The recipe for great digital content

content wordcloud1We all know that great digital strategies don’t begin and end with developing a website. But all too often content creation can feel like a burden rather than an opportunity.

A recent event at Reading Room offered a chance to hear some inspiring stories about using content, whether that’s video, photography, copy, infographics, games or audio. In each case the organisation faced different challenges and had found that a new approach to content had helped them overcome these.

Real-life problems

Whatever your business, you need content. It doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t need to break the bank. But it does need to be meaningful, interesting, useful and effective.

  • Kingspan are a global leader in self-build housing and construction. With over 175 websites they needed a content approach which was consistent, made sense to their customers but reflected the local markets they operate in.
  • Catalyst Housing are in the middle of a business-wide digital transformation. Part of this was looking at how to empower staff to use social content to better serve their customers. Moving from “Oh, no, they’re talking to us” to “hi, how can we help”!
  • The National Archives wanted to find a way to celebrate the Magna Carta and engage children with this part of history. The resultant award-winning resource used video and game elements to bring the archive materials to life.

So what is the recipe for making the most of digital content?

  • Start with a strategy – The basic ingredients need to be agreed from the start and you need to know what you want to achieve. Otherwise you’ll end up with an omelette when you really wanted a soufflé. What is your brand story … and how can digital content help you amplify that message and reach your audience or customers?
  • Understand your equipment – Work within your limits and don’t be overly ambitious, but equally don’t be afraid to be inspired. It would be tricky to cater for a dinner party of 20 with just a microwave, but not impossible. In the same way, what’s important is to choose the right kind of content and the right channel, to suit both you and your audience.
  • A large spoonful of art direction – There’s no substitute for someone who knows what makes the difference between a good image and a great image.
  • Taste, taste, taste – Great chefs taste as they go along. They tweak the flavours and can adjust to their customers’ palates. In the same way, content should be tailored. If you’re commissioning content then you need to work with someone who understands the nuances of your business.
  • Share and enjoy – Great-looking food gets shared, whether that’s at the table or on Instagram! Great content gets shared too. If it tells a story, if it evokes an emotion, if it persuades or inspires … your content is a metaphor for the attitude and ideals of your brand.

And finally … to improve, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all use cookbooks and recipes. Why wouldn’t you get an expert to help you develop your digital content?

Wherever you are in your digital journey, Reading Room can help you. From creating your strategy to producing memorable content; get a taste of how digital content can make you stand out from the crowd.

We’ve recently put our digital content expertise to work for the likes of First Mile recycling, the National Archives and SKODA. Get in touch with our Creative Director, Pete Gomori, to set up an initial consultation.

Reading Room is an award-winning digital consultancy with an international reputation for strategic consultancy, design, and technical delivery. They joined the IDOX Group in 2015.

What is “the right approach” to public service website design?

socitim finger pointSocitm have recently reported on their 17th survey of local authority websites, Better Connected 2015, and the picture still isn’t great. Although rising expectations are said to be driving improvement, there are still significant gaps in performance. The key highlights from the report illustrate this:

  •    Slow and intermittent progress in improving their websites in the past year.
  •    Advances in accessibility – 43% providing satisfactory features for the disabled.
  •    Increases in number of responsive sites – increasing to nearly 50% (easy reading and navigation).
  •    8% now reach the 4 star ranking.
  •    Public satisfaction fell by 30%.
  •    The gap has narrowed by over 9%, between satisfied and dissatisfied.
  •    Slow progress in mobile performance experience – only 1/3 passing the assessment, especially customer journeys for top tasks.
  •    Only 37% of councils passed the top tasks standard, a slight improvement on last year.
  •    Nearly 50% of new sites launched didn’t improve the 1 or 2 star ranking.

Martin Greenwood (Socitm’s Insight Programme Manager) said shortcomings are due to councils having limited resources and not taking the right approach to designing websites. He highlights key barriers to improvements:

  •    Lack of resources and skills.
  •    The need to simplify.
  •    Focus on mobile, getting this right helps with the website as a whole.
  •    Addressing what makes the website poor, such as standards, digital governance, and management of content, before making the same mistakes.
  •    Not having strong editorial control, to ensure consistency.
  •    Not having a national structure for budgets, third party software and information sharing.

So what is the right approach? Information on how individual councils perform is available in the full report, but 34 councils achieve the maximum 4 star. In the past year, there has been a significant increase in the number of councils that have implemented a responsive site, up from 107 (26%) to 198 (49%). Many of the issues highlighted are the same for all websites, and ownership, clarity of purpose, clear user journeys are key to all websites. So how can all websites be improved?

  •    Have clear editorial processes and accountability.
  •    Really focus on the customer journey and remove any distraction.
  •    Make the information architecture clear and consistent, prioritise top tasks.
  •    Design for mobile devices first.
  •    Keep content relevant.
  •    Make sure all forms have context, such as the process or service which can be expected.

and specifically for local authorities Socitm highlights:

Should local authority websites be a priority in today’s efficiency saving climate? Ipsos Mori shows that 85% of the adult population now use the internet, while Ofcom found that half of internet users use government websites, including local authority ones, and this is growing rapidly. With 45.3m visits each month to council websites already, this will continue to grow, but will sites be resilient enough to cope? 30% of visits end in failure, even the best performing sites have 15% failures, and most failures lead to other modes of contact, such as calls to already busy call centres. DCLG found that 65% of local authorities said they had made savings as a result of implementing digital services, with an average saving of £1.4m, and also the added value of greater efficiency and transparency. The digital trends which are emerging across the public sector are driven by technological solutions to create efficiencies, as well as a better use experience, for a more digitally aware customer. Part of the solution to this efficiency is strategic use of content, simplified and used across the whole organisation. Technology will be used more and more in service delivery, better use of call centre information and feedback, and improved searching functions for information. The results of Better Connected, although promising, have some way to go. Although failure to meet, what are essentially customer service standards, may not be having a direct monetary impact currently, it will in the future if local authorities do not keep pace with the principles of user-centred design. Idox agrees with the report’s findings, especially that user-centred design is key to online services. As a company we are taking this forward within our business strategy. We have found that there is a an eagerness to develop and improve web experience, but with constraints on financial budgets, public sector clients are prioritising the improvements which are absolutely necessary. The Idox Information Service can give you access to a wealth of further information on digital service delivery, to find out more on how to become a member, contact us. An example of other resources we can offer to meet the challenge facing the public sector: Better Connected 2015 (Press Release) Local Digital Today Digital Trends in the public sector Digitally positive: an essay collection Technology Manifesto Internet Citizens 2013: use of citizen-related online content and services