Context in Content Strategy: Situational-Behavioral Context is the fourth in a series of five blog posts discussing the need to account for context in the practice of content strategy. Did you miss the first three?


When we fuse user behaviors with a situation for content we have the basis for contextual content strategy, or Situational-Behavioral Context. And when we have Situational-Behavioral Context we can plug in the data from all of our hard work into content scenarios.

A content scenario can help a content strategist and UX pro in a lot of ways. They can be the basis for content filtering should the CMS or Cascading Style Sheets be sophisticated enough to handle the requests. They can help to define editorial guidelines for writers producing content for specific user personas facing unique situations and can serve as a guidepost for governing content as it nears the end of its lifecycle (i.e. does the context scenario still apply to our audience and its needs? What do we need to do to make it audience appropriate).

At their most basic level, content scenarios are a lot like the “If-Then” type of programming you’ll most likely find in Java. For example, IF we learn that our users are faced with certain scenario and that they have a given set of needs, THEN the content scenarios should deliver only the content that corresponds to true factors. The scenario also provides a secondary path when an “if” clause evaluates to false. Perhaps the true factors get a highly customized experience, while the false get a more generic experience.

So, you’re probably wondering what these templates look like and how we deploy them. Let’s dig right in, shall we?

Below, you’ll find a rough version of what I provide to a clients when we’re working through builds that require a lot of content to suit different users. As you can see, our old friend Kyle Fisher is back and we’ve framed up some of the things he needs to find that elusive Drake Motors SUV.

At the top of the template, we’ve narrated Kyle’s story by reviewing one of the two situations we created for him last post. In doing so, we’ve brought up a few of the individual NEEDS that applied to his SITUATION that we outlined in previous discussions on Personal Behavioral Context and Personal Situational Context.

Stating Kyle’s situation directly at the top of the template gives the context for the content requirements that follow.

Something that deserves some special mention is the Goal/Success Metric area directly beneath the content scenario. Since client goals are important and are included with goals for the site, the editorial tone of our content and the way it’s framed up is partially derived from this content. I always find it incredibly valuable to restate site goals across the majority of my documentation and in any deliverable that goes to the client. It keeps writers aware of the needs of the site and reminds the client that we always have success metrics on the brain as we develop and curate content for the site.

In this scenario, we want Kyle to request a vehicle quote, build his own version of an SUV or schedule a test drive at a local dealer, reminding us to include relevant paths and entry points to these areas and maintain a sales-oriented tone whenever appropriate while continuing to address the unique needs of his situation.

Below the goal statement, we find relevant navigation tabs or screens listed across the top of the table and the content types down the side. For this particular execution I’ve only listed two types of content, main and supporting, but it’s entirely possible there could be additional types depending on the size, scope and situation requiring it.

In each cell, we articulate the specific content needed for each page, which should follow directly from the Personal-Situational Context exploration we’ve completed. The scenario documents are expandable and may include entirely different fields depending on the device used to access them. For example, the fields would be VERY different for mobile or gaming browsers.

All that said, these templates are only as useful as you make them. They’re brilliant for A/B Testing, refining content or for creating new work that’s executing against the same or similar situations, but won’t be useful if your site designers don’t account for very specific content needs. This is why the communication between builders and strategists is so crucial. If the work can be done upfront, situational-behavioral context can be designed into the architecture of the site, allowing for highly custom content delivery.

Content scenarios should be modified based on evolving user habits. They should be held up against the success metric and analytic dashboard to evaluate if they’re still relevant. They should be modified or added to if you find content that wasn’t originally in the scenario begins contributing the success metrics or goals. They can also be incredibly helpful when you pair them with Responsive Web Design and factor in for other ambient factors (the final post in this crazy series).

Bottom line? They’re helpful little buggers. We’ll get into deploying them for ambient situations next week, which leaves me with one housekeeping note and plea to content strategists everywhere. Seriously folks, if you haven’t heard about the work being done in responsive web design, it’s going to blow the lid off all things digital – I promise you. In 2010, we started to get a look at the true power of HTML 5 and CSS3 and how Responsive Web Design can deliver truly custom experiences that vary by screen.

I urge all content strategists to do their homework on this stuff. There are some really smart folks writing about the evolving digital space right now, and it makes entirely perfect sense for content strategy to help pave the way, so long as we’re thinking of contextually relevant strategies that vary by device and situation. The screens are many and people will look at content in VERY different ways on each of them. I contend it’s our job to help sort out the content needs that will undoubtedly be left behind. Let’s wrap this thing up next week!