Getting started with content strategy

Delivering and maintaining a high-quality and user-friendly website experience requires a lot of hard work and effort. It can be both exciting and challenging. 

We understand that web content can also be difficult and time-consuming to create. Content strategy helps you develop a consistent, compelling voice across all channels to help you tell your story in an authentic and human way. 

We've created a streamlined process that will make it easy for you to turn your site into something engaging, functional and professional.

Recommended steps

A content inventory allows you to see all the content you currently have on your website. It should be conducted at the beginning of the redesign process. This way, you'll be able to see where your content lives currently and identify pages to keep, delete or modify. 

You'll want to next identify your target audience and what information your site will provide to them. The goals you set for your site, will determine your target audience.

To help you understand your target audience and if your site content is reaching that audience, you can use a variety of data-gathering tools such as Google Analytics or Google Search Console. These can be useful in helping you understand if your site content is performing as it should.  

You'll also want to gather the information that tells you various data points so that you can get a better idea of what content your users are interacting with or searching for. Types of data we recommend gathering are goal and engagement metrics.

Goal metrics
Goal metrics can help you understand a user's response to the goals you have set for your site and see how a user is engaging with your site content. For example, if your site goal is to direct users to apply to your program, you use data gathering tools in order to see information on how many times a user clicked on a call-to-action (e.g. apply, learn more or donate button) and how they navigate throughout your site.

Engagement metrics
Engagement metrics can help you understand how a user engages with the content on your site. This includes things like page views, time on site, etc. You can also learn about what terms your users are placing into search engines to get to various pages or pieces of content on your site. Google Analytics and Google Search Console provide many more in-depth metrics that allow you to get an understanding of how your site is performing.

Once you have had a chance to gather data and maybe even do some user testing, it is important to determine your main menu navigation structure. You'll want to lay out and write out where content will live on your new site. Doing so ahead of time will help you see where you are headed in terms of goals and what content will be added or removed.

After you have requested a SiteNow v3 site, it is time to build it out. You can use layout builder and the page building tools to easily add content, images and other features to the pages of your site. 


We've included a variety of resources to assist you getting started with web content strategy below.

SiteNow Trainings

Learn how to get started with SiteNow v3.

Why should I have a quality navigation menu?

Having a quality navigation menu is one of the most important parts of your website. It helps a user understand the relationships between individual pages on your website and matters a lot to visitors. Why? Because it allows them to quickly and easily find the information they need. The easier they can find the information they are wanting, the more likely they are to take action on your site. 

To help you get started, we recommend keeping your main menu navigation simple in order to avoid wrapping your main menu. Large menus can overwhelm small screens and become confusing to navigate. 

We've included more information on suggestions on how to build out a quality main navigation structure based on your target audience. 

Prospective students

Prospective students (and their families) are looking for a variety of content on university websites. They are primarily concerned with areas of study, cost and aid, admission next steps, housing options (if available), and contact information.

Prospective students

Areas of Study
Focus groups and visitor data have strongly suggested that the first questions students seek to answer when considering a college is, “Do they have my major?” This section serves to immediately address this question. 

Submenus in this section could include: Undergraduate Programs, Graduate Programs, Doctoral Programs, Professional Programs, Distance and Online and Areas of Leadership.

"Admissions” is an industry-standard substitute term for “how to apply." Prospective students recognize this as the place to find program requirements, find the next steps and start their application. This section puts your ideal conversion goal in a central place (in addition to prominent calls-to-action links).  

This section captures key rankings, distinctions, and other unit-level messaging that may not be reflected in other content. Longer-form background about your unit that may not serve program-focused pages can be a strong fit for sections like these. Visitors are accustomed to scanning “About” sections of sites for broader information.  

Submenus in this section could include: History, Rankings and Colleges.

This page presents an opportunity to highlight key academic research highlights and institutes. Content will be most effective when appealing to prospective students, framing research as a valuable part of the academic experience at Iowa.  

This section provides prospective students (and all audiences) with a list of relevant contacts and bios. This doesn’t play a large role in student recruitment, which is why it’s placed deeper in the menu structure.

Submenus in this section could include: Faculty and Staff.

This is an optional opportunity to feature a unit-specific blog or other news content, or serve a link to content hosted on other sites.  

We've included an example of how this would look within SiteNow v3 below.

Sample menu prospective students

Alumni, friends and prospective donors

Alumni, friends and prospective donors have different areas of interest on your site. They are primarily concerned with connections to the Iowa community through publications, events and groups. They also have an interest in finding opportunities to support the institution and want to know the impact of donations and giving.

Navigation menus

The primary goal of engagement with alumni is to drive giving and other forms of support, but the audience is seeking connection to the Hawkeye community. This section is meant to highlight those paths to supporting Iowa, demonstrate the impact of alumni donors, and help visitors feel like vital supporters of the University of Iowa’s mission (as they are).  

Submenus in this section could include: Giving, Volunteer, Campaigns and Impact.

One of the most common ways that alumni stay connected with their alma mater is through engagement with alumni-focused publications. This section gathers those resources into one menu, allowing them to easily find all existing resources published by your unit.  

This section gathers all of the local and virtual resources (local organization chapters, social media accounts, Hawkeye fan venues, etc.) visitors can use to stay connected the Hawkeye community in one place. 

Submenus in this section could include: Alumni organizations, Network, Social media and Hawkeye fan events.

This section could feature a list of key leadership/faculty/staff, mission-oriented storytelling, and detailed reports that may have been referenced in “Impact” section above.  

Submenus in this section could include: People and Reports.

This is an optional opportunity to highlight major milestones, impact of giving and other news items or reference relevant content hosted on other Iowa content sites.  

We've included an example of how this would look within SiteNow v3 below.

Sample menu alumni, friends and prospective donors

Prospective faculty and staff

Prospective faculty and staff are primarily concerned with areas of content that are related to job opportunities, UI culture and resources, funding and support for research.

Prospective faculty and staff

Surveys of faculty at other institutions suggest that their top priorities in choosing a place of work are “opportunities to work with leading peers” and “a culture that supports research”. This menu is focused accordingly, beginning with an opportunity to highlight notable accomplishments through on-page content, provide background into your unit’s work, and feature the faculty members that led those achievements. 

Submenus in this section could include: People or Achievements.

This section elaborates on the previous one, specifically featuring the areas of research encompassed by your unit. This creates a direct opportunity for recruitment, leading visitors directly from an interest in your areas of inquiry toward what opportunities may be available in those areas.  

Submenus in this section could include: Key Areas, Facilities, Career and Opportunities.

This can serve two functions: A) Provide a contact point/guidance for those seeking to support your unit and B) illustrate the sources of funding for prospective faculty or partners. Doing both together can help recruitment prospects feel as if their work will be supported, but also that your unit still actively pursues further support.  

Submenus in this section could include: Funding and Donations. 

Optional opportunity to feature research highlights, a unit-level blog or other content hosted on Iowa content sites.  

We've included an example of how this would look within SiteNow v3 below. 

Sample menu

Current students, faculty and staff

Current students, faculty and staff have an area of interest that relates to the current experience studying or working at Iowa. Many sites and applications at Iowa serve an internal audience. Each of these groups has their own distinct interests on what they are looking for on a site. 

Current students

Instead of consulting a uniform template, units that fit this framework are encouraged to consider the following questions when developing content for their sites:  

  1. What is/are the key reason(s) for someone to visit our site? 
  2. What content, functions and other resources best help them achieve their goals? 
  3. How can we provide the most streamlined, clear path to that core content for visitors? 
  4. How can we learn from our audience and refine content according to their needs? 

Featured SiteNow v3 sites

Since its launch in the summer of 2020, more than 200 new or refreshed University of Iowa websites have been built using the SiteNow v3 service.

We've featured recently launched SiteNow v3 sites for you to use as a guide as you work to build out your own.