You might have heard this phrase, content is king. And I mean that is true, even though it's kind of a weird phrase, cause the most important part of any website or app is it's content, right? But before we can, talk about content strategies, we first have to get a common definition of what content is. So content can be, I know these first two are obvious, right it can be written information like articles, books, social media posts, it can be photo or video, but it can also be things like your weather ticker, your flight alerts, your stock ticker, someone had to think about how those are going to display. The words on a UI, right. Someone had to, for example, in this example with a major shipping company, who's logo I also had to take out for legal reasons, you know up here in the navigation it says ship. Why doesn't it say send, or packages? Right someone had to think that ship is the best way to phrase that. Language selector, someone had to pick this image out, someone had to produc...
e the video and decide to put it there and figure out the reasons for that. All of these things are content. Alright? Same thing here, like social media links. This navigation up here, advertisements, dynamically generated content, someone had to find a picture of manbuns, and put it right there, right. So someone had to think about this stuff, this doesn't just appear out of nowhere. So the term content applies to anything that conveys meaningful information to a person. And content strategy is about bringing the right content to the right person at the right time in the right context. And you know you notice here that we're talking about the right person the right time the right context. How do you find that out? How do you find out who the right person is? How do you find out what their context is? Research, you're right! You can't do content strategy without doing the research. Okay, so content strategy, what it includes is, a couple of things, first you need to plan on how your content will be created and by whom. Alright. You know if it's just you working on this thing it's pretty obvious who's gonna be creating the content, unless you hire it out, right. But if you're working in a bigger, or, that's the question that needs to be answered. Who is gonna be making this content? Who is gonna be updating it, right? Cause you're not just, you don't just have to think about the launch, but you have to think about everything that comes after the launch. Because remember, this type of design was never done. There is no end state here, there are only milestones. Then, you know, chances are, the people that are building out the functionality of the app or website aren't the same people that are putting in content and changing content, right. So you need a way to manage the content without having some editor have to write code or something, or have to go to your engineers and be like hey can you switch that picture out, right. That's actually how they used to do it, when the web started like 15, 20 years ago. That's what happened, there was no content strategy. You went to the webmaster, and you said to them, hey can you switch out this image? And it was frustrating for all parties involved, right. Cause he doesn't wanna switch out images 20 times a day or edit typos, right, they wanna write code. They wanna do functionality. And the people in charge of the content, they don't wanna have to ask someone to change it all the time they wanna change it themselves, it's much faster for everyone. So you need to figure out how you're going to manage the content and keep it organized. And finally, you wanna think about how you're going to deliver the content to people. Alright, will it be a website, an app, will it be a mobile terminal, will it be a billboard somewhere, will it be a virtual reality device? Those are just questions that you need to think about. I wanna drill a little bit more on the first point, creating and updating content. In order to do that, you know you have to first figure out, you know, talk to your entire team and really get clarity on what type of content you're creating. What's the goal. Who are we creating it for? What's their context? And again it's one of those things, I'm standing here, I'm saying it, it sounds really obvious, but you'd be surprised how often you have five people in the room who all have totally different views on what the goal is. So you need to get alignment on that stuff early because when you do it early, if you do it later, and then you have these types of discussions, it costs more time and more money to change once you already have content, then it takes to change when you're just having discussions. Once you've made that leap from words and thoughts to form, it's a lot harder to change. Just a reminder, this is the content that you'll be discussing. And then the next question is, once you've got clear alignment on the goal and the content, you have to figure out who's going to be writing this stuff. You know blog posts don't write themselves. Photos and videos have to be created. Even like automatically generated content, like a weather update, or like recommended new items, right. You have to think about what the guidelines are, of how you pick those items, right. Stuff that you have to think through. And that takes time. So you really need to take the time to create quality content because if you don't have quality content you have nothing really. If you have good content, you can compromise on how it looks, and you can compromise on how it works for a while. Right like imagine if you don't have the content you have a car with a crappy motor, or a beautifully arranged plate of rotten food. Or whatever other analogy you can think of that's pretty on the outside, and bad on the inside, alright. So remember, look at how bad the first version of Twitter looked, right? But the content was there. The content and the thought process was there, even though it looked very different from what it looks like today. Yeah I know right? Welcome to Amazon.com books, the first version of Amazon. How far we've come. But the content is there. The core ideas were already there in this first version of Amazon and then they built looks on that and they built functionality on that. But without that first part of content creation, you're not gonna get to that right. So remember, if you have good content, you too can maybe buy a major grocery retailer 20 years later. Looks and functionality can wait, good content can't. Finally, you wanna make a plan for how you create the specific pieces of content. So in what timeframe will you create those blog posts? How many blog posts do you need? In what timeframe are you creating them? How many videos do you need and in what timeframe are you creating them? And more importantly than that, if you work these days, you're not just publishing for one platform anymore, right? I mean this is just the amount of screen sizes for Samsung Galaxy devices. So content is delivered on a number of different devices with a number of different screen sizes and resolutions so you're content has to adapt to that. And I'll show an example of that in a second. And if you're creating something for wearables, you need that little alert that you get on your phone, saying new article, someone wrote that alert that said new article, someone thought of it, thought that that has to be there, and what's it gonna look like, when is it going to appear, all of that is content strategy. The New York Times is a great example of this. So on their desktop site that you see on your big screen you have this big picture, you have this avatar over here, you have a full sized title, you have the author name, the category name of the series, and date, because you have a lot of space to work with. But if you go to the home page, this blurb here, you'll notice the picture is cropped out, someone had to think about how to crop that image, the date is gone, cause you don't have a lot of space, someone had to decide to take away the date. And you'll notice also that this little blurb here, is actually different from the first paragraph of text here. So someone had to write a new blurb for the front page section of the New York Times. You had to think about that. And then on their mobile app, it's different again. The picture's cropped in a different way, wait a minute, yeah, here they have the category, but they don't have the name anymore, right. Someone had to make those decisions about what to show where and that's a big part of content strategy. How will your content display on different devices. The point I'm trying to make here is, that writing an article, writing, creating a piece of content means much more than just that one thing. As you switch between devices you have to adapt that content to different contexts. Another way that I like thinking about this is with this little checklist here. What, why, how, where, when, who. So what topics are we going to cover? And in what formats are we going to do it? You know, are we doing blogs, videos, charts, etc. Why are we doing it? Why does this even matter? Very important question to ask, right. Because a lot of times especially in bigger companies where people are sort of like siloed from the effects of the their direct consequences of their actions. Just get excited about something and then they make it but never really ask why it matters. So many examples of that. How should we say it? What's the tone of voice? How are we going to deliver that message? Where can we market the content? Is it something like images that you have to get somewhere? Where are we gonna get it from? Do we have to take the pictures ourself? Are there stock photos somewhere? When will it be published? When will it be updated? And finally who is responsible? It's a cool checklist to go through when you're thinking about content and if you have these steps, and if you have the research at a decent level, if you have the content, if you have a content strategy, the actual part of building out the site and the app is really easy. But it's only easy if you do this type of legwork up front. You'd be surprised how many times people don't do that. Because again it's one of those hard unpleasant slow things that's not fun and doesn't get you any immediate rewards. So I've heard all of these phrases at companies. Our intern can handle the content. We kinda know what we're gonna say anyway. So if you see any of these phrases. We can figure it out later. Let's just UX it real quick. Let's just like make it look good, and we can figure out the content later. For sure, content is not something to be taken lightly.
This goes back to what you were saying about user research and they wanna know how many users would you observe if you were doing a huge project, say like a million user project, or a billion user project, what is the ratio, if the final project is going to reach this many people then how many people should we be sort of user testing? Is there a good idea there? If you know what your final audience would be how many people should you be testing it on?
You know what your final audience will be as in, well if you know that, then, the consensus is that you can get, as you test more people you start to get diminishing returns so the consensus that you'll see if you go to a place like Neilson Ormonde Group, they're out here in Vermont and they're the authority on user research. Five people, surprisingly, is all you have to ask. To get some of that qualitative information that can inform your design, right. And mind you, that type of research that we're talking about is different from like market segment analyses, right. So that's something to be clear on too. You're trying to get qualitative info about how people use something and about how they feel about it. So you can get, there's like a curve, where the amount of info that you get and those things that you uncover, it really starts to trail off after five people. Yeah I was surprised too when I heard that.
So it's kinda just a follow up on that last question. So how do you select those five people? You're saying that we're focusing on five people.
Are they five random people or do I need to do some sort of segmentation?
See that's where some of the marketing type of segmentation really starts to come in handy. Because yeah you don't pick five random people you pick people who you know are roughly in that audience that you're going for. A lot of times you don't even do that yourself. There's like agencies that you hire this out to. So the first step will be doing like a market segmentation and understanding which markets you're hitting, then the next step is like to talk about within those markets what are people, what's our hypotheses, of what the people are that we're going to be targeting with this next product. And then there's different ways, usually you just hire someone out and get it from them. If you wanna do it yourself, there's no magic too it. Go on trade shows to try to find people, you go on LinkedIn, to try to find people. You go where those people are, and then you ask them if they wanna participate.
Question in terms of the user research. If you have a new product versus a redesign, what's the best way or the most effective way of observing a user? How would you go about that?
Yeah, you're saying if you have something new, that hasn't been, right? Okay. There's a couple ways to do that, right. If you, let me think of a... Okay I'll give you first the general idea, and then hopefully by the time I've told you that I have also thought of an example. The general idea is if you see people constantly struggling with something, and being frustrated with something, that's a market opportunity, right. That's an opportunity for a redesign. Even if you don't have an existing product. And you know a lot of times you don't, I mean, how often do you actually launch something completely new, that's never been done before? Usually it'll be something that has, where you just see people struggling with the current way of doing things, like taxi services. They suck, they don't answer when I call they drive past, the cars smell like cigarette smoke, let's figure out a better way to do this. Air conditioners, suck, they're heavy, they're loud, I don't know how to install them, what's a better way to do this. My ketchup bottle keeps falling over in the fridge. What's a better way to do this? That's how you go about that and then you based on those frustration points that you see you talk to people who are in that market and that's how you get that information. And then you build out the simplest, cheapest possible thing you can build, here in the valley that's what they call the minimum viable product, the MVP, you build that and then based on that you see if they like it. Oh another great example of this, in the 90's Zappos. No one was selling shoes online. In order to validate that idea they actually set up the cheapest possible website ever, and every time someone bought a shoe from the website they went downstairs to the shoe store, bought the shoe, put it in a UPS box, and sent it out. But they had validation that this was something that people wanted, so it's, it's not a hard science, it's a social science, but there is some methodology to it. You have an idea and then you validate it by just getting it out front.
It's just another thing where you just experiment. You're right, what Snapchat did was really cool, and then everybody ended up copying it. But again, they just built that out, and then they saw. I'm sure if it hadn't worked well, I'm pretty sure, they would've rolled it back, like that's the cool thing about having these digital products, you can make updates, stuff like that.