Brian Feeney

Designer & Front-End Developer

More about me

Resident of Brooklyn, NY. Senior Product Designer at the Wall Street Journal.


Case Studies




Site Links

August 02, 2012

Content Strategy for the Non Content Strategist

I am not a content strategist. I am a freelance designer who also develops all of my own work. All aspects of each project fall on me; I have 100% of the responsibility. This means I also have to handle the content strategy. But I am not a content strategist. Or am I?

Web design has grown into a big business, and as it has grown it has splintered into a half-dozen hazily-defined fields: User Experience, User Interface, Information Architecture, Front-End / Back-End Development, and Content Strategy. (These, in addition to non-design jobs like SEO Specialists, Marketers, and Copywriters.) When designing a site for a large enterprise, it's likely there will be a budget for hiring dedicated staff for each role, a full team of people. When designing for small businesses (small-scope), the budget may only allow for one -- just a single person. That's a lot of responsibility for one person.

I've been freelancing for a year now, and if there's one thing I know I did correctly at the beginning, it was accepting this fact. Being both designer and developer meant I needed to think deeply about everything when starting a new project. If I ignored my duties as a UX designer, users might leave client's sites with bad impressions. If I didn't prepare for the IA, users might get lost and frustrated. If I didn't consider the CS, the client might not know how to use their own site, or the importance of copy clarity over flashy style.

I didn't expect this, but I've come to regard content strategy as the most important aspect of my job. It snuck up on me. Once I started considering content first, making it the priority, it shaped how I did everything else. Organization and aesthetics and typographic treatment and CMS customization, all these things suddenly seemed much much easier. Any time I felt I was against a wall with the design I would take a step back, reflect on my content strategy, and that wall would disappear. There is something about the panoramic view I get from Mount CS that clarifies all the mystery of Web design.

For all the great resources out there for content strategy, the numerous blogs and magazines, I can't recall anyone explaining how freelancers like me should approach content strategy. I think there's a distinction between what a Content Strategist does, and what a Design/Developer does when doing content strategy. The specifics of that distinction might be better defined by someone more experienced than me, but I'm sure they're there. I'm thinking there is a market for educating small-scope designers how they might properly include content strategy into their workflow. I would like to read it. Maybe I'll write it.