Aztek is always looking for new ways to improve our process and make content creation easier. Recently our team started using the Core Model Workshop. This workshop is designed to help narrow down what kind of content needs to go on the most important pages (core pages) of the website.

Originally presented at IA Summit 2007 by information architect Are Halland. The idea is to make sure we are thinking about user needs and goals when building a website. Sound like something you need? Here's the process our team has started to use:

What it is:

A half day workshop to align users needs with an organization's business goals. The workshop focuses on thinking about how a user gets to a page, what to communicate to them while they are there, and what we want them to do next.

Why it Matters:

It drives home the idea of putting content first when designing a website. It also helps to keep both the client and agency teams aligned when it comes to what needs to appear on a specific page.

Often times the homepage is seen as the most important page on the site. The Core Model helps to remind people that there are many important pages throughout the site. In some cases, users may never actually make it to the homepage if they find what they are looking for on another page via Google.

Content can feel forgotten in favor of "pretty" design. But in actuality content is the most important part of a website. If users can't find what they are looking for, it doesn't matter how nice the site looks.

When do we do it?

At Aztek, we do this workshop once we have done discovery work, such as a competitive analysis, and also put together the new sitemap. This way, we have a good understanding of what core pages of content we will need. This gives us a good base to start from when thinking about what pages we want to use in the workshop.

We do this before the design phase because what we decide needs to go on a page during the workshop may impact how the pages are designed.

During the workshop, we:

  • Identify Core Pages for the new website - We use the new sitemap to determine which pages are most in need of important content.
  • Identify Relevant Objectives/Business Goals - In order to make sure the content we are putting on the pages is effective, it is important to understand the organization's business goals.
  • Identify the Most Important User Task - It's important to understand what users need when they come to a site. Identifying their most pressing tasks will help to determine what content needs to go on the page.
  • Identify Inward Path - How will a user find a specific page? What leads them there?
  • Identify Forward Paths - What do we want a user to do next? Where do we want to take them?
  • Identify Core Content - What actual content points need to be on the page? This is where all of the ideas come together. From business goals to user needs we want to make sure the content on the page conveys the important information.

How we do it:

  • 3-4 hour workshop
  • 1-3 participants from our team (e.g., designers, UX, content, developers, and so forth)
  • 6-8 stakeholders from relevant fields or departments in the organization
  • Printed worksheets

Sheet from Tazen

We work on one section at a time. After everyone fills out one section we come together as a group and discuss what points everyone finds important, then we move on to the next section of the sheet. This allows for some good discussion about what needs to be included.

Challenges & Recommendations:

As with any process, there is always room to improve, we have been using this workshop for a few months now and overall we really like it. We do see some challenges, however, one of which being that the worksheets can sometimes feel repetitive when it comes to the inward and outward paths.

Often when we are filling those portions of the sheets out, it's the same information each time. To get around taking up time to rewrite the same thing over again, we leave those areas blank and work from the sheets we have already completed with that information.

It can also sometimes be hard to hold everyone's attention. Often people will start moving on to another section before we have had time to discuss the current section. Sometimes this leads to good discussion, other times, though, it gets us off track and cuts into our timing. One solution we have thought of for this issue is potentially using post-it notes for each section of the sheet. Instead of giving everyone a printout, we work together on a whiteboard and have each person bring up their post-its for that section.

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We are still adapting and learning about this process as we go, but we have seen great results with the clients we have used it with so far. It allows us to get through the content process quicker, and focus on what content is really important for the new website. Need content help? Contact Aztek to learn more about our content services.

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