We always strive to get a good understanding of what a client is looking to say on their website before we get too far into a project.
This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how few clients have considered the amount of written content they are likely to need on a particular template on their site when we are asked to start the wire framing and design process.
This can be a problem. We always try and create versatile templates and scalable sites that clients can add to over time. However, if we design the layout before the client has considered the amount of content required, then we run the risk of designing a beautiful site that doesn’t quite give the client the scope to express themselves in the way they need.
To overcome this potential pitfall, we take time to investigate a range of crucial facets of a site before we get too far into the UX / design process. These include the content’s goal, target audience, structure, who will be writing/providing it, who will own it, possible future requirements etc.
This planning ensures that we can then advise how the content can be displayed to the user, as well as make more strategically sound decisions at the UX / design stage.
Clients frequently tell us that a news feed is crucial on a home page. The first thing we do is check how frequently the news feed and/or blog on their current site is updated. If we see that updates are uploaded daily (or at least a few times a week) with relevant content that adds value to the clients’ offering then we will tend to concur. However, if the last update was made 2 months ago, then we will question this thinking and help the client to find another way to create dynamic content on the home page. (Another alternative would be to propose user- or third-party-generated content, product reviews, expert opinion pieces etc.).
We have seen many projects over the years that have been late to go live – despite the site being delivered on time – due to a delay in content generation. It is surprisingly common for clients to underestimate the time required to write and upload content.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools available that can be used to help with content generation before your CMS is ready. We use Gather Content with a number clients. This online tool allows clients to upload content to virtual pages in the agreed site structure that can be easily ported over to the CMS prior to go-live. This enables the client to build the content in a format that closely reflects the CMS structure, and can save a great deal of time (and stress) closer to a site launch.
So what if you don’t yet know what the actual content is likely to be, but we ask you for some draft content to help us with the designs? One technique that helps our UX designers is ‘proto-content’. It’s not the final content that will be used on the site, but it’s draft copy that conveys the insights you’re looking to convey and helps to validate the content approach. Think of it as a rough sketch (not a literary masterpiece). This has the advantage of giving our designers something to work with, as well as giving the copywriter (ours, yours or maybe even you!) a sketched-out brief for the final content. It doesn’t need to be signed off at that stage, but it’s important that it’s marked up as draft content (as you don’t want this copy to make it to the final site!).
As an example, if you have an event panel on the site, it helps to know how long the average event title is likely to be, what the longest title may be, how the date and time will be formatted, how many lines of text will be required for venue details, a call to action link and the length of an average and longevent description. This will help determine the space required for the event panel on the site, and may even determine how many events can be displayed on the home page.
Finally, it’s important to plan for content governance (both for the initial site build and once it is live). Who will be responsible for the maintenance of the content on the site? What is the workflow? How do we need to build content approval functionality into the site? How can old content be archived? How will time-sensitive content be handled? Fortunately, our CMS has custom functionality to help with all these facets of content management (and much more!), but this all needs to be planned to ensure it is suited for your specific requirements.
In summary, don’t underestimate the power of content to achieve your goals on your website. Equally, don’t underestimate the time & planning required to create and maintain your content.
If you like this article, you might also like 'Why responsive web design is important'
If you’d like to know more, then feel free to get in touch.