Content Strategy (updated March 7)

I have more, I’ll add on as I go.

Andrew Bratcher

DECIPHR Project Content Strategy

Website Title: The Detroit City Public History Resource (DECIPHR).

Description: A digital resource for historical information about Detroit and a broad range of related historical topics.

Mission: To foster a productive community of historians and non-historians; to provide a user-centric aid for historical research; to educate interested users of all backgrounds about the modern historical process as well as the history of Detroit, urban history, union history, industrial and post-industrial history, and related topics.

Purpose: To give the interested public a go-to resource for answers to their historical questions that lie within DECIPHR’s range of topics. DECIPHR is designed to encourage users to jump feet-first into history and the historical process by allowing them to pick a historical question and be given short, scholarly articles written explicitly to answer that question. The website is less interested in cataloguing trivial facts and dates about the history of Detroit but rather uses the city as a focus point for discussing several historical topics. Some of these topics are controversial and contested between and within both the public and academia, and so DECIPHR offers a chance to anyone with scholarly acumen to write and publish historical articles where the interested community decides what represents “good history.” Control of website content will never be in the hands of a single authoritarian individual or arbitrary group.

The work done to assure the academic quality and historical veracity of the website’s articles lends itself to the addition of the Search Archives by User-defined Categories and Expectations tool (SAUCE), which willcatalogue the sources used from multiple digital locations in a way that is user-friendly for researchers.

Audiences: DECIPHR serves three explicit audiences and presents content to each one in a different, specialized manner. Each audience enjoys a tier of the website tailored to their needs. The three content presentation tiers and their target audiences are:

I. DECIPHR Public: The “front-end” of the website, where non-committed users can easily browse “the best” historical articles. The articles, although written by various users, are presented in a clean and uniform manner. There is also a field where users can submit their own questions. This audience is “the general public.”

II. DECIPHR Community: The content creation section of the website, where registered users can browse aggregated audience questions, draft articles, vote and comment on pending articles, organize and tag SAUCE content, and participate in other forms of goal-oriented discussion. This audience will at first consist primarily of DECIPHR project members, but registration is open to all. Nonprofessional historian authors and committed nonexperts alike can expect promotion and recognition for their hard work.

III. DECIPHR SAUCE: The archival source management section of the website, where researchers can browse a catalogue of sources cited by authors in the DECIPHR community. Users of SAUCE can expect an evolving user-generated and user-centric archive of digital sources to aid them in their original research on historical topics. Dedicated community users are free to add new sources to the database on their own, but they need not feel pressured to do so; the archive of digital sources should grow over time naturally as more content is published, since authors are required to cite their sources.


I. DECIPHR Public:

  • PHP/HTML, etc. Finished articles approved by the community appear here for public “consumption.”

II. DECIPHR Community:

  • WordPress-style article-writing tool. For historical article authors. Authors add bibliographies/footnotes using the relevant SAUCE tool.
  • Digg/Reddit-clone. Pending articles appear here for community review and voting. For registered users.


  • Zotero/similar tool. Sources cited by authors appear here. If Zotero is not used, the platform should be similarly open-source to allow for the addition of new searching and organizational methods as the community suggests them.

Theme: Please see the attached example images. Tier-1 users should never see anything but a clean, finished-looking product. Metadata, comments, and votes will be recorded but only visible for Tier-2 users.

Layout: The front-end of the website (DECIPHR Public) will be designed to serve the user quickly and easily. No navigational tool or “home” menu is needed because the website focuses on presenting a uniform type of content to the user; instead, at the top of the website the user can sort the historical questions by one of several categorical criteria, with the most relevant objects appearing at the top. The default organization is to display the most popular historical question/answer at the top, based on community vote.

Information is fed gradually based on user interest: From an organized list of historical questions, the user picks one and is given the author’s brief 200-word answer to that question and a single picture the author deems most relevant and inviting to continued user attention. If the user desires more information, he or she simply clicks the answer to be presented with the entire article, wherein the author’s answer is presented.

In short, the layout is designed so that users immediately “get what they came for.” There is no up-front time cost learning to navigate a site map, or playing with interactive tools that may or may not end up offering useful information.

 Slide1Fig.1 Draft welcome page. Allows users to quickly reach the part of the website dedicated to their needs.


Fig.2 Draft Front Page, with sample articles. Clicking an article takes the user to a synopsis of the most popular answer. A button on the synopsis page will take the user to the full article.


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