User-centered content strategy and planning

Content strategy is a naturally user-centered practice. Still, that doesn't mean it happens automatically. As with any design discipline, when organizations incorrectly apply the practice of content strategy (and its various tools) without understanding the theory, it's possible to not really be doing content strategy at all. I've been delivering talks and workshops that are variations on the theme of "user-centered content strategy" to provide simple, practical, and memorable frameworks be ensure that the heart of content strategy – users – aren't forgotten.


User-Centered Content Planning presentation and workshop

As delivered at MIMA Summit 2018 in Minneapolis, MN.

Workshop abstract:

Customer journey maps. Ecosystem maps. Storymapping. User stories. Personas. There are so many great tools available to user-focused content strategists that it can be hard to know which to use when! And some of them never seem to fit quite right when you try to apply them in your own organization. Why not create your own?

In this session, we’ll bust apart popular tools for describing users and understanding their journeys into their common patterns and components. You’ll begin to see the method behind the magic and leave equipped to choose, adapt, remix, and/or invent just the right tool for focusing your content on the people who really matter—your users!


  • The User's Journey by Donna Lichaw (about driving design with stories)
  • Mapping Experiences by Jim Kalbach (well-structured breakdown of various mapping and alignment tools)
  • User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton (a deep-dive on one specific methodology with lots of great quotes and anecdotes about planning and alignment in general)
  • Just Enough Research by Erika Hall (you can't focus on users if you don't know anything about them!)
  • Content Design by Sarah Richards (especially for the breakdown of user stories and job stories)
  • Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug (introduces the Goodwill Meter and a many other useful concepts for seeing the world the way your users do)
  • Mental Models by Indi Young (a robust methodology for understanding the needs and motivations of your users)
  • The Content Strategy Toolkit by Meghan Casey (ready-made tools and templates to help align business and user needs in your content strategy work)
  • Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach (foundational content strategy text that helps you understand how being user-centered can fix your website woes)
  • Writing for Designers (my book about how to get the writing done on digital projects and keep users in mind along the way)

Reading list

Books that influenced the presenation and deep-dives on some of the mentioned tools.


Stuff from around the web to help you be more user-centered in your content strategy work.

 Read  Assessing Your User-Centered Content Strategy  on the Brain Traffic Blog

Read Assessing Your User-Centered Content Strategy on the Brain Traffic Blog