Original post written by Tim Jones for Webstruxure's blog.
Enthusiastic imaginary client at the start of their website developmentproject: “Content is King (or Queen)! Having high-quality, readable, engaging content is the No. 1 priority for our website redevelopment project.”
Same imaginary client about two weeks before their new website is due to go live: “So, er, we had planned to have all the website content written by now, but then things got really busy and our office administrator got sick, so we haven’t got any of it written yet. But no worries, because we’ve got this new intern starting next Monday and for the whole final week before the website goes live they’re going to do nothing except write those eighty pages of new content we need. Eighty pages, forty hours a week – that’s half an hour per page. How hard could it be?”
OK, I’m exaggerating – and this definitely isn’t any actual Webstruxure client, past or present!
But all the same, I’m not exaggerating by much. Often, content creation is treated as an afterthought in website design and delivery processes, and that means that sites fail to meet business objectives or user needs, and often fail to meet delivery deadlines as well.
That’s why Webstruxure encourages clients to recognise how important good content is when they budget for their website projects. This post is in two parts: what goes wrong when you don’t prioritise content, and what we at Webstruxure encourage you to do to avoid these problems happening to you.
Part A: So Why Should We Care About Content?
Here are some of the things that can go wrong if the provision of content for your new site doesn’t get the attention it deserves:
Here are words we hear a lot when we ask clients whether they want to include content editing or writing in their project budget: “Nah, we‘ll just copy the content from the old site into the new site structure”. This might – just might – work if you have a five-page site with an entirely flat structure, featuring such well-known classics as About Us and Contact Us, which may not need to be rewritten for a new website.
But if either the structure of your site – its information architecture – or the content design of your site has changed, then your pages have to be written from scratch or cobbled together from bits and pieces of several different pages on the old site. That’s a perfectly valid thing to do, provided the content is reviewed for quality and relevance before it goes live, but you really, really won’t enjoy doing it at the last minute.
Part B: We Care About Content – We Care A Lot! So What Should We Do?
“Enough!” I hear you say. “We’re convinced! We don’t want all those horrible things to happen to us! But how can we prevent them, since they seem to happen so often?”
Fear not! There are ways to avoid these problems. The key is to make the right decisions at the start of your project, and in particular, when you are scoping out your project and your budget. Here’s what we suggest:
1. When Setting Your Project Budget, Don’t Get Distracted By The Shiny
People, just like magpies, are attracted to shiny things. That’s well known. What’s less well known, or at least less well known by the folks who typically sign off on website project budgets, is that while shiny things like beautiful visual design are important to attract visitors to your site, it’s quality, actionable content that will keep them coming back.
So, when you’re setting your project budget, avoid the temptation to spend all the budget on the shiniest possible visual design at the expense of content that works. If you’re convinced that content matters, but you can’t convince your managers, give Webstruxure a call and we’ll help you out with the evidence you need.
2. Work With Your Website Provider To Create A Content Delivery Plan
Getting an appropriate amount of money for content in your project budget is just the first step. You need to work with whoever’s developing your website to create a content delivery plan that will detail how each item of content will be delivered, when, and by whom.
3. Make It Easy For Your Content Writers With A Content Style Guide
A web content style guide (also known as web content guidelines) is a set of instructions about how content should be written for your website. They are useful even if one person writes all the content, but the more content writers and editors get involved, the more vital they become.
4. Mitigate Risks By Keeping On Top Of The Content Delivery Process
Your content delivery plan is only useful as long as it is actually followed by those providing content for your new site – whether your content delivery team consists of one person (for instance, you) or a whole bunch of people. Make sure that someone is in charge of the content delivery plan, and that they will be actively keeping on top of whether content delivery is progressing on schedule.
5. Content: It’s A Living Thing
It’s done! The site is live! You deserve a holiday!
And you should take one, but bear in mind that the moment your new website content was completed and signed off, it began to go out of date. We can help transition your content delivery plan into an ongoing content plan for reviewing, maintaining and updating content on your lovely new website – and making the content planning process much easier when your new website, in its turn, needs replacement.
There are no two ways about it. Organising, creating and delivering high-quality, effective web content takes time, effort and planning. Fortunately, there are professionals out there who can help you. Give us a call or come to see us at our Wellington offices.