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About the Beauty of an Excel Sheet

Hashtags beauty, tables&data, stakeholder

Why tables and data are your best friend arguing subjective and emotional topics to your stakeholders and in the context of content strategy.

As a designer getting into the field of content strategy, I am asking myself: Where’s the pretty stuff? And I’m sure I’m not the only one. But ask no longer fellow designers – I am here to tell you about the beauty of an excel sheet and why you need to embrace them. As they say, beauty often lies under the surface. Far, far below in this case.

Content analysis first

A content strategy project normally begins with the analysis phase. You find out what the user- and business goals of a project are by talking to people in charge – also referred to as stakeholders. And you want to have a look at existing content. You take inventory and audit existing content, for example on your clients website (for more information about content audits and why you should conduct them, see Birgit’s post here). Why? Because a good chef never starts cooking without knowing what the ingredients are. Now you might be wondering what all of this has to do with beautiful excel sheets. Trust me – we’ll get there.

For both content inventories and audits you will need some sort of framework to put your data and findings into. Most times, this will be excel sheets with hundreds of rows, multiple pages and numerous people working on them. Sounds like a nightmare to you? Welcome to a designer’s life.

On evoking negative emotions

When you are done, you tell your stakeholders what you found and reason for the next steps that need to be taken in your project. And you will not only have praise left for them. You probably found positive aspects which you definitely should point out. But by telling content managers, creators and their bosses (who paid for this burned and salty chicken-fajita – to throw in another cooking analogy) that their content has flaws, can be considered personal. They worked hard and spent money on this website and so you risk invoking unwanted negative emotions.

Data is your friend

And this is where excel sheets come in clutch: it is hard to argue with data. Data is objective. Although collected and to some extent edited by a human, it is as close as you are gonna get to an objective opinion – which is much less likely to become a personal offense. So use that excel sheet and it’s unbiased existence to your advantage. Argument with data to propose the next steps. Get your project on track and your stakeholders behind you, rather than against you. This will ensure an easier and more efficient way of doing your job! And that, my dear reader, is the true beauty of an excel sheet.