Questions to Ask Your Website Users

Questions to Ask Your Web UsersWhen we talk about “users” of a website, we’re often talking about our target audiences. But users of our website also include members of leadership, the web team and the subject matter experts who contribute to the content. Of course, the list goes on. So there exist many groups who would like to get something out of the website to make it successful.

As a content developer, your goal is to hit all the right notes, especially during a redesign. On launch, when the campaigns are flying and social is buzzing, you want all of the website users to find something valuable. Chances are, you’ll succeed in some cases. In others, you’ll have to remain agile and iterate. The key is asking the right questions of all users – then LISTENING. (Don’t forget to take copious notes.)

Let’s take a hospital website, for example. You’ve established a set of personas based on your market segments. You’re personalizing experiences based on those personas. So what do you ask these user groups? In the case of a health seeker (or maybe worried well), you want to focus on behaviors. Get to know your user group. How do they see themselves as healthy individuals? What types of activities do they engage in? When it comes to healthcare, how do they view their hospital? – As a partner in health or as a place where you go when you’re sick? What are they searching for on their mobile phone at 8pm? How comfortable are they with technology? Do they use Amazon? AirBNB? Or do they still pay their bills through snail mail? The stories they tell you and the information you gather will inform your content development choices. Get in there early, when the designers are asking questions.

Now let’s take your subject matter experts. Following the same hospital thread, your SMEs might be clinicians. In addition to the facts (because you always want your content to be accurate), ask these guys why they got into the business in the first place. Start with who they are and what motivates them, as their answers will inform the rest of your conversation. Approaching your discussion this way will also put you on a level playing field. Doctors like data, and in some cases (like provider profiles), you may have the opportunity to showcase their data. But they also know their patients. They sit in a small room with them every day in some of the most intimate moments. Ask things like, what’s the toughest case you’ve ever had? Tell me about a great moment you had with a patient. You can also cover the state-of-the-art technology for the sexy factor, but capturing the heart of the actual “users” of your website will help you connect with them through content. And believe me, if clinicians don’t like what’s published on the website, the entire organization will hear about it.

Finally, we get to the users of your website – your web team. Now this is important, because the web team is part of the web governance board. It’s also made up of the guys in the trenches, so if the content system that is too difficult to use, they won’t get what they need out of it. Remember the word intuitive – Facebook understands that and so does Apple. Oftentimes web teams are asked technical questions like, what do you want users to do transactionally on your site? But that’s putting the cart before the horse. Start by sharing the results of your conversations with your user groups and your SMEs. Doing so will help guide your opening question: What stories would you like to tell on the website? You can work backwards from there. If one of your user groups wants more information on a series of “Food as Medicine” seminars, for example, the web team may answer that they can support that request through calls to action, credibility information on the clinicians or nutritionists who are presenting the seminars, informative follow-up content disseminated through newsletters, and more. This information will tell you if the web team has the integrated web technology to serve the need. It also helps you explore their knowledge level and help them problem solve.

When it comes down to it, the relationship is in the conversations. Getting to know all of the website users will help you create the best experience for them. Again, iterate, because you’re not going to nail it for everyone, every time. Building a content development roadmap is another subject for another day, but get your calendar out and start planning one group at a time.

Content Strategy: How Form Follows Function

Form follows function, even in content.Oftentimes, clients come to us asking us to write website content, or even a series of campaign landing pages. From a tactical perspective, we might be providing support as part of a larger team, where the project strategy has already been carefully mapped out. There are those times, however, when “can you write some website content for us” means, we’re throwing a bunch of mud at the wall to see what sticks.

Generally, when we start a relationship with a new client, we like to talk about context first. Of course, we can simply interview a subject matter expert, then write a section of web content – but if we’re not measuring that effort against your business goals, then we’re just in it for the money.

Before you embark on a content project with us, we’ll likely ask you:

  • What business goals does this content support?
  • Who are we trying to target with this content?
  • What do you want your target audience(s) to do as a result of engaging with this content?
  • How does this particular audience consume content? And when?
  • What are our success measures for the content?

It might be that a section of web content won’t even reach the audience you’re trying to connect with. Then what?

Form follows function. It’s an age-old saying. But it’s true, even with content. First decide why you’re writing the content in the first place, then decide what form it should take. A section of web content? A comprehensive campaign series, complete with omni-channel engagement? Or something more.

The Five Big Qs: Why You Need a Project Strategist on Your Content Project

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Content writers and editors are often brought onto projects to simply produce content. As writers, we are sometimes led to believe the project and content strategy have already been determined. Believe it or not, that’s not always the case. When we start digging into the project, our questions tend to surface process gaps that were not addressed early on. That’s when an experienced project strategist comes in handy. A project strategist should be at your side even before kick-off to ensure all bases are covered from a digital perspective – not just content.

The role of a project strategist is to focus on Five Big Qs:

  1. Does your project plan align with your business goals? Answering this requires an in-depth understanding of your business and the environment in which it operates. A project strategist will get to know the ins and outs of your business fairly quickly. The number one question a strategist will ask is, “why?”
  2. Do you have the right tools in place for efficiency and scale? Projects tends to take longer than planned. With the right tools, a smart project strategist will help you stay on track, on budget and within scope. And she will help you scale for the long term. Basic tools like content management software keep all communications and processes documented in one place.
  3. Have we missed any steps? As project strategists, we always take the time to map out every step, including roles and responsibilities on both team’s side, and on the client side. During project kick-off, we use this roadmap as our agenda to identify any steps we might be missing along the way. We also review the timeline to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  4. Do we have the best (and most efficient) team on the job? What goes on behind the scenes is just as important as what’s communicated to the client. Each and every team member plays a vital role to the success (or failure) of any project. An experienced project strategist will evaluate all team members to ensure the project is staffed appropriately. If risks arise, it’s the project strategist’s responsibility to shift gears quickly if needed.
  5. How often should we communicate? Weekly if a project is underway, even if it’s just a 15-minute touch base. Doing so keeps everyone accountable, including us.

As your primary point of contact, a project strategist will become one of your most valuable partners. We know our: clients, partners, tools, workflows, processes, capabilities. Make sure your project strategist has the right relationships and the ability to pull all of it together quickly and efficiently for you.