DEV Community

Cover image for ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ STEAL THIS ๐Ÿ‘ฎโ€โ™€๏ธ - My 15 box method for generating content ideas and content recycling
InHuOfficial
InHuOfficial

Posted on

๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ STEAL THIS ๐Ÿ‘ฎโ€โ™€๏ธ - My 15 box method for generating content ideas and content recycling

I have been quite quiet on the content creation front. Don't worry I haven't run out of ideas, I have instead been working on adding some structure and breadth to my content creation strategy (or, for those of you who follow me...actually adding some strategy in the first place rather than just writing about whatever random thing pops into my head! ๐Ÿคฃ).

In this article (which will be part of a series on content creation) I want to share one of the key elements of my strategy - my 15 box method!

It has two purposes:-

  • it helps me to come up with articles ideas quickly and easily
  • it helps me to maximise the amount of content I create with each idea.

I hope fellow content creators can steal this concept and adapt it to their needs!

The 15 box method

The concept is simple, there are 3 rows of 5 boxes.

Each row represents a medium or media type.

Each column represents content length / complexity going from shortest to longest.

Whenever you create a piece of content you decide which box is most applicable and then work your way outwards from that box until you have exhausted all the possible avenues for that content.

Sound confusing? Don't worry an example will make it easier to understand.

Example Usage and further explanation

Here are the 15 boxes I use:
15 boxes arranged in 3 rows of 5 columns. The columns are labelled "short", "medium", "long", "series" and "epic" and the rows are labelled "image", "written" and "motion graphics". In each box there are types of content that match the specific column and row

As a Table

Short Medium Long Series Epic
Image Quotes, Screen Shots Graphs and charts, section of infographic Infographic Poster Series, Infographic Series Mega packs of: Templates + infographics + checklists
Written Social Media Post Mini articles, Twitter Threads Article Article Series Book / eBook, eZine / magazine
Motion Graphics Animated GIF Short Video (1-2 minutes) Full Video (10-20 minutes) Video Series Documentary, Ultimate Guide (1+ hours)

How to use it for content ideas generation

Do a little research and find an interesting article / subject to write about.

While researching the subject let's say you think of a great tweet about "Semantic HTML".

You would start in the relevant box (Short + Written) and then try and come up with ways to recycle that content into the surrounding boxes.

So one box up is Short + Image, and you might decide to do a dual screen shot of some "div soup" next to "semantic HTML" as a comparison of how much easier semantic HTML is to understand.

We now have 2 pieces of content.

Then you would go one box down and see if you can come up with an animated GIF - for example 5 scenes:

  1. "don't do this"
  2. screenshot of div soup
  3. "instead do this"
  4. screenshot of semantic HTML
  5. Benefits of semantic HTML (SEO, accessibility etc.)

We now have 3 pieces of content.

You would continue this method until you run out of ideas or have filled in all the boxes.

So an example may be:

Full example of content planning

Image + Short
side-by-side screen shots of "div soup" next to "semantic HTML"
Image + Medium
Chart of percentage of websites using certain semantic SEO elements
Image + Long
20 HTML elements to improve your SEO infographic
Image + Series
Series of posters explaining each HTML element and do's and don'ts when using it
Image + Epic
Complete poster pack for every HTML element + a flow chart / decision tree on correct element choice + required attributes checklist
Written + Short
Tweet โ€œsemantic HTML makes your markup easier to read, is better for SEO and accessibility, don't use s everywhere"
Written + Medium
Twitter thread: 20 HTML elements to improve your SEO
Written + Long
20 HTML elements to improve your SEO detailed explanation and code examples / usage
Written + Series
Series of articles explaining each HTML element and do's and don'ts when using it plus designing considerations, accessibility and performance
Written + Epic
Convert the article series into a eBook linked to a load of codepens people can use
Motion Graphics + Short
5 Scene GIF: 1. "don't do this" 2. screenshot of div soup 3. "instead do this" 4. screenshot of semantic HTML 5. Benefits of semantic HTML (SEO, accessibility etc.)
Motion Graphics + Medium
XXX element explained in less than 120 seconds
Motion Graphics + Long
XXX element in depth look at usage, relevant attributes, styling options, relevant WAI-ARIA, performance considerations etc.
Motion Graphics + Series
Series of videos explaining each HTML element and do's and don'ts when using it plus designing considerations, accessibility and performance
Motion Graphics + Epic
Turn videos into Udemy course "in depth HTML for beginners"

How I use it for content idea generation

I start at the "Written - Series" row and column.

By thinking of series it inevitably leads to multiple articles that form part of that series (it also let's you think of an order for your articles that makes sense).

Each article has the opportunity to become short articles / twitter threads.

Key parts of the articles may make great single tweets.

Twitter threads may make a great infographic, or the article itself may make a great infographic.

The idea is to use the boxes to spark ideas for other content.

Also by looking vertically you can easily see how an article could become a video or an infographic, or how a twitter thread could easily become a YouTube #short (1-2 minute video) etc.


I will be writing a further article on how I generated 20 years worth of content in 1 day using the "series thinking" method!

So stay tuned (follow me) for that!


How to use it for content recycling

The method is the same but you utilise existing content.

For example I have an article:

It took me ages to create at over 16500 words and to be honest the views were disappointing (although it is top for #a11y for the year here on DEV so it isn't all bad!)!

But now I can use the 15 box method to reuse that content.

I couldn't make it into a series as it is so I would ignore "Written - Series" (I am not writing a series of 16500 word articles...it would kill me!).

But I could go the other way and create several Twitter threads ("Written - Medium") based on each main category (of which there are 14 main category sections, so that is 14 twitter threads that can all link back to the article).

I could also turn each of these sections into infographics, so that is 14 more pieces of content.

I could then turn each individual point (well most of them) into 120 second videos (YouTube #Shorts, Tik Tok videos, Instagram) giving me nearly 100 videos.

I could tweet a single point every day, giving me nearly 100 tweets (or more, there may be 2 good tweets in a section) etc.

See how I have just generated over 230 different content ideas from one article...and I haven't even filled out all the boxes!

Now you may not have a mega article like that to recycle (most people aren't as stupid as me putting that much time into a single article ๐Ÿคฃ), but the principle will still work.

What next?

Grab a piece of paper and write down 10 ideas for an article (go read some other articles and see if you think you can write a better version / a different take).

Then just work your way outwards from the "Written - Long" section for each article idea and see what ideas it sparks.

If you can't think of an idea for a box just skip it for now, you may find another idea from a different box helps you fill in the blanks.

Also bear in mind that you don't only have to have one item in each box (especially in the short, medium and long columns).

Within an hour I guarantee you will have too much content to create!

Podcasts and Audio

I have no intention (at this time) of doing podcasts, but you may decide you want to remove the video row (for example) and replace it with an audio row.

My suggestions would be something like:

Audio + Short
A quick voice note shared on relevant communities?
Audio + Medium
A 2-5 minute explainer on a subject
Audio + Long
A podcast episode (20-60 minutes)
Audio + Series
A series of podcasts cantered around a particular subject with a structured tutorial element / logical progression of complexity on the subject
Audio + Epic
A complete audio book (convert "Written + Epic" book into an audio book)

Obviously I haven't given that as much thought / research so I would encourage you to come up with different content types that fit.

Further parts of the series

In the next part of the series I will be looking at which pieces of content fit on what platforms, what limitations those platforms have etc.

The whole idea is to streamline the creation process so I can churn out loads of high quality content quickly, while automating as much as possible!

So what do you think?

A quick poll to see what people think of the 15 box method:

Discussion (13)

Collapse
marinsborg profile image
Marinsborg

Hello, as somebody who is content creator my self, it seems that I followed some of those principle by myself.
However I think I struggle the most with the images. Can you tell me what tools do you use for creating those images and where you get inspiration from?
Great article, thanks!

Collapse
inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

So for image creation I am still quite "old school" in that I use Adobe Illustrator but Canva seems a popular choice for a lot of people for social media imagery etc.

For me personally - I am in the process of creating branded templates for images and have certain image "types" or "categories", such as screenshots (1 template), quotes (another template), comparisons (2 images side by side) etc.

For things like graphs there are loads of kits and templates out there that you can buy and then just adapt to your needs, same for infographics, there are loads of templates for them (where you can just grab 10 sections and combine them into one massive image).

As for the content of the images, I look at the content I am basing it on and decide what type of image is appropriate. So if the content is a how-to I might decide that a numbered infographic with each of the steps works.

Or if they are 10 separate items as part of a general article, I would created them as 10 separate images and share them individually perhaps.

One trick I use for inspiration is just to look at what others have done, once I know what the image is roughly about it is easy to use Google image search and see what pops up, then create something that matches my style and approach etc.

If you like (as this is a whole series about content creation) if you clarify what you mean (details of what you struggle with etc.) a bit I can write a whole piece on images that will hopefully address those. ๐Ÿ‘

Collapse
marinsborg profile image
Marinsborg

Thank you for detailed answer. Do you have twitter so I can follow you there?

Thread Thread
inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

twitter.com/InHuOfficial About to up my twitter game so good timing ๐Ÿ˜„

Thread Thread
marinsborg profile image
Marinsborg

Followed.
One more question regarding images - I see you have nice cover image on Twitter. Did you make it yourself and how? Or you have your editor/designer?

Thread Thread
inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

I made it myself i am afraid and yet again that was with Adobe Illustrator and practice! But for something like that fiverr would probably be a super cheap way of getting something professional done!

Collapse
inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Stay tuned for the next parts in the series where I show you the method I will be using to stream line content creation through templates and helpers, how I will cross promote content, scheduling content and more.

Plus it will be exciting to see if it all works as I expect it to as I am basically starting from 0 on everything other than DEV.

Collapse
siddharthshyniben profile image
Siddharth

Just realised that this is the method that I subconsciously use (but not in this much structure!) during my weekly planning! I'm pretty sure the structure you gave it will make it more productive. Awesome ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Collapse
inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Cheers Siddarth, if you do end up using it then let me know if it works for you / any adjustments you make!

Collapse
terabytetiger profile image
Tyler V. (he/him)

Love the idea of starting with one box, then slowly considering how it fills into the adjacent boxes! Great way to keep thoughts flowing in a useful way!

Collapse
inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Thanks Tyler! โค๏ธ

Collapse
canro91 profile image
Cesar Aguirre

Thanks for putting that table in place. For me, repurposing content has removed the stress of coming up with ideas for new content

Collapse
inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial Author

Not an issue, hope you get chance to put it to good use! ๐Ÿ”ฅ