Giving your audience the ‘Right’ amount of content
Rebecca Bartlett explains why it is important to know your audience when thinking about the type and amount of content that you give them.
A project we worked on recently had a bit of a setback when the project sponsor expressed surprise that there were only “120” pieces of archive content in their new app.
His team was a little disappointed, as they had been scanning, uploading, writing, and tagging like mad over many weeks to produce this. We were surprised at their reaction, as we had thought this was quite a lot of content for the target aim of their app.
We tried to explain, using a cake metaphor (can there be a better one?), that too much of a good thing could be a bad thing. But this was countered with a well put ‘champagne metaphor’ (oh actually, maybe there is) that it was better to have lots and use a little, than the other way around. Realising we had reached a metaphorical deadlock with our metaphors, it got us thinking about how much content is enough?
When someone uses an app or website, they rarely look at all the content that’s available, so the notion of not having too much, but having just a bit more than they want, is sound. The problem of course, is that you do not know what the user wants to look at, so a logical solution is to deliver pretty much all your content. This presents a further challenge. The more content you add, the longer it takes for your team to curate and upload, but also, unless your user journey is excellent, too much content can be overwhelming. This ultimately leads to users spending less time looking at it.
Organisations typically approach this challenge in different ways, which we’ve handily summarised here:
Small and beautiful
They take a small amount of carefully chosen and curated content, then spend a lot of effort adding detailed explanations and stories to make what they have as interesting as possible. This means users can spend quite a lot of time looking at a small amount of content and will return to explore or read again. The British Museum’s site definitely fits this category. It is like a good book, with rich, deep, well-ordered content covering a small number of topics such as the Ostrogoths, Rembrandt and Roman coins.
Small and flighty
These take a small amount from their larger bank of content, add some descriptions and tagging, but change the content very regularly. Users may not spend very long on the site, but they revisit often so see what is new. A good example of this type is the National Gallery, London HD app.
Big is beautiful
These organisations take all of their content in whatever form it’s in and use it. This will mean some excellent well-produced material and some that’s not so good. Users will be spoilt for choice, although they will have to work to find what they are interested in. For us the British Library’s site fits this description. Whilst there is undeniably some wonderful stuff here, there’s so much to wade through it’s difficult to make sense of. Some focused curation wouldn’t go amiss, we think.
Quantity and quality
Probably the utopia for any organisation is to have all their content well curated and presented. This is hard to do, but would give a wonderful experience. The two organisations we feel have achieved something like this digital nirvana are the V&A and the Museum of London. Both present an abundance of beautiful and rich content which is imaginatively curated, navigable and well presented.
So, which approach is right?
The inevitable question these options presents is ‘which is the right one’? Rather unhelpfully, the answer is ‘it depends’!
In a physical gallery space most arts organisations would correctly say that curating a small amount of content well is the right thing to do. This is because of the limitations of space and how far you really want your users to walk around a room/hall/warehouse. In a digital sense these constraints do not apply.
All four options listed above have merit, but the only way to know which one is right for your organisation is to be clear about who your users are. Understanding what they like and what they are interested in will help you decide which content to show them. It’s also important to know when and where they are likely to look at your content. If they’re going to be sitting at home in the evening browsing their devices, then you can give more detailed content. But if you are targeting a more fleeting social media audience who might be looking distractedly at their phone while waiting in a supermarket queue, then your content must be short and lite.
Knowing your audience and then deciding which audience groups you are going to target answers the question how much content is enough and all the subsequent questions about how and where to display it.
We’re off now to enjoy cake and fizz!
Industry Experts article written by:
Director, Ammba and Digital Content Specialist, Nymbol
Designing Digital Experiences for the Arts
Rebecca has over 14 years experience working within the cultural heritage and education sectors, including a BAFTA award-winning multimedia company. Her company, Ammba, works with organisations that are eager to explore new ways of delivering digital content and developing audiences. She has worked with a range of organisations including The Library of Birmingham, Yorkshire Film Archive, Imperial War Museum and British Council. At sister company, Nymbol, Rebecca working with the technologists, guides organisations through the cultural change that often comes when adopting digital.
Image Credits: All courtesy of pexels.com