The first conflict you’re likely to run into when creating any piece of content will be a misalignment between what your user wants to know, and what you want to tell them. If you’ve started off well, you’ll have considered who your audience is, thinking about their abilities, their focus and their purpose in using your content.
The user need
The overall purpose of a visitor to your site may break down into several different user needs that form a user journey. For example, your user’s purpose may be to sign up for a course that you offer which runs over 12 weeks. They will want to know first what the course covers and if it’s at the right level for them. Then they will look at how much it costs and how they can pay for it. Then they may have other questions and want to phone your helpline, or perhaps they’re happy with the information provided and want to sign up right away. Each of those four steps is a different user need, and you will most likely want to cover each one with a different piece of content, and have clear links from one to the next.
The business goal
On the other hand you also need to think about your business goals for your website content – encouraging people to buy a new product or service, moving more of your customer transactions online, encouraging people to subscribe to your newsletter or pay for premium services. Sometimes these business goals don’t line up well with the user needs that you’ve identified through research or from your existing content. So what do you do?
The common ground
To address this discrepancy, we need to take a step back from both viewpoints and find the common ground. Lets take, for an example, a government organisation whose general inquiries line gets a lot of unsolicited sales calls from potential suppliers. All of their suppliers have to go through a tendering process so there’s no real value to the organisation in taking or the suppliers in making these unsolicited calls. So, what do the organisation and the suppliers both want? The organisation wants to funnel suppliers into the tendering process, as it’s the only way to be considered, and the suppliers want to be considered, so they need to find out about the tendering process.
The solution now seems obvious – a short piece for suppliers about the tendering process and how to submit, which is signposted clearly from the contact page which holds the organisation’s phone number. Should any suppliers find the contact number without seeing the tendering information, staff answering the phone can then direct them straight to the page about the process, instead of having to explain it multiple times, or pass inquiries on to other staff.
If you don’t address the user need, your content will be poorly received. And if you don’t address your business goals then creating content gives little return on investment. Finding the common ground between a user need and a business goal is not always straightforward – sometimes it takes a little digging and some creative thinking. But the value of doing so is unquestionable.
What do you find are the most common conflicts between users needs and business goals for the content that you write? Does one side ever win out over the other, or are you able to find common ground?