Cornfed Content

by Andy Welfle

Content strategy in the heartland of America.

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Planning Contextual Content for Users | GatherContent Blog

I wrote a piece for GatherContent’s blog recently about creating contextual pages that aggregate and present content related to user types, topics, or geographic location.

One of the (many) tasks of a good content strategist during the early phases of a web development project is to understand who will be using the product, be it a website or app. You can (and should!) do that in several different ways — user stories, proxy charting, stakeholder interviews, et cetera.

After we completed our content model and decided which types of content channels would exist on this site, we started planning out the layout of a series of contextual pages — a secondary framework of content not organized by type of content (a blog, a photo gallery, a product listing, et cetera), but rather by topics relevant to particular users.

It’s a bit dry if this doesn’t directly apply to you, but if it does, I...

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What I learned at the 2014 Midwest UX Conference

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A few weeks ago, I was honored to be able to attend a content strategy workshop at Midwest UX, a weekend-long conference about content strategy, UX design and simple, usable web standards. It travels from city to city, but this year, it was in Indianapolis.

When I first read about it, I couldn’t believe my eyes! A content strategy workshop in Indiana? ALL DAY? I knew I had to attend.

(As literally the only content strategist in Fort Wayne, I get really excited when I see things like this close to where I am.)

I’m so glad I attended. I learned so many things. Scott Kubie and Michael Metts ran the workshop; Scott is a freelance, consulting content strategist and Michael does it at Wolfram, and both were so friendly, clever, and knowledgeable about their field.

It’s impossible to summarize all six or seven hours of the workshop within this blog post, but I’m excited to share a few...

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Beer Notes: a cool example of structured content in analog form

I’m a member of the Field Nuts Facebook group, which is a bunch of people who, like me, love the Field Notes notebooks produced by Coudal Partners. Every day, there’s some kind of discussion happening: someone’s great find, members wanting to buy or trade their notebooks, and novel uses someone’s found for a Field Notes book.

A recent example of the latter is really, really cool. A member posted a photo of a rubber stamp he made to stamp into a Field Notes book. It has a short guide and empty spaces to fill out when beer aficionados are trying a new brew for the first time. Check it out:

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Isn’t that cool? Right away, members started suggested other stamps he could make — wine tasting notes, coffee tasting notes, cigar notes, baseball stats, and more.

It never occurred to me until right then — this is essentially a content strategy concept, and precisely what I’m doing with many of...

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→ Improving data tables by simplifying

I saw this on Reddit earlier today. Sage advice from Dark Horse Analytics:

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While that usually falls under the jurisdiction of the designer, I get to have some say in the UX of data tables since, after all, it’s content.

At the link, this really stood out:

To paraphrase Edward Tufte, too often when we create a data table, we imprison our data behind a wall of grid lines. Instead we can let the data itself form the structure that aids readability by making better use of alignment and whitespace.

That blog post accompanies an earlier post about graphs, Data looks better naked.

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You’re gonna have a bad time.

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Made this today during a discussion about clients using clipart as banner artwork in a fancy new website we created. I thought this might be a good place to share it, too.

(By the way, if you use an iOS device and have any interest at all in generating those little “meme” images, you should definitely download Meme Generator, a free app by Imgur. It’s so, so fast and easy to use.)

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→ Pinning Down Content Strategy Terms

Here’s an interesting (well, if you’re into that sort of thing, like I am) interview with Scott Abel (of The Content Wrangler) and Rahel Bailie of Intentional Design, Inc.), the writers of a new industry book, “The Language of Content Strategy”. It was an interesting evolution to the book; because they started with flashcards:

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Rahel explains (sorry for the giant block quote):

Scott and I conduct 1-day “Content Strategy in a Day” workshops and we talk to participants about different deliverables. I recalled that UX practitioners use practice cards to help them learn things such as UX methods, and I thought a similar idea might work for content strategy to remind participants about deliverables they create.

So, we handed out a 12-card deck with definitions at a conference presentation. Later, we expanded the deck to 24 cards to account for terms related to global content strategy....

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→Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy

To illustrate a point made in my introduction post, Matthew Capala from Search Decoder has a short, sweet slide deck.

The graphics are a bit, well, PowerPointy, but I really dig the analogy:

Content Marketing is the creation and sharing of content to attract and engage defined audience. It is like baking a cake for a party.

Content Strategy is the planning and creation of scalable and repeatable content with a built-in audience that is shareworthy and linkworthy. It is like running a bakery.

Click the headline above to check out the full deck on SlideShare.

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From Blobs to Chunks: A Real Life Example of How to Structure Content

This is a repost from something I wrote in May 2013 for the GatherContent blog, one of the best, accessible content strategy resources out there. Those guys are great, and I use their product every day.

I’ve spent a large percentage of this week obsessing over Karen McGrane’s column on A List Apart. In the article she talks about the conflict between content creators and web designers, and the contrasting understandings they have of the formatting and presentation of content.

This tension can be similarly placed in between the author and the developer — it’s about a divide in the production and the delivery of content.

As someone who attempts to explain this division every day to clients who don’t understand why they “just can’t make this font different and tweak the color a little bit”; this really resonated with me.

This is also why I am a huge advocate of Markdown. When I compose...

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Cornfed Content

I work at a small web development agency in Fort Wayne, Indiana — a mid-sized town in a mid-sized state in the midwest. I’m a content strategist, which can mean a few different things (as this blog will detail).

My particular flavor of content strategy has notes of website development planning, CMS architecture, and client coaching for content development. And as far as I can tell, I’m the first one of my kind to be hired ‘round these parts.

I’m not sure when it was I’ve stopped explaining what it is I do at work.

It was either the eighth or ninth time someone says, “oh, so you’re a writer?”

Finally, I just started responding, “Yep. Writing and editing. Putting together the stuff that goes on our client’s website.”

So what is content strategy?

Back in 2008, Kristina Halvorson wrote an article on A List Apart, “The Discipline of Content Strategy”. It laid the groundwork for what would...

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