The best Web content starts with what users need, gets honed through usability testing — and doesn't get caught in pointless revision cycles.
View the site VeriSign Global Security Consulting
Compare the VeriSign Global Security Consulting home page before and after the
Background VeriSign's Global Security Consulting site was rudimentary at best, badly organized, and hard to scan.
  The Global Security Consulting group helps businesses make their networks secure and comply with government regulations. Security and compliance are both sources of great anxiety to potential clients. To have confidence in VeriSign, prospects need to find concise information that speaks to their circumstances as quickly as possible.
  VeriSign needed to revamp its site to speak clearly and directly to potential clients in language they understood. They also needed to get potential clients to the information they were looking for fast — whether it was from VeriSign's home page or from Google.
  That was a new way of thinking for VeriSign. They also needed a whole new content process to accomplish it.
The Project Developed a linear process to avoid revision cycles. I tackled developing a new process first. Companies often don't understand that content does work. That's the only reason it exists. When they don't have a clear notion of what the content needs to do, they get caught in endless revision cycles trying to figure it out.
  I created a straightforward and linear process to avoid the "stir until done" approach:
Define the task.
Develop a treatment.
Develop content.
Review the content.
Revise the content.
Verify the revisions.
  The crucial step was developing a treatment:
It identified the work that the content needed to do.
It defined the approach that would do the work.
It verified through user testing that the approach was effective.
  Before I could develop the treatment, I had research to do — and the stakeholders had homework.
  Defined the strategy and objectives. Clarified the messaging. I first helped the Global Security Consulting group with their homework. I worked with them to make sure they could clearly articulate their top goal — without regard to the Web site — and their approach to achieving it. We then worked together to define their objectives and strategy for the site. We articulated their main messages.
  The result was that, from the beginning, everyone was able to agreed on where we wanted to end up.
  Created user profiles. Defined key search phrases. Research was needed to figure out what prospective clients wanted.
  I worked with the stakeholders to define and profile their top five prospective clients. I dug up real stories about the real problems such clients faced. From those stories I was able to articulate the questions and concerns prospective clients would come to the site seeking answers to. I distilled the user profiles into personas.
(Example: virus attack victim persona, PDF, 175k)
  I worked with the stakeholders to define the key phrases prospective clients would use in Google to search for security and compliance consulting services.
  Developed flows and wireframes. Built and tested a prototype. VeriSign's homework and my research showed that the site's content had two jobs:
Promote VeriSign’s message
Answer prospects’ questions
  If we succeeded with both, VeriSign believed prospects would become clients.
  I developed flows that used our prospective clients' key phrases as signage. The signage made it easy for them to locate the page they wanted quickly.
  I analyzed the site's content and developed a solutions matrix. The matrix made it possible to organize the information about each solution in exactly the same way. I then developed a page structure based on the matrix that made scanning the page and pinpointing information effortless.
  I built a prototype and developed sample content. I got feedback from the stakeholders and then refined the prototype. I tested the prototype and sample content with users to verify that the approach worked.
  Drafted, revised, and got content approved — without needless revision cycles. Once I demonstrated that the approach worked with real users, we were able to develop the content for each page without getting caught in revision cycles. We'd draft a page based on the key points outlined in the solutions matrix. The stakeholders would review the draft and return them with feedback. We'd incorporate the revisions, and return the revised copies to the stake holders for approval.