from Chipotle? [McGuire] A salad to go with the dressing
on the side, brown rice, black beans, double chicken, mild, little bit of medium, little
bit of hot, corn, sour cream, guac, cheese and lettuce. [Keshav] It's a salad. [McGuire] Yeah. [Keshav] It already has lettuce at the bottom. [McGuire] It stops the guac from sticking
to the lid. [Keshav] To the lid. Got it. The most important thing when it comes to
web design is this: the specific needs of your client's business have to drive the content
and the design, not the other way around. Both the design and the copy have to be based
on the needs of the business. This is sometimes the biggest frustration. And it's why templates sometimes look fantastic
when you start, but never quite feel right unless you fine-tune them to perfection. What we'll be doing for Rebecca and her firm
is building a site from scratch. And we're doing this to achieve that balance. The balance between a design that looks great
and reads well, and one that's completely and entirely built around the business. We're not shoehorning Rebecca's content, we're
not trying to fit other material into a one-size-fits-all template. We're starting from scratch. And as we already know, when we're doing our
best work, we're not putting ourselves in the shoes of our clients, but, as we already
covered earlier in this course, we're empathizing with our client's clients. Everyone in this row right here. And if we think from their perspective, there's
a lot of insight we can gain when developing our content strategy. And what is our content strategy? It's our roadmap. Not just for what will get written and what
will go where, but it's the basis for what will end up being our entire site. And the goal of that site is to communicate
the value of whatever it is our client is offering. So let's cover that, the value proposition. What are we after? Well, we want to understand our client's client. In other words, who's going to use this site
and why do they want to use it? And there's a fairly straightforward model
that helps us figure this out. And it goes like this, as a whoever-I-am,
I want to learn or do something, so that I can accomplish a specific task. And, these are supposed to be blank so with
the magic of video editing, let’s make them blank. As visitors of sites all over the internet,
we tend to naturally think like this all the time. This model drives global behavior on the web. And again, this is Aristotle's Poetics, intention
and obstacle. This model follows the same logic. Someone lands on a site, they're trying to
accomplish something, and our content strategy, what we put on the site and how we organize
it, has to unblock whatever obstacle is in the way. And very few apply this to their actual content
strategy, like we covered a moment ago, they usually start with visual design. So let's instead try this from the perspective
of the client. And in this video, we'll do the same five
examples we did from earlier in the course. Later on, we'll apply this to Hayes Valley
Interior Design website. But right now, we're starting with the doctor. Example one: as someone with an ear condition,
I want to make sure the doctor's qualified to treat my condition, so that I can confidently
book an appointment. Pretty straightforward. What's the intention? To book an appointment. What's the obstacle? Finding a qualified doctor. Websites work great, and so does anything
for that matter, when it solves a problem, answers a question, or helps us, in any way,
overcome an obstacle. What if it's a different kind of doctor? What if the person searching isn't the patient? This can happen when we book stuff on behalf
of children. So let's imagine our client is a pediatric
dentist. So our client's client, the person visiting
the site, is most likely the parent or guardian, not the child going to see the dentist. As a child's caregiver, I want to learn more
about this dentist so that I can book an appointment. Or what about this: as a parent, I'm understandably
anxious about my child's first dentist appointment. The driving force here is that they're wanting
to learn about what goes into a pediatric dental exam, so I can get peace of mind and,
again, book an appointment. But we can also think about it differently. Someone could be looking for directions. As a guardian, I want to find a quick map
so that I can get my kid to the dentist 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork. There's no right or wrong way to approach
these options. Anything to reassure them that we're thinking
about what might be in their head as they're trying to learn more about this dentist. Empathy is more important to content strategy
than almost any other industry on the planet. Except maybe healthcare, or education, or
if you're in business, or any job of any type in which you, as a human, interact with other
humans, in any way, whatsoever. Because the ability to put yourself in someone
else's shoes, that's true value, and it makes all the difference. We want to remember who wants to use this
website and why. Generally, it helps to find the most common
thing. We want the main thing that clearly defines
the value the dentist is providing. We can have our secondary options written
down, too, and we can use these for reference, but this is the one we're going to print out
and tape up on the wall until we're done. Let's roll through the others pretty quickly. Producer: as a film director, I want to make
sure this producer is qualified, so that I can hire someone to produce my upcoming project. Startup: as a health-conscious consumer, I
want to learn more about the health benefits of vegan beef jerky so that I can buy some. What about the educator? As a parent, I want to confirm that this educator
specializes in Autism Spectrum Disorder, so that I can confidently book a session for
my child. My intention as the parent here is finding
someone who I trust is a qualified educator who is also an authority. They need experience and specific knowledge
that meets the needs of my child. And the obstacle is I've been on 20 other
sites and no one really specifies one or the other. It's been generic. And finally, what about the law firm? As an inventor, I want to make sure this law
firm specializes in intellectual property, so that I can hire a lawyer to help me legally
protect my inventions. The better you understand the intention of
someone coming to the site and the obstacles they're facing, trying to figure out how to
achieve that intention, the better you can dream up ways to engage and help your client's
client get what they want. This process goes on and on. And this often requires more and more revision,
iterating on the concept over and over. But the important thing is that we're thinking
about what might be going on as they're searching for and finding the site. We're thinking empathetically. And that leads us to mind reading. This is the next part of our content strategy. We really want to anticipate what people are
thinking when they're searching, and when they arrive on our site, when they're clicking
around and exploring. How is this any different from our model we
just covered a moment ago? Well, this is our guideline. It helps us determine what to cover, but anticipating
helps us determine how to cover it. We're going to use the pediatric dentist example
because John actually used this in a real-life meeting we had, in which John actually told
the story while Stacy filmed, without our knowledge, which distracted the cleaning staff,
leading to a small flood because no one remembered to turn off the mop sink. Professionals had to come out with special
equipment to fully clean the area. They put tarps up, and Grimur defended the
office for three days by wearing N95 masks to protect himself from any airborne particulates. But Stacy got footage of John saying that
someone visiting this site could be looking for reviews or testimonials, or maybe they
want to hear about the dentist's philosophy on patient care. And that's the part John said that matters. In addition to literally everything else John
has ever said, what he was getting at here is this: when we're thinking about content
strategy, so much of it is making sure we're preemptively knocking down concerns people
have between the last two parts of our model. Look at these intentions, imagine the obstacles
in the way of achieving those goals. And, as the person building the site, you
have to preemptively knock down these obstacles. Does that make sense? Probably not. There's a better way to cover this. Simply put: if someone's looking for a qualified
pediatric dentist, chances are, they're looking for someone who has experience. Someone who they can trust, and someone who's
an authority. And let's say you're making a site for a professional
who's been doing pediatric dentistry for three decades. If we know people have cold feet about inexperience,
we can address that early on. On the homepage, we can say something like,
"for over 30 years, Dr. Kurtz has been entrusted with the dental care and well-being of little
ones across our community." You can play with the language a little bit,
but by doing that, by mentioning the experience early on, you're assuaging their concerns
over inexperience at the absolute start of the process. You're anticipating, you're reading their
minds, and getting ahead of those concerns. Another way to do this: you can focus on showing
testimonials or reviews from different patients, or in this case, parents or guardians of patients. You're getting in their minds. Anticipating what visitors to the site are
thinking, anticipating their questions, their concerns, and preemptively addressing those
things. This can apply to any copy you write or your
client writes: headings, the pages you list, and a little bit later in this course, we'll
apply it to Hayes Valley Interior Design. But that's the idea behind mind reading. Up next is FAQ. It's kind of a controversial topic. And it's controversial, especially in the
content strategy world, because it's often used as a crutch. "If we don't have a spot for topics x, y,
and z, we'll just throw it in the FAQ." But an FAQ shouldn't be a crutch. For search or sharing, think about it: no
one searches Google for "pediatric dentist FAQ." Google Trends literally doesn't have enough
data to show anything here. And for sharing, you're just linking others
to a bucket of random information. In short: don't put into an FAQ content that
belongs in the main structure of the site. If it's important enough for people to know,
give them a real way to find it. Specific pages on major topics do really well
for this. When Google indexes your site, it usually
starts at the root domain. This is usually the homepage, and it follows
links from there. Now, suppose you have a child who needs a
pediatric dentist, you may have a million questions, and it may not make sense to have
a million pages in your site, but a lot of content, a lot of topics, can group together. You might have 10 common questions about the
process your kid goes through, maybe 5 or 6 questions about the dentist's level of experience,
you could have another 10 questions about pricing. So, do you create an FAQ that has 25 or 26
questions? Maybe. What you really might consider is three separate
pages: one that talks through the process, it'll address all these questions and more,
another page on experience or biography so you can learn about the dentist, and another
one on pricing, maybe it can include information about costs, insurance. If we do create an FAQ, the answers to these
common questions can link us, they can connect someone visiting the site to one of these
pages. But we want the majority of content on the
site to live in main topics. Main pages that focus on helping people understand
a product or a service, something that helps people achieve their intention by overcoming
their obstacles.That's FAQ. Now with any of this, sometimes the best route
is to hire or subcontract a content strategist, or a copywriter, someone to work with you
and your client to really get it right. But if you're not hiring, or your client's
not hiring a content strategist make sure you're getting paid for any work you do on
content. Now what we'll do in the next part of this
course is apply a lot of this logic to developing a top-level content strategy for Hayes Valley
Interior Design.

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