IT Connect
Information technology tools and resources at the UW

IT Connect Content Strategy

Outline

  1. Purpose of IT Connect
  2. Types of content
    1. High level description
    2. Specific examples of types of content
  3. Site organization
    1. Pages, and the parent/child page setup
    2. Information architecture
    3. Entry points
    4. User-centered content organization
  4. Governance
    1. IT Connect management
    2. Service-oriented content
    3. Content ownership summary
    4. Tracking ownership
  5. Content style 
    1. Consistency across site
    2. Style and brand guidelines
    3. Clear, concise, jargon free
    4. Scannable content
    5. Common user interface elements
    6. User-centered content
    7. Page length
  6. Content Lifecycle
    1. Plan
    2. Create
    3. Maintain
      1. Review
      2. Audit and analysis
    4. Retire
  7. Search enhancements and SEO
    1. Tags
    2. Search descriptions
    3. Marking pages as featured
  8. Communication with editors
  9. Documentation

Purpose of IT Connect

IT Connect is the go-to UW Information Technology website for UW students, faculty, and staff when they are looking for information about technology tools and resources at the UW. For that reason, it serves as the central portal for information about technology tools and resources at the UW and content about technology managed by UW-IT should be included in IT Connect. IT Connect and the UW-IT Service Catalog complement each other to give our customers needed information and provide a cohesive customer experience.

Types of Content

IT Connect provides both a broad overview and specific information about technology offered to UW students, faculty and staff for study or work and how to use it.

At a high-level, IT Connect web pages include:

  • Summaries of what technology options are available
  • Overviews and comparison content of technology
  • How to use technology offered by UW-IT (guides, how-to, FAQ)
  • Technology project information
  • Timely information such as news and events

These high-level content varieties can take shape in several ways:

Summaries of what technology options are available
IT Connect summary content generally seeks to provide a broad overview of a general topic or for a specific audience. Examples include:

  • Section page. A summary page of the section content is the top-level page of the six main sections in IT Connect’s information architecture
  • The student, faculty, and staff quickstart guides. These highlight the content of the site by audience, with a focus for people who are newly affiliated with the UW.
  • The Research Computing page.  Topic pages like the Research Computing web page  describe the technology and service options for a specific area. The topics on the page span a wide range and aim to address different users who may have different needs.

Overviews and comparison content
Overviews and comparison content are similar to the summary content described above, but are more specific and focused.  Examples include:

  • The Email and calendaring and Online storage pages. These kinds of web pages describe multiple technology and service options that are specific to a type of use (sending emails and using a calendaring tool, or storing files online), and allow users to see all of their options before they understand which one is the right one for them.
  • Which UW email service should you use. This kind of page compares features of different technology to help a user understand the differences between the technology so the users can choose the right one for them.

How to use technology offered by UW-IT (guides, how-to, FAQ)
Content that describes one specific technology, tool or service; gives detailed instructions on how to use it; and answers commonly asked questions falls under the how-to type of content. Examples include:

  • The Husky OnNet content pages. These pages describe how to use the UW’s VPN network connection tool, guide users in which download they will need for their operating system, and answer commonly asked questions.
  • The Canvas Learning Management System content pages. These pages cover information about Canvas, its features, and include tutorials for how to complete different tasks using the tool

Technology Project Information
IT Connect project information content covers specific initiatives or projects currently underway, recently completed or to be initiated in the future. Examples include:

  • The Email Modernization pages. These pages include information about the project while it was active and gave specific instructructions to users. These kinds of pages are useful in email communications, as the email can link to content on IT Connect so users can find more information.
  • The Telecommunications Upgrade Project page. This kind of project content describes the project, timeline and what will be done during the project.

Timely information such as news and events
Timely information is content that highlights an event, features, news, gives a reminder or an update about a tool or a service. Examples include:

  • You can now search MyPlan by number of credits or instructor. This blog post in the IT Connect News blogroll on the homepage is a news item about a new feature. It should be clear, concise and include a link to the tool. Timely information content on IT Connect should not be archived on the website because it’s important to have a plan to remove old news and old content.
  • Service News, such as the Managed Workstation News. A Service News post on a service web page is a news item about a new feature or an update or a reminder. It should be clear, concise and include a link to the tool. Timely information content on IT Connect should not be  archived on the website because it is important to have a plan to remove old news and old content from the website.Service News content can be removed from the public view but remain in the WordPress archive.

Site organization

IT Connect uses WordPress as a content management system. The majority of information on the site is presented using the WordPress content type “page”. This section of this document will describe how information is organized for the benefit of the end user, how pages are organized in relationship to each other, and how information is organized into category sections that make up the information architecture of IT Connect.

User-centered content organization
Content on IT Connect is organized from the perspective of the site’s users. Each page is located where a user is most likely to look for the content. The site is not structured around the internal organization of the UW-IT unless it also mirrors the way users are likely to interact with the content.

Parent/Child/Sibling page relationships
Pages on IT Connect have a parent/child/sibling relationship structure which defines their relationship to each other and the site’s information structure. Using the parent/child/sibling page setup, subsections of the site with related information are created that allow a user to traverse down the architecture of the site to the specific topic they seek.

On WordPress, a page’s parent page is the page that it is organized underneath. A page’s sibling pages are any pages that share the same parent page. A page’s child page is a page that is organized underneath a page.

Every page on IT Connect must have a parent page, except the top-level pages that make up the foundation of the site’s information architecture. Pages can also have multiple child pages and sibling pages.  View an illustration of this relationship. The nested bullets indicate the hierarchy of the pages and their relationship.

Nested bullets:

  • Top-level page
    • Example page’s parent page
      • Example page
        • Example page’s child page 1
        • Example page’s child page 2
      • Example page’s sibling page

The hierarchy above translates into this schema for the breadcrumbs on a page. Using the breadcrumb, a user can navigate backwards from a child page to a parent page.

Breadcrumbs:

Top Level page > Example page’s parent page > Example page > Example Page’s child page

Information Architecture
IT Connect’s information architecture divides the site into six main pillars: Connect/Communicate, Software/Hardware, Teaching/Learning, Work, Research, and Security. These pillars, called top-level category pages, create the foundation for all of the content on the site.

All content on the site is organized within these pillars, either as a child page to one of the six top-level category pages, or a child page to a page within that section of the site.

Additional top-level pages include Resources, IT Connect News, and the IT Connect homepage. These are used to house content that is about the IT Connect website itself, is news or timely information, or information that doesn’t fit within the 6 core pillars of the information architecture.

Entry points
Many topics on IT Connect are complicated, and are  best presented to users over multiple web pages. In these cases, creating a main entry point page for a topic serves as an introduction and overview. Then child pages are used to expand on the topic. Canvas Learning Management System, as an example, has an entry point page that describes what Canvas is, and what the Canvas section of IT Connect will cover. Then, each sub-topic (e.g., Canvas help for students) is organized as a child page under the Canvas entry point page. In this way, these pages are a collection of linked pages on the site for all information about Canvas.

Governance

IT Connect is a large website, with more than one thousand pages, and more than 100 content editors that manage various pages on the site. Such a broad ownership of content means there is a strong need for content governance.

IT Connect management
The IT Connect webmaster and Communications Team have editorial authority, including content strategy, organization, layout, design, and branding. They may edit information to comply with style and branding guidelines, and determine how content should be organized. See Content style below.

This facilitates a holistic decision making on IT Connect, creating consistency of content styles, layouts, and voice, with a “30,000 foot view” of the site being leveraged to drive an intuitive user experience. A consistent user experience across IT Connect enables users to know how and where to find information, and easily read and understand information that is presented in the same way across the site. Since the IT Connect webmaster is responsible for managing IT Connect as a whole, and is the most familiar with the collective whole of the site, they may edit the aforementioned aspects of the site to provide positive user experience.

Content ownership

  • Pages covering a single service: Content manager is responsible for designating owner of a page. The content manager defaults to the service owner or service manager owns content, although they can delegate this responsibility
  • Pages covering more than one service: IT Connect webmaster owns content, and is responsible for working with relevant service owners or service managers to organize and update pages
  • Pages with non-service content: IT Connect webmaster owns and is responsible for content updates and organization (Student/faculty quick start guide, Help, etc.)

Tracking ownership
Content owners and subject matter experts should be tracked on every page using the Service or Owner and Point(s) of contacts fields that appear on the edit screen of all IT Connect pages. These fields should identify the group that owns the content, as well as the contact that managers it. If these roles change, the fields should be updated.

Service-oriented content
While the IT Connect webmaster and UW-IT Communications team have editorial authority of the site, content is directly managed by its subject matter experts. If content on IT Connect is about a single service, the service owner and service manager are responsible for the content, though actual management of the content can be delegated. For this type of service-oriented content, the service owner/manager is responsible for ensuring:

  • Content is reviewed a minimum of once per year
  • A plan and timeline for content removal for a service that is retiring or no longer offered is created
  • Content is placed on the right platform (i.e., IT Connect, Service Catalog, Wiki, Google, etc.) See this knowledge base article for reference
  • Content review fields are filled out after updating pages.  Required fields include date reviewed, reviewed by, and service offering

Content style

A consistent, unified style, page layout and way of presenting information to users creates a positive user experience for visitors to IT Connect. To achieve this, IT Connect aims to create uniformity of all content by using user-friendly language, robust style and voice guidelines, common user interface (UI) elements to enhance content.

Style and brand guidelines
Three sets of guidelines should be followed when creating content on IT Connect. These three sets of guidelines complement each other, and drive a consistent experience for users on IT Connect, and align IT Connect with other UW-IT websites and UW websites and the UW brand in general.

  • IT Connect’s editorial guidelines for style and formatting are a set of writing style and formatting guidelines specifically for IT Connect, and cover writing style, voice and how to visually present content.
  • UW-IT Writing Style Guide is an expansive guide to writing style for UW-IT publications.
  • UW Brand  is a set of writing, visual asset, typographic and marketing guidelines for UW-created materials, including for websites. This resource includes HTML components and a WordPress theme.  IT Connect’s theme is built on top of the UW’s WordPress theme.

Clear, concise, jargon-free
Users have limited attention span, and user research has documented that users typically spent about 10 seconds on a page. Visitors will quickly determine whether or not a page has the information they are looking for. Guidelines for IT Connect content include:

  • Be concise, use shorter sentences with simple sentence structures
  • Break sections into digestible blocks of content
  • Avoid using too much nitty gritty detail
  • Write with your customers’ needs in mind
  • Avoid jargon, acronyms, and terms that most users would find unfamiliar should be avoided or explained
  • Spell out acronyms on first use, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses

Plain, conversational language, written in an active voice, is easy for users to digest and understand. Active voice conveys clearly who is doing what. Avoid the passive voice except when you must be deliberately vague, such as when describing unpredictable results.

  • Active voice: The committee drafted the preliminary report.
  • Passive voice: The preliminary report was drafted by the committee.

Scannable content
Make it easy for IT Connect users to skim through the content and extract the information they’re looking for.

  • Break up large blocks of text into easily-digested smaller chunks and use a properly-nested heading structure.
  • Headings provide a way for site visitors to quickly see how a page is organized.
  • Headings should be properly nested, with the page title being heading level 1 (H1), subsections being H2, continuing down with H3, H4, H5, etc., to break sections into easily-comprehended sections.
  • Adding high-quality images and other visual elements like bullet points and numbered lists will help make content easier to scan and also break up long paragraphs.

Common user interface elements
The IT Connect’s style and formatting guidelines, UW boundless theme, and UW Brand’s HTML components provide a robust set of user interface elements for presenting content.

  • For example, a page table of contents should be used to give users a better idea of what information is on a page and outline the content of longer pages.
  • The related content, service catalog, and forms link box should be used to link to these related types of information.
  • More common UI elements are listed in the IT Connect documentation. These elements should be used when it makes sense to do so, and custom solutions should be avoided if a common user interface element is available.

User-centered content
Content on IT Connect is focused on what information UW students, faculty, and staff need about technology , and content should be written, organized and presented in a way that these audiences will understand it. When writing content, think about the subject from a user’s perspective. Is any information missing or incomplete?

Page length
If content can be logically presented on one page as opposed to multiple pages, opt for one page. For longer pages, a properly nested heading structure is crucial, and a page table of contents should be at the top of the page. Users can more easily scan and find information on a single page with a table of contents and clear headings than if they have to click around multiple pages to look for information.

Content lifecycle

Content on IT Connect should adhere to the following content lifecycle. Whether content will be online for a month or for years, the following lifecycle will ensure content on IT Connect is relevant, up-to-date and removed when it is no longer useful.

  1. Plan: Decide at a high level what topics will be covered. Create an outline for content. Figure out a logical place for the content in the site’s information architecture, and if there are questions or concerns, consult with the IT Connect webmaster.
  2. Create: Expand the outline into the content for the page. Add formatting and any common user interface elements that would help clearly present the information. If desired, ask for the IT Connect webmaster or UW-IT Communications team to review the content by emailing help@uw.edu with the subject line “Communications help.”
  3. Maintain: All content on IT Connect should have an owner that is responsible for ensuring the content is still accurate, and any updates are implemented in a timely manner.
    1. Review: Content on IT Connect should be reviewed at least once per year, but more frequent reviews help ensure content is accurate. Reviews should be tracked using the Last reviewed and Reviewed by fields on the edit screen of every IT Connect page
    2. Audit and analysis: Content owners should audit and analyze their site content as a whole on a regular basis, such as every couple of years. The goal is to remove unneeded content, fill in any missing information and potentially restructure sections of the site.
  4. Retire: Content that is no longer useful should be removed from IT Connect. It is not always appropriate to remove content immediately, such as when a service is retiring, people may still be looking for that service content. Implement and carry out a plan to remove content from IT Connect after a reasonable amount of time. The timeline for content removal can be defined by the content owner. More than likely, content should be removed from IT Connect within a year of a service ending. Coordinate this sunsetting plan with the IT Connect webmaster if the end of the service also means a service team will be dissolved. The webmaster can remove the content on the team’s behalf.

Search enhancements and SEO

Search enhancements on IT Connect should focus on presenting information clearly, with language that accurately describes the topic, and that users would use to describe the topic.

Search engine optimization has become less about finding clever ways of convincing Google that your site should have a better search ranking, and more about writing good content for users. Search rankings are largely determined by the content itself — if a word appears frequently in content, then that page will show up more prominently in searches for that word. Using the words that users would likely use when searching will also help because the page will be more likely to come up in their search results.

The edit screen for every page on IT Connect has a set of search options that can be configured to fine-tune search rankings on IT Connect, provide custom search results snippets, and the ability to add metadata keywords through tags.

Tags
IT Connect uses tags to help improve search results through IT Connect’s internal search engine as well as help boost its prominence in results discovered by search engines like Google. Tags should be added to all IT Connect pages using keywords that users would use to describe what the page is about.

Tags should only be used to describe the core topics of a page; that is the content relevant to search results for that term. Pages should include a minimum of 1 to 3 tags and a maximum of 12. More tags can help if they are directly relevant to a page’s content. If a page as more than a dozen tags, then it might have too many. The page’s tags should be evaluated to determine if all of them accurately describe the page’s content.

Search descriptions
The search result snippet is the descriptive text that appears in the search results on IT Connect that describes what a page is about. By default, search result snippets are set to display the first few lines of the page. If a page starts with a summary at the top, the default snippet is fine. But if there is no short summary at the top of the page, or if a different descriptive text is desired, custom snippets can be added to a page. Search descriptions may also show up for external search engines as the page description, though this can’t be guaranteed.

Marking pages as featured
IT Connect Featured pages are entry points for users to the website. They are pages that users are most likely to visit to access content on a specific topic. .

For example, both the “Email and Calendaring” summary page and the “Exchange Online” page are most commonly visited first when a user is looking for information about email. However, a page about migrating Deskmail to UW Exchange is far less likely to be the page that a user searching for “email” or “UW Exchange” is looking for, so it should not be a featured page.

Because all three pages use similar keywords regarding email, selecting “featured” helps the search engine determine results to show. That doesn’t mean that a user searching for “Deskmail migration” won’t find the “Migrating Deskmail to UW Exchange” email. The  specificity of the search term used determines how high the page appears in the search results.

Communication with editors

A tenet of IT Connect’s content strategy is regular communication with editors. The IT Connect webmaster and UW-IT Communication team will use content managers meetings, emails, and back-end site notices to communicate with content owners, promote alignment IT Connect’s content strategy and encourage maintenance of content on IT Connect. Likewise, editors are expected to attend content manager meetings, respond to communications about IT Connect if needed, and pay attention to back-end notices.

If questions or concerns come up, it’s important for editors to communicate with the IT Connect webmaster and UW-IT Communication team. Because some IT Connect web pages may have multiple services represented, communication across divisions and units in UW-IT is also important.

Documentation

Content managers have access to documentation that details IT Connect’s content strategy, style and guidelines for how to effectively present content using the site’s common user interface elements. This documentation will help drive adherence to this content strategy.

Last reviewed September 26, 2019