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Content strategy for Rick Steves

My old website — which worked like a cluttered room of overflowing filing cabinets — has been transformed into a tidy collection of 25,000 web pages that feels much smaller and cleaner, simply because it’s so much easier to get to the information you need.
— Rick Steves

Our task: Bring Rick Steves to Mobile. Rick Steves has a decade-long legacy of award-winning multimedia content, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse when it came time for a redesign. How do you fit a tremendous amount of rich content and rich ideas into a realistic re-platforming budget, all while ensuring that the execution is future-proof? By building a strong foundation of content strategy.

As a UX architect at Garrigan Lyman Group, I led the cross-functional client and product team through a robust discovery process, distilling the UX vision into a roadmap. This roadmap drove the creation of a detailed content model that enabled Rick Steves to deliver their content across responsive web and mobile channels. This model was used by developers and UX architects to build a client-friendly CMS and engaging website.

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Discovery workshop

Before we could kick off a redesign, we needed to align Rick Steves stakeholders and GLG strategists on business, technology and user needs. To ensure that the features and functionality we included in the roadmap would bring the most value to travelers - and the business - we looked at how we could serve each type of user at each part of the travel experience. 

To this end, I facilitated a discovery workshop to move us through brainstorming and strategy. We started by coming up with ways to satisfy user goals at each stage, and then we undertook a prioritization exercise. Finally, we identified performance and satisfaction metrics that the redesign should move, ensuring that the redesign captured key business goals as well as key user goals.

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Roadmap

Armed with this strong foundation, I created a phased roadmap that presented important user scenarios and prioritized functionality and requirements accordingly. This roadmap ensured that the site’s initial launch would support and delight their users while retaining a strong foundation for future expansion.

 

Workflows

How will our users actually encounter the content? Mapping out the workflows is an essential first step to understanding how we can deliver Rick Steves content to our personas in a way that compels them to purchase a tour. This revealed that we need to take a place-first approach to organizing content, not a media-type-first approach.

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Content MODELing

Now that we know what the content needs to do, the next step is figuring out how to get all the content to stick together in the right ways. Following an initial content inventory, I created a content model that outlined the structure and metadata for each content type. I started by outlining possible content connections and uses. I like to work out my ideas in sketches and scribbles first, bouncing it off people for feedback and iterating while it's still lo-fi.

I like to work out my ideas in sketches and scribbles first, bouncing it off people for feedback and iterating while it's still lo-fi.

I like to work out my ideas in sketches and scribbles first, bouncing it off people for feedback and iterating while it's still lo-fi.

Early version of the content model. This model took into consideration different media types and also leveraged standard schema.org metadata. 

Early version of the content model. This model took into consideration different media types and also leveraged standard schema.org metadata. 

 

Where strategy and technology meet

Because travelers are often on the go and using mobile devices, adaptive and responsive content was a must. Gathering early buy-in and agreement on this strategic component ensured that our vision for adaptive mobile experience was not only possible, but a natural part of the rebuild. 

The new Rick Steves website is organized, clean, and responsive for desktop, tablet and mobile breakpoints.