One of the first things that you ask when planning a new project is simply "what is it?" Back in the early stone age - otherwise known as "The Print Era" - the answer was simple: it's a magazine, or a newsletter, or occasionally something more like a book.
Now, though, things are much more complex. Our experience at Redwood has taught us to think about the balance between print and digital (and how they integrate), and how to understand which of the huge range of formats, from website to app to web app to ezine, is the right approach.
For agencies that think of themselves solely as content creators, that's probably about as far as it goes. But as you begin to bring more and more digital work into your projects, you find that there's an additional layer of complexity, and one which can create some creative tension: the relationship between content and functionality.
If you come from a digital background, you often think of sites or apps in terms of how they function: "What does it do?" is the most important question. For content creators, though, the key question is usually "What does it say?". And navigating the waters between those two questions can make for a pretty choppy journey.
Digital teams expect the early stages of a project to be all about detailing how a site or app works. Content creators want to know what the message is, what the tone of voice is, how and what kind of words, images, and other content they should use. Content creators often want "a richer content experience" (by which they mean more content). The digital team wants simply, easier to use functionality which lets the users do what they want faster (which means without lingering on all that lovely content).
Treading the line between these two demands is hard. Functionality is incredibly important, because it's something users will go away and talk about, as much as they talk about the lovely words and pictures. Likewise, great content encourages users to explore functionality more often and more deeply.
And this functionality is where digital content has the biggest chance of truly coming to life. Content, online, isn't something that people consume: it's something they do things with. That means ensuring they have to tools to easily take your content, share it, play with it, comment on it, and everything else they want.
This doesn't mean that some projects can't be totally content-led, while others are just functional. But work which blends rich, inspirational content with easy to use, fast and powerful functionality is the kind which will ultimately prove to be best-of-breed for clients and customers alike.
Digital Content Strategist - Redwood