“Just give me the facts, I don’t care what it looks like.”
Have you met this person?
Visuals–despite being an important communication tool with the succinct and often dramatic ability to pull details together and make the complicated meaningful–are not always given the credit they deserve.
Online, where most users can see faster than they can read, where users generally respond to visuals rather than text or speech, visuals are crucial. Used properly, visuals can reinforce messages and set them apart in the digital deluge of social feeds.
So let’s take one topic, content strategy, to see how visuals have been used in the attempt to clarify what content strategy is all about.
1. Approaches to web content strategy.
This diagram was created by Richard Ingram, whose blog Shut the door on your way out, Cicero discusses content strategy, information design, and web accessibility.
The visual is part interconnected beehive part Venn diagram. On one hand it quickly makes the point of many separate but interdependent and overlapping considerations.
On the other hand, it has “Page Tables” in the point of most emphasis: the visual centre where there’s the most overlap and contrast between text and background. Its page table-centricity distracts from expressing the idea found in the left-side explanatory text, that “diverse skills and experience” make up content strategy.
A caveat for visuals: to say what you intend, pretest images with a representative audience before publication.
2. 11 Ways Every Business Can Create a Content Strategy.
This diagram is included in the article, 11 Ways Every Business Can Create A Content Strategy. It’s fun to look at and makes the point that content strategy is a multi-step process.
However, in addition to the unexplained downward dip following “promote,” it leaves out the interdependencies between content and people, organizations and users. I looked for an explanation in the article’s text but found none.
A couple more cautions. First, make sure your visuals support your ideas; avoid using a linear representation to describe a non-linear process. Second, if there’s a conventional element, for example something that looks like a trend line, make sure the data is explained somewhere, ideally within the visual.
3. Content strategy mind map.
Evolved from the author’s personal process for outlining and planning content strategy, this mind map comes from web-content-strategy.com.
Follow the paths and you’ll find the components of content strategy from highly-specific details like “validate content dates and milestones” under project planning to the intersection of its five subtopics: structure, business, creative, creative, process and technical. The first impression the mind map gives is of many considerations and many levels of detail; it’s the most exhaustive visual I found.
However, its scope makes it unwieldy on a desktop screen much less a smartphone’s. Zooming in on the details loses the sense of interconnection. And following the paths by scrolling is a dizzying experience.
The mind map dates from 2009. Created now, its shortcomings might be solved with interactivity. Here’s an example of a self help interactive content strategy guide where each section expands to reveal guidelines and reference articles. Click the image to access the live version:
While unexciting as a visual, the clickable outline has a couple advantages over a sprawling diagram. Its text-based content is more search engine friendly than an image. And it invites user interaction beyond simple viewing, again increasing the visibility of the content with search engines.
An ideal visual to express content strategy? Comprehensive, engaging, SEO friendly and yes, fun. Most people really do care what things look like, especially when content appears online.
How can we increase visual appeal to explain topics like the theory and practice of content strategy? Do an image search on “content marketing infographic.” Compared to the theorists I considered, the results are definitely more colourful:
Finally, here’s Mary Poppins to sum it up: in every job that must be done there is an element of fun. So find the fun in your topic, align it with your organization’s workflow, governance and content needs. Add your users’ needs and snap, the job’s a game!
Just the facts image: forbes.com