Here at Edgar Allan, we put content first from the start of every project. Often, that means beginning by conducting a content discovery workshop. For us, the session is a vital part of getting the entire picture: brand, voice and tone, problems with the current website (if there is one), and more. Here, we’ll dive into what a content discovery workshop is, who should attend, and how we make the most of one of these pivotal info-gathering exercises.
Back in the halcyon days of in-office work, Edgar Allan would conduct content workshops in person. That meant rolling out the whiteboard and giant paper pads, arming everyone at the conference table with a pad of sticky notes, and getting every idea out of our minds and onto the board during what could be a pretty intense afternoon.
Nowadays, we employ pretty much the same methods but have largely adapted them for online collaboration through tools like Mural and FigJam. And instead of devoting an entire half-day to the process, we do it over two- to three-hour Zoom sessions. In the workshop, we establish a baseline of understanding the content needs of the project, getting at everything from more esoteric brand thinking to more functional things like main site themes and SEO requirements.
The two are very similar, and we often touch on a lot of the same information, but a content discovery workshop is more focused on content and how it will be presented than strategic brand building. Said another way: this is less brand touchy-feely (though we do explore those things in a limited way), and about what ideas should actually be represented on the website, what’s missing from the current site, and what we need to do to get us to a finished experience that audiences will find useful.
On the client side, we find that four is usually the perfect number of stakeholders, with no less than two or three and no more than six. Any more and it can get chaotic (and the strong personalities will likely dominate the room anyway). Anyone who is a major decision maker in the project should attend, along with anyone else who knows the audience and product — everyone from C-level executives to product and marketing managers.
On the agency side, there should be at least one person who will lead the session, as well as a ride-along note-taker. Other people who are often useful to include are UX designers and content designers, as the information that’s covered in the workshop will give great insight into how the site should be structured and the kinds of problems that its users will be trying to solve.
We guide our client guests through a series of exercises chosen specifically for the project. (Our lead strategist keeps a library of them at the ready.) Most of the time though, content discovery covers a few main themes: brand vibe, audience, and site goals. One thing to remember: The workshop is not about solving problems, it’s about uncovering them. We aren’t trying to answer questions, we’re trying to discover the right pieces of information, ensuring that we have as much of the picture of a potential site experience as we can before we move into UX and content design. With this baseline of understanding established, we’ll then be able to tackle more structural, tactical things like site mapping, outlining, and wireframing with audience frustrations and goals in focus, which makes sure that we’re putting their needs first.
Check out Kendra Rainey, Edgar Allan’s VP of Strategy & Content (and our very own content discovery workshop leader), discussing why the sessions are so important to our process.
Interested in conducting a content discovery workshop of your own? Read our tips on how to conduct one that won’t make you sad. And if you’re looking for ideas of the kinds of exercises that you could include in your next one, we’ve outlined three of our favorites.
For more information on our content philosophy, UX, Webflow, and more, check out our blog.