Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Power of a Content Deck

One of the challenges of web development - particularly when you're using a waterfall approach - is to bridge together the discreet documentation the team produces, so that each individual element is part of a larger whole.  Documentation produced by tech should reference and leverage documentation produced by information design, and so on.  Not only does this help present a cohesive picture to the team and client, these references will be useful come development, when the team will be expected to stitch each piece together into a single product.  Over the past year, I've focused on leveraging the content deck as a key document to help tie together supporting assets with great success.

Why the content deck?: The content deck comes at a key juncture in the life cycle of an interactive project - it is driven by information design, but will inform creative design.  It is a lynchpin for the team, touched by everyone.  More importantly, it may be the only complete reference to the site that exists.  Wireframes and storyboards are often only produced for key or unique pages, but the content deck will likely include copy for each and every page of the site.

What to incorporate: Beyond actual copy, the content deck should reference and incorporate the following elements:
  • Numeration from the information architecture and wireframes - this allows an individual to understand exactly where individual content elements will live within the site and on a given page.  Not only will this will help the client greatly during content review, which can be a disjointed experience, it is necessary for the technical team, who will have to populate each website page with the proper copy.
  • Multimedia files and server location - most sites include photography and/ or video, and the content deck provides an ideal opportunity to reference which specific media assets should be placed on which screens.  Again - the content deck may be the only complete reference you have to the entire site, so it's a simple and easy way to pass this information along to the technical team for the build.  But, don't stop at the image or video name - include the location of that file on the server, or on an external social media site, as well, so the team will know where the asset currently lives.
  • SEO data - title tags and meta descriptions for individual pages can also live in the content deck.  This means the tech team will have a single place to refer to for all this information, instead of disparate documents they'd otherwise have to try and connect to one another.
Improvements to the way in which websites are built can easily be made by streamlining our work process.  Consider maximizing the value of the content deck by incorporating much more pertinent information than simply copy.  In the context of web development, the old saying, content is king, can be tweaked - content deck is king.


  1. Do you mind showing an example of your content deck-- which I'm guessing is synonymous with a content inventory?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Yvonnia. I can't share an actual client deck because of confidentiality reasons, but I will create a sample copy deck, to illustrate the format of the document I am describing in my post. Please check back soon to download the document.

  3. Hi Gina,
    Your post explains it very well, thanks for sharing it with others!
    Any update on sample deck? I'm really looking for it.


  4. Hello everyone - I have posted a sample content deck you can download and use.


    Let me know if you have any questions or comments - it's always great to hear from you.