Applying progressive enhancement strategies to content

Posted by Vernon Joyce
August 27, 2022

MDM defines progressive enhancement as a design philosophy that aims to provide users with the basic functionality they need, while providing users with better browsers or technologies extra features. In a nutshell we could apply this same level of thinking to anything really; including content. Can we offer our users a basic reading experience, exposing the information they need, and over time offer a richer experience?

This is really a thought experiment in applying this level of thinking to content, and I wanted to share the way I approach writing content over time. This isn’t necessarily a doctrine, but I often wear a UX, UI, technology and marketing hat while writing which is why I tend to see opportunities for expanding my content over time. My approach varies depending on the topic, but here’s some of the key concepts. This list is quite focussed on written content, but you could apply some of the thinking to any content really!

Publish early and often

Creativity doesn’t strike everyone at the same time. I often need to take a step back and think about what I want to write, and this process can take a long time for me personally. I can have pieces of content sitting in draft for ages despite the fact that 80% of it is ready. As a result, I tend to publish my content early, even before it’s ready.

You might argue that someone might see your incomplete content. Firstly, is that really a problem? Chances are they found your content organically, and Google showed them your content because our overlords felt that it was appropriate in its current state. I would also consider the Streisand effect – often in attempt to hide something we end up making it much more visible – so rather let it come to the surface organically.

There are many benefits to writing this way. You get to almost “republish” your content when you add new bits to it or when you ‘finalise’ it – drop a new title on it and update the date and you’ve essentially repackaged it. Another benefit also comes in at an SEO level: Make the new content hard to find, but link to it from somewhere on your website to ensure that crawlers can reach it. This way you get your content onto Google early on despite the fact that it’s not ready and you can simply elevate it in your navigation when you want human eyes on it.

Nothing is ever final

Being a perfectionist is a curse to many. I’ve spent hours refining what I write when in reality I was really just overcomplicating the final product. This approach ties in with the idea of publishing early but to take it a step further; accept that your content piece is never really final.

There will always be opportunities to improve on a piece of content, whether it’s to make changes for SEO, updating out of date information, adding new information or improving the experience with images or other elements.

Always write down your ideas

It might be surprising to you as a reader to know that this paragraph was written quite some time before the article was published. Diginauts right now has over 300 articles sitting in draft, each filled with bulleted lists, headings and the odd paragraph to expand on ideas.

There are also a lot of ways to generate content ideas. I often copy questions asked on Facebook groups to later turn into either FAQs or even entire content pieces.

Expand on existing content regularly

The world changes fast and this applies to almost all industries. It’s therefor almost non-negotiable to adapt your content along with it. This isn’t a new tip by any stretch as most SEO experts will advocate for continuous improvement on content.

There are many ways to “upgrade” your content regularly without needing to actually write anything. Adding imagery is a great way to enhance your content as an example. This could include infographics, carousels or slides, visual summaries, graphs… the list goes on.

Another great way to enhance content is by turning it into video. This is a bit more of a laborious process but it can play nicely into your longer-term digital strategy. Once done, embed that video in your blog post, it offers users a different way to consume your content depending on their preferences. The same applies to channels like Instagram, where a post could often be turned into carousels, like this Snugcooking example.

Split content into multiple ideas

When you follow this methodology, you will undoubtedly get to a point where your content pieces might be too long for users. Over time you will also find that your content starts getting outranked by competitors organically. When this starts to happen, you might be ready to break your piece of content into several new pieces of content.

We recently wrote a fairly long one about whether or not you should be considering SEO for your business. This article was written over the course of a year, with new pieces of content being added to it often. If you however look at the content structure you might see opportunities to rather discuss each topic a lot more in depth.

To conclude

Creating a scalable content strategy is not easy, but it comes down to how willing you are to invest your time in providing the user with a good reading experience. Just do your research and think about creative ways to apply those ideas to your strategy and you’ll always come out on top.

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