Knowing what we want to say, before we say it—it’s a basic requirement of all good communication.

And content… is a vehicle for communication. If we don’t know what it needs to do, our users won’t know what to do with it.

That can at first sound like so basic a requirement, that it’s assumed to exist by default. But the obvious lack of clarity that many websites scream of, suggests that assumptions are often dangerously misguided.

Over a certain size, businesses are messy and complex. If we’re not careful, the messiness and complexity of our internal workings spill out into our external-facing communication. The result is content chaos—messy business unit silos imprinting themselves onto digital spaces, leaving our users flummoxed as to what it is, at our core, we’re actually trying to say, what we have to offer… even who we are.

Navigating the mess, sorting through and filtering out meaningful communication and messages is the necessary job of everyone who works with content.

And the best starting point is the most obvious: simplify. However you currently categorise and think about the business purpose of your web content, you can guarantee that simplifying, and then simplifying some more, will inevitably lead to much greater clarity (for both you and your users) over the big picture aims and goals of your online presence.

An effective approach is to start from the bottom and work your way up from there. All website content can be thought of at the most basic level as primarily serving one of three core purposes:

  • To educate (informational content)
  • To offer something (marketing content)
  • To explain who you are (brand content)

Write those three categories down as columns, or create a table in a word processor. Now start going through your website. Look beyond the business unit the content “belongs” to, and ask: which of the above three things is the content doing? Is it educating, offering something, or explaining something about who you are?

Start re-categorising your content into those three simple columns. Are things becoming clearer?

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