Best of Intentions

I’ve written before about keeping the content experience clean and lean, and after every redesign project I work on, my feelings about it get stronger. (If you’re one of my kids who’s around when I start sighing and throwing my hands up, you might even say I get a little bit heated.)

The truth is, we’re all continuing to create massive amounts of content. That’s not going to change.

But with so much content available, the intent of each piece of content needs to be clear.

What is that content intended to do?

If I can answer that question – and then make the content accomplish it, I feel like I’m part of the solution, as opposed to the problem.

When I’m writing content now – whether it be an educational article, an email, a customer support piece of content, a marketing piece, or even just a button that’s designed to move users to the next page – I’ve started adding a piece of data at the top of my working document.

It’s about intent. Before I start putting anything down, I type a simple:

 “Intent =         .”

And then I make myself answer that equation before I start writing.

Let’s say I’m writing a page about ice storms. (I’m writing this post in February from my house in Connecticut.)

Intent shouldn’t equal “Write about ice storms.”

Depending on the site, audience and targets, the intent could be:

  • Clearly describe how and why ice storms happen (Informational)
  • Give homeowners actionable information that will help them deal with the impact of ice storms on their homes (Educational)
  • Convince consumers to buy this product that can help prevent slips and falls in the event of an ice storm (Marketing)

There’s a hundred other ways to slice intent, but the point is, if I had used “Write about ice storms” as my driving intent, I’d end up with a generic piece of content that people could get anywhere.

Forcing myself to define intent helps me create content that’s targeted not just to the audience (or to the client), but to the desired action. And it helps me avoid creating content “just because.”

Now, I usually take that intent phrase off the document before I hand it in. But when I’m developing my content, I want that intent front and center. I want that intent to drive me. Otherwise, what’s the point? Focused content is content that’s actually meaningful.

If I work from a more targeted intent, I’ll stay on topic, and create a piece of content that’s relevant and on point.

We’re always going to be asked to create more content. Starting with intent can help make that content useful.