Content Strategy at Therefore by Sean Rioux

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  • Content Strategy: A developers perspective

    at Therefore Interactive

  • Sean RiouxTeam Lead and front end developer at Therefore


  • Therefore Interactive is a digital agency that specializes in building superior enterprise communication systems through

    open source web technologies.

  • What is Drupal?

    Drupal is an open source CMS used by governments, businesses and nonprofits all over the world.

    Different from Wordpress Drupal allows for Site Builders to use the Drupal admin UI to control almost all facets of site configuration without writing any code

    Drupal allows us to apply content strategy and information architecture methodologies in a highly practical way.

  • Content Strategy at Therefore

    A new project generally begins with a specification document outlining in broad strokes what the client is looking for.

    Lets go through some of the planning and strategy we as developers and designers at Therefore use to go from specification to development.

  • From specifications to user behaviour

    Where possible the specification document is outlined to define the business needs and behaviours that define the goals of the project.

    We do so using a standard BDD (Behaviour driven development) Story/Scenario format

  • Story: Site visitor browsers events

    In order to browse current events As a site visitorI want a calendar which allows me to current events

    Scenario: A visitor lands on the event page Given a site visitor is looking for current events When he visits the event page Then he see events which are in the current month And events which are less than a week away

  • Roles and Personas It is at this point that we may also begin to refine and

    establish personas and the fundamental user hierarchy of a site (membership or editorial).

    Personas allow us to validate the various roles we are creating in a system.

    In Drupal understanding our roles early on will allow us to understand what content management functions should be exposed to each user type, and correlate our user stories directly to agents in the Content Management System.

  • Robert: The CEO with a startup planPersonaRobert is the CEO of a successful franchise based publishing platform called LocalLife. LocalLife prints locally based monthly newsletters which are funded by local advertisement. The content is focused around local events and classifieds, and the franchises do the leg work of sourcing the material. While Robert is highly successful, the web business is not something he has experience with - but he's excited, and he's looking to take risks. Robert is 52 and mostly prefers to work from his cottage in Muskoka when he can. In his downtime he enjoys golf with his old college pals and boating with his family.

    GoalsRobert wants to expand his business online. Robert sees an opportunity for premium hyper-local advertisements on the web and is looking to find ways to target users with ads based on neighbourhood. He also wants to build a social network where users can generate and contribute content themselves (cutting out the franchise model completely). Robert has advertisers already looking to buy in, and so he's eager to move quick to capitalize on these opportunities. Robert is also looking for ways that automation and web infrastructure can minimize overhead. Robert is also excited to be able to oversee things more remotely and spend more time up at his cottage.

    ScenariosIn order to chose a partner in building my big idea As a CEO I need a digital agency that respects my vision, money and time

  • User feedback and Industry Research

    Once we have created stories which fully outline the initial spec, we may seek to validate our assertions with user feedback.

    Here we might also do some sectoral research to determine how similar organizations model their content and what information types in are common to their sector (common content types, taxonomy, etc)

  • Content Auditing As a best practice we seek to import existing

    content as early as possible.

    Often existing content or data is opinionated, and is coming from an existing database with its own schema or structure.

    Scrapers may be used to crawl an existing site for auditing via a spreadsheet or for better technical interface using an API (for this we might use a tool like

  • Entity Diagramming Here we outline any new content

    types we will need to create to build the site.

    We also begin to map out if there are any relationships between different content and how those should be managed.

    Once our content and data structure is understood using entity relationship diagramming we can then begin outlining how we will build these content types. Often at this point a spreadsheet is created with all content types, and their related fields.

  • Merlin At Therefore we have

    created a Drupal contrib module called Merlin which allows us to to scaffold all of our content types and fields by type simply by importing a spreadsheet

    into Drupal.


  • Modelling user flow Referring back to our user Stories we begin to outline how users

    will engage content.

    Here we would establish our sitemap and clarify where the various types of views, templates and content detail items will exist.

  • Where possible, it is at this point that we may also refer back to our roles and personas to try and model the overarching structure of a site to best match the expectations of real users.

    In cases where budget allows we may even establish automated point and click testing following our Stories and Scenarios (to minimize regressions and to confirm Stories are complete).

  • Design and prototyping Here we will outline and

    begin and mocking up the various UI components (lists, displays, landing pages) which are important to our personas and roles.

    We establish our core navigation patterns and lean on established best practices to model our Information Architecture for best usability and accessibility.

  • Once we have established the templates, views and components which define the user experience of the website (how users retrieve information/content) we can begin the process of design and prototyping.

    Therefore often uses a Mobile first approach allowing us to establish simple linear hierarchies to how of content laid out on a page.

    we may also begin to prototype certain components to determine early through User Acceptance testing if our assertions about content hierarchy and navigation patterns are viable or if they need to be iterated on.

  • Development: documentation continued

    Once core development has begun, it is critical for us to loop back over what we have done to ensure our content strategy and information architecture documentation stays in step with what we are building.

    User Acceptance Testing allows us to pass features as they are development back to the client (and where possible the actual users of the site)

    As changes are requested to the content/data model and its front end implementation content strategy and information architecture documentation is preferably maintained.

  • Thanks!For welcoming Alex and I as your new co-organizers.

    Please reach me for questions or feedback at