Nine Steps to Tackling a Content Rich Website with UX Content Design

We all know of websites that have so much content that they almost cringe under the weight of it.

And tackling the problem of a content-rich site can seem daunting – how do you know what content to keep? How can you structure it so that your users can navigate it quickly and easily?

The good news is that there is a clear, step-by-step content design process that you can follow that, combined with an agile approach and smart technology, can turn your content-rich site into a streamlined and efficient site.

I’ll explain this to you using our client, Sport England, as an example.

Who is Sport England?

Sport England aims to encourage everyone in the UK, regardless of age, background or ability, to enjoy the health and social benefits of physical activity. You’ve probably come across their work at some point, locally or through a campaign like “This Girl Can”.

In 2016, Sport England presented its ‘Towards an Active Nation’ strategy, to tackle inequalities in activity, especially among women and disadvantaged socio-economic groups. This sparked a review of their digital presence: how did it communicate their mission?

Define the objectives of the content strategy

The biggest challenge of the project was the reach of Sport England’s audience.

As Sport England Editorial Manager Zjan Shirinian said: “At Sport England we do a lot of things. We provide grants, we have data, we have advice and resources. “

The website tried to be everything for all users. This had resulted in a very content-rich website, non-intuitive navigation, and content that lacked clear purpose and hierarchy.

“It was difficult for us to package this content,” Zjan said. “We really needed help in defining what we had, what to say and how best to present it. “

So we started by clarifying the objectives of the project. In the discovery phase, we listened to people from all over Sport England to understand what they needed the new site to accomplish.

Personality search

We then validated the stakeholder research with the user research and analysis. Looking at people’s motivations and behavior rather than their professional roles, we found three main characters.

This solved one of the first challenges: Who was the website talking to? Was it B2B, aimed at professionals providing activities? or B2C, the general public?

The main audience for the site was actually B2B.

We could now move on to assessing the current content of the website.

How to perform a content audit

Content auditing is the essential first step in building your content strategy.

In a content audit, you will assess each piece of content across an entire website. This will reveal what content works best, what can be reused, and what you can dump. It can be cumbersome, but once it’s done, you can make informed decisions.

Here’s how we performed a content audit for the old Sport England website:

  1. URL: We exported the URL of every page on the website to make sure we detected them all
  2. Data: It helped us identify the top performing pages
  3. Category: We have categorized each page into key groups
  4. Quality: We assessed the quality of the content and how well it met users’ needs
  5. Legal requirement: we checked which pages were legal requirements
  6. Action: We have decided if the page will be kept, merged or deleted
  7. Persona group: each page has been assigned to a persona group
  8. User story: each page had to meet a user need validated on the basis of our research.

All of this information was entered into a spreadsheet. It was a big site, so the spreadsheet got pretty huge. Here is an excerpt:

Content design: User stories

When you have done your persona research, you can also move on to defining user stories.

Personas tell you who your audience is. User stories tell you what they’re trying to accomplish. They are essential to your content strategy because when clearly defined, it means you can build a site that gives your users what they want quickly and easily.

For each user story, we wrote a sentence from the user’s perspective. It included:

  • What they want
  • How they want it
  • Why they want it

We noted if the user story covered more than one character – there is often an overlap.

Next, we categorized each user story into a section of the website. For example, all user stories wanting information about grant applications have been assigned to the funding section. User stories form the framework of the design and development backlog.

User stories often tend to be very functional – “I want to log into my bank” or “I want to buy a blue sweater”. With Sport England it was different, as their users are usually looking for information rather than trying to complete an action. Thus, user stories could be less specific, making them harder to pin down and easier to lose sight of their importance. This is where a solid process helps – it keeps everyone on track and focuses attention on the user. (There’s a lot more on personas and user stories in our free UX manual.)

Content design: content mapping

Your content audit will tell you what content you can dump, what needs to be uploaded to your new site, and what needs to be reused.

The next step is to map your content to the new website. Content mapping will also highlight the gaps so you know exactly what new content is needed.

To map your content, you’ll need a template for recording key information on every page of your new website.

Each page of Sport England’s new website featured:

  1. Page: The name of the page
  2. Content Title: the name of each section of this page
  3. User stories: a user story for each section of each page
  4. Content creation: if we needed new content
  5. Content seed: the source of content on the current website
  6. Notes: so that we can keep track of discussions and decisions

Here is an example of what it looked like.

How to create a content sitemap

Content mapping also helps you create your new sitemap.

A sitemap is a visual representation of your content mapping worksheet. While content mapping shows you what content is needed where, the sitemap gives you the framework for your new information architecture and an overview of your website’s scale.

Here’s a simplified version of the old Sport England sitemap:

And here is the new version, even simpler:

You can see that the new one is much more streamlined. This facilitates navigation.

Content creation strategy

We worked with the Sport England content team to establish the three new characters for their new site. Then, as we worked on the content mapping and sitemap, the team was able to start preparing all of the content. They knew exactly who each piece of content was for, so they could tailor it to them.

The team pulled existing content from the content map and created new content as needed, tailoring it to the character and task. We collaborated in sprints, focusing on one section at a time, iterating and sharing the work between design and content.

Here is an example of content before it was reused:

You can see the big blocks of text – it’s hard to digest and visually unappealing.

And here it is after the Sport England content team and our designers have worked their magic:

Text is broken down into smaller chunks with headers, more and larger images, and clearer signage.

Content wireframe

Every section of the website was framed during the sprints.

Ideally, all wireframing should be done with actual content rather than legacy text or lorem ipsum, so the designer knows how much content they are designing for. If it is long, for example, they can divide it into several pages or use an accordion.

The actual content is also excellent in usability testing. This means fewer revisions because tasks tend to be clearer to the user, and you can test the effectiveness of the content along with the design.

However, this is not always possible. So we worked in tandem with the Sport England content team and prioritized their content production to the sections that we agreed needed a wireframe with actual content.

Content mapping, sitemap, content creation and wireframing were done collaboratively and simultaneously, using an agile methodology. User testing and customer feedback has been built into every sprint, so there was constant feedback and constant iteration throughout the project. This has helped us to stay closely aligned with Sport England – the collaboration on this project has been really fruitful.

How to Maintain a Content Rich Website

Of course, the work doesn’t stop when the new site goes live. You’ll want to track results and make sure the content stays up-to-date and relevant to your users.

Zjan said, “The site has been launched and we are delighted with the results. The main challenge for us now is that it’s easy for content to become stale as our strategies and visions evolve. It is therefore important to have processes in place that encourage people in the company to take some ownership of the website. That way, the content team can work with them and continue to make sure the content stays relevant.

As for us, we are happy to say that we are already supporting Sport England in their next exciting challenge.

Danny Bluestone, Founder and CEO of Cyber-Duck.


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Jenny T. Curlee

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