In the traditional model of government contracting, governments hire companies to develop products like websites and then pay them to maintain those services over several years. When the State of Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood (OEC) needed a new website, they wanted an alternative to this model. While they needed outside expertise to help them envision and build a new website with clear and useful content, they wanted the training and skills to maintain the site without contractor support.
Bloom was hired to develop the content strategy for OEC’s new website. OEC wanted to make the site useful and engaging for families, as well as for their traditional audiences of early childhood educators and advocates.
Given the new emphasis on communicating with families, we knew that best practices in plain language would be fundamental to the content strategy. One of our first steps was to draft a writing style guide for OEC that incorporated guidance and examples specific to their terminology and work. We conducted audience research to understand the topics parents and guardians wanted to hear about, and our writers collaborated with OEC to develop content in clear, accessible language. As we identified new terms and potentially tricky concepts, we added more guidance to the writing guide.
Once we had a comprehensive guide, we used it as the basis for training OEC staff in writing for the web. Topics included:
- An introduction to content strategy, information architecture, and user experience
- Developing content from the user’s perspective
- Reviewing draft content for consistency with the writing style guide
- Applying content strategy to decision-making when considering requests for new or revised web content
We also offered one-on-one training and office hours to ensure ongoing opportunities for questions and feedback.
While our content strategists are continuing to provide support, OEC staff have taken over stewardship of the site. They have established an editorial process to develop content and an advisory team to review key decisions. In early 2021, we conducted a survey of OEC’s web team, and 82% said that they’d used the writing style guide.