Keys to Explaining Content Strategy (or How Your Keychain is Like a Website)

Posted by on Nov 23, 2012 in Blog | 4 Comments

Christopher Ward, my business partner at SUBTXT and also my husband, recently expressed disbelief and disapproval at my heavy (1/3 pound – yes, I weighed it) and unorganized keychain, which I must admit was an unattractive jumble of keys for locks both current and long forgotten, as well as peeling and defunct reward cards, all strung together with keyrings of varying shapes, sizes, and quality.

ring of outdated content

As the resident Information Architect and UX expert at SUBTXT, Christopher took to leading what he initially called “an IA” of my keychain, but as we worked together to make my keychain streamlined and functional, we both realized that what we were doing was actually a content strategy.

We started by figuring out what I had on my keychain (the content inventory). Christopher unhinged all of the keys and cards (the content), then together we assessed what was useful and what was obsolete (the content audit).  About half of the content was completely useless for the life we had now, including the mailbox key from our old apartment in San Francisco, where we haven’t lived in nearly three years, and the faded Blockbuster rewards card from when we lived in Pasadena in 2007.

Keys to Civilization

After removing the obsolete content, I now have a sleek 3-ounce keychain that holds only the things I truly need and use.

Never mind how a content strategist like myself had allowed her keys to get in such a state, we’re liking the keychain as a metaphor because it’s really relatable for clients. Everyone has a keychain, and almost everyone has a good number of outdated items on theirs. But when we realize our keychain has become a problem, do we automatically tackle it by adding new keys? No, we only add new keys when there are new doors to open.

More often, the keychain is a problem not because there aren’t enough keys but because there are keys to doors (or cards for loyalty programs) that no longer exist in our lives. We deal with our keychain problem by looking at what we have, evaluating the usefulness of each item, removing what we no longer need, and reorganizing what’s left.

One Ring to Rule Them All

Christopher and I also looked at the manicure-destroying keyring itself and realized that in this metaphor, keyring = CMS. We considered how easily (or not so easily) we could move, add, or remove new keys and cards and realized that our “CMS was coming up short, so we replaced it with the manicure- and sanity-saving Freekey easy-open keyring

I still have to get a new keyfob (which would be the the visual design/branding layer in this metaphor). My smudgy, lime-green leather thing didn’t really say much about my style, or, more likely, it said all the wrong things.

At SUBTXT we find that metaphors like these are a helpful way to explain the value of website content strategy not just to reluctant clients but to ourselves as well. We also like this one about closets and content strategy. What other metaphors have you used (successfully or not)? Leave us a comment and let us know.


  1. Christoph Trappe
    November 24, 2012

    Good read, but I do think that there’s value to keep old content for historical/archival purposes.

    Maybe place a prominent note on it: “This concept was used from 2007-2009 and this page is kept for historical purposes. It is no longer updated.”

    Or something like that?


  2. Val Swisher
    November 26, 2012

    Thanks for the link back to my post about closets. I like your metaphor about the key ring, too. I think that if we used your metaphor and Christoph’s point about history, what we’d do is take the old keys, label them with the place (or use) and date, and put them in a shadowbox to hang on the wall. Then, you’d still have them and you’d know where and when you used them.

    That’s probably a lot more useful for content than for a bunch of keys from 5 years ago. :-)

    • Tosca
      November 26, 2012

      Thanks, Val. I have to admit that I couldn’t part with the keys for some reason, so they ended up in my jewelry drawer. It does seem that whether we’re dealing with content or keys, humans have an innate need to honor our past.