You Got Your Content in My Web Design


I’m very excited this week for the Design and Content Conference in Vancouver BC. The conference theme is “Designers and Content Strategists: We’re Better Together,” and the speakers list is a who’s-who of the web design and content strategy worlds, including Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane, whose Content Strategy for Mobile was the first detailed, extended discussion of how design and content come together in a multi-device world.

For me, the most important shifts in the web design and development industry in the last decade have been:

As these authors  pointed out, neither concept was entirely new. Ethan’s article referenced “A Dao of Web Design” which prescribed “pages which are accessible, regardless of the browser, platform or screen that your reader chooses or must use.”

Similarly, content strategy has always been a part of web projects. Notice the number of people now calling themselves content strategists who describe having had an epiphany after  realizing what they were  doing had a name. What content strategy as a discipline did was give visibility to activities and processes which could help make web teams less dysfunctional in relation to the content their web sites and applications were intended to deliver.

Various  teams (agency and in-house, across industry sectors and organization sizes) have adopted content strategy at different rates. The same is true for responsive web design. Often the surface changes first – adding a deliverable to the existing process, tweaking an implementation plan, and checking the box on an RFP – but ultimately the recognition gets deeper, and we get into full-blown rethinking of what it means to do a digital project (should we even say “web” design?).

Indeed, as William Gibson said, the future is here – it’s just unevenly distributed.

Ultimately, we need to recognize that both content strategy and responsive design are more effective when done together.

Doing responsive design effectively requires a coherent content strategy. Doing content strategy effectively means understanding not only the underlying structure of content, but also understanding how that content will be deployed across devices.

We still, as an industry, are way too dependent on lorem ipsum (and all its clones) in design processes. We’re still designing without content, far too much of the time. We’re also, in too many cases,  developing content without a solid understanding of how it will be used across a multi-device design strategy.

If you’re also going to be in Vancouver this week please do introduce yourself or follow @jeckman for a likely flurry of tweets late this week.

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