February 9, 2017

Edmonton Content Strategy Meetup at Top Draw

Top Draw hosted the Edmonton Content Strategy Meetup on January 18th. There was great conversations, yummy sandwiches and cake! Jacob vanMunster, Top Draw Web Designer, and I had a blast speaking about the special relationship between content strategists and designers.
We shared our process and how we work together to create exceptional user experiences. Here are some topics attendees were most interested in:

Democratizing Content and Design

Democratizing content means taking a collaborative approach, which lies at the heart of creating great user experiences. It is an important part of our creative process. Jacob and I don’t agree for the sake of agreeing or sit there silently nodding our heads when we meet with the team. We believe in productive tension, even though we might disagree – to make the project better, we’re still friends at the end of the day.

Requirements Gathering

Top Draw typically holds workshops to discuss client needs in depth to determine how we can assist them in reaching their business goals. This is a crucial part of our process that helps us uncover the purpose of the website before we begin strategizing. We both need to know what the user is supposed to do or take away after visiting the site.


We create personas (fictional characters that represent the goals and behavior of a hypothetical group of users) to help us align our overall vision of the website with user needs. We’ll typically create 3 – 5 personas that help us make sure we’re writing and designing for the intended users. These are direct outputs that we use to inform the website, from sitemaps to wireframes.

Information Architecture (the love child between designers and content strategists)

Content strategists and designers often work together to determine the structure of the website and begin envisioning what the final website will look like. The information architecture and sitemap are visual representations of the hierarchical of information that will be reflected on the website.


Depending on our timeline, we typically perform card sorts and conduct interviews with existing consumers to get a real sense of who our client’s users are.
After we create a sitemap, we validate it with real users. We typically perform a card sort method such as tree testing (a task based questionnaire). By keeping the tone conversational to help make the task less ‘click the thing’ and more ‘find the right thing’. A good task is clear, specific, and representative of the tasks that actual users will do on the real site.

Content Models

The purpose of content models is defining the structure of the website content. They are the bridge between designers, developers, and content strategists.
It can help determine:

  • content types
  • purpose of content
  • sizes and shapes of content
  • approximate word limits
  • voice and tone recommendations
  • who is going to write the content

Content models are like lego blocks that provide the specs for designers and developers to create the website. They can also help clients start thinking about the content they want to have on their site.

Design Augments Content Visually

Real life content is different than what is originally conceptualized – that’s why collaboration is important.
Content is more than the box that you put content in – it is more important than the font that displays it. Designers need to know what the content is, or at the very least how the real life content is going to work with the graphic elements they are going to create.
We think of content and design as two parts of strategy. It is difficult to have an effective content strategy without good design. A web designer creates a place where content can be shared effectively. Without good web design, content is unlikely to get noticed, regardless of how valuable or interesting the content is.

A Passion for the Project

When Jacob and I look for different ways of doing things, it helps us stay creatively connected to the project. If we don’t like what we’re writing or designing, it will show in our work and if we don’t care about it – we know our audience isn’t going to feel good about it either.
Want to learn more about how our strategists and designers work together? Let us know, we love chatting about strategy and design!

Know What’s Next
from Top Draw