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Content Strategy: Creating Task-Based Content

One approach to creating content is to focus on what tasks the user is trying to accomplish with your product or service and develop the content around those tasks. For example, let’s say you are selling software and you have a really cool feature you want to share with your users. If you document that feature in terms of what it will help a user do, such as “how to generate a report,” the user might be more drawn to the information because generating a report is a goal for a user. By reading that content, the user will then learn about how the cool feature will help the user generate a report.

If you follow a feature-based approach, you create content based on what the features are and how you work with that feature. In the scenario above, you would document the feature as “Feature A” in a manual. Your users may not look at that section because they don’t know what “Feature A” is and how it may help them.

Developing task-based content is a strategy which can lead to a good user experience, less content to manage and reduced costs while improving consistency. In this blog post, we will take a deeper dive into the task-based content approach and how it fits into a larger content strategy.

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Applying a Task-Based Content Approach

Task-based content can often be found in technical content, such as installation, operation and troubleshooting material. Some examples are:

  • Handling software error messages
  • Changing the oil in your car
  • Setting up your printer

Writing in a structured way, such as using XML and following a standard like DITA, is a method of breaking down content into elements such as tasks, concepts and references. This type of writing lends itself well to task-based content.

Website copy is another good area where you can apply task-oriented writing. What are users trying to accomplish by going to your website and how can you help them get the information they are looking for? Whether it is downloading a form, reading an article or upgrading software, make the navigation and content as easy to follow and use as possible.

Understanding Your Customers

To write content based on user tasks, you first need to really understand who your customers are and their responsibilities and goals by developing personas. Once you do that, you can target content along each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Developing Task-Based Content

Once you understand what your users are trying to accomplish, you can develop task-based content. Think about the content in terms of user goals such as “how do I x?” or “where do I find y?” In today’s busy world, you want to get the user in and out of your content as quickly as possible, while providing a good experience. Here are a few tips for creating task-based content:

  • Always keep your audience in mind. It can be helpful to hang up your personas near your workstation so they stay on the forefront of your mind.
  • Make sure the content is focused only on the users’ goals. If needed, you can always provide links to other tasks or reference information.
  • A user may get to the information without reading anything else, so make sure the content is complete and can stand alone.
How Task-Based Content Fits into a Content Strategy

Writing task-based content can be an important part of a larger content strategy. As a result of more focused content, you can help users accomplish their goals more quickly, leading to a positive customer experience. You will most likely find that you generate less content, thereby reducing your authoring, translation and maintenance costs. It will also simplify the translated content.

Getting Started

To get started with this approach, as I mentioned before, you first need to understand your audience. Next, do a content audit to understand the state of the content you have, whether it is technical content, marketing content or web content. Establishing standard terminology and developing a content reuse strategy before you begin changing your content can help improve consistency and reduce costs.