26 Jan 2014

I was asked by Drew Neil, founder of Vimcasts, to help develop a content strategy for the site. When Drew set up the site in January 2010 he envisaged making perhaps a dozen screencasts, in his spare time. The site currently hosts more than 60 free screencasts and 80 blog posts. Drew makes a living from training people how to use Vim.

###Content Strategy goals

Drew and I sat down and came up with some content strategy goals:

  • increase people’s engagement with the site by making the content easier to navigate on all devices
  • increase traffic to the site through a broader social media strategy
  • give more visibility to training, publications and pro-screencasts

###What Vimcasts looks like at the moment

Here’s a screenshot of the homepage:

a screenshot of the Vimcasts homepage

You’ll see that the logo is top left, the main menu top right, and that the main content is organised using a blog layout, so only the latest blogs and screencasts appear on the homepage. If you want to find older content, you can go to the all episodes link which takes you to a list organised chronologically. That archive page only displays the title for each episode. If you want to find some material by searching the shownotes, you’ll have to use a search engine such as Google.

If you want to find out about Drew you go to the about link – although there is no mention on that page of Drew’s book or his Vim masterclasses. To find out about the latter then the only permanent link is at the bottom of the page. To find out about Drew’s book you can click on a picture of the book cover, also on the homepage. The site isn’t responsive.

Drew promotes his screencasts mainly through social media and RSS: @vimcasts has nearly 3,500 followers on Twitter and, Drew estimates, 10,000 RSS subscribers. This means that some visitors will be funneled straight to the latest episodes and blog posts as they are released. Others will never, or rarely, return to the site.

###Why Vimcasts is great

Vimcasts has a loyal following of developers and is doing a great job of helping people learn Vim. How do I know? Because subscribers are pretty complimentary:

I wrote the PeepCode screencasts on Vim. I watch your screencasts because I invariably learn something each time. Andy Stewart

These screen casts are great! I’ve been using Vi/vim for over 20 years and learned something new. Derek McLoughlin

Vimcasts.org is the single best screencast I’ve seen in the past two years. They’re very well put together, and cleanly edited. David Brady, on the Ruby Rogues podcast

The bottom line is clear: users like the screencasts. Excellent! Useful, informative content is what will make users come back to your site and tell their friends and colleagues about it.

###Initial contenty strategy thoughts

My first thought was that the web content needs to be easier to navigate. At the moment there is no search function. Episodes are arranged chronologically rather than thematically. Blog posts, including both useful information about Vim and product promotion, as well as screencasts, share the same space on the news feed.

My second thought was that the website could better support Drew’s current business model. When he started Vimcasts he worked for someone else: now he makes a living training people to use Vim.

These ideas are based on informed guesswork though. Our next step was to ask users what they think about the site.

###Need help working out how you can improve your digital content? Get in touch! Or you can find out more about how content strategy can help your business.

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