Skip to main content
Skip table of contents

The lifecycle of a piece of content

At Shelter, we love our lifecycles. A lifecycle affirms the reality that digital delivery should never be linear. It needs to be an ongoing loop that lets us build in impact as we go - continual learning, continual improvement, and continual value for users and the business.

That’s why we established our digital lifecycle to bring together the planning, creating, operating and future vision aspects of our work. Which lets us start small, with strategically-pinned products to test and learn from, then scale up with each turn of the lifecycle. It’s a mindset woven into our working principles.

And that’s why, to give our content operations power and sustainability, we’ve established a content lifecycle, covering all phases of content with the same spirit of continual improvement.

The iteration vibration

‘Iteration’ has long been a common word used by digital teams everywhere, and with good reason. It captures the approach of applying small, focussed improvements to products and services.

We’ve found the content that goes into those products and services is especially responsive to iterative working. For all the effort that goes into researching and defining user needs and creating content to meet those needs, the work doesn’t stop once we push it live. That’s when we can really learn how well it does its job, then make decisions for what’s next.

We use live content to generate continuous feedback loops: publish > get user input > iterate. Based on the user feedback, measurement and analysis, and changes to technology or user context, we can improve on live content, update it to stay timely or accurate, use it in new ways or places, or even retire it, perhaps replacing it with new content.

Breaking down the stages

The content lifecycle comprises five clear stages before it repeats itself:

1. Planning

Whether the content designers are part of a product or service team, content planning is a natural part of their process. User research helps define clear user needs, which then form the basis of their content planning.

For devolved publishing teams, their content planning flows from their broader team planning, which is influenced by organisational strategy.

2. Design and creation

Here is where decisions get made, about content types, mix of content, key messages, user journeys, links, calls to action and more. From those decisions, content gets written, videos produced, images sourced, graphics designed and so on - each of them going through reviews and approvals.

The five stages of Shelter's content lifecycle

3. Publishing and distribution

Once copy has been agreed by all stakeholders, it gets published on our websites via Contentful, or to our other channels via channel-specific publishing tools.

4. Evaluation and maintenance

Live content is the perfect opportunity to learn from our users. How easy was it for them to find the content? How many of them found it? Was the content what they expected? Did it solve their problem or answer their question? If not, why not?

Answers to these questions propel us to decide what’s next for the content. How can it give more value to users? Or if it’s performing exactly as we hoped, where else can we use it - or apply that learning to other content? Has the content reached its use-by date and is ready to be retired?

5. Strategising and ideating

Shelter works hard to plan products and services that have a golden thread to our organisational strategy. That mindset shapes what we decide to build, and how we prioritise and roadmap work.

Our system of content governance means all content is reviewed on a quarterly basis. This lets us continually improve the value of content through iteration.


The value of a content lifecycle - or any governance model, for that matter - is only as high as the the accountability of the people involved.

So we’ve made sure that all the various responsibilities within delivery of our content are contained in the roles of each person. Shelter’s content designers, content managers, and content owners all understand their part at each point in the lifecycle. We’ve written this into role descriptions and communicated it via Shelter’s broader digital governance structure.

The when, why and how of retiring content

The importance of content governance

User journeys and content creation

Why content ops is the hidden superpower of digital delivery

Contact us about the digital framework

Have a question or comment? Found a bug? Or maybe you’d like to contribute to the framework? Use our contact form to get in touch.

JavaScript errors detected

Please note, these errors can depend on your browser setup.

If this problem persists, please contact our support.