Planning and producing content for websites is challenging.
It has to be useful for the organisation and their customers, written in an authentic voice and tone, and there are often lots of people involved with individual agendas and priorities.
Add to this the considerations needed around accessibility, structured content, localisation,personalisation, migration, governance (and many more), and you can easily find yourself spiralling down a rabbit hole of missed deadlines, delayed content and out of control budgets.
I’ve painted a bleak picture here but there is hope. Having a content strategy for website projects can ensure a better way of getting content planned, produced and published.
We need to put content at the top of the agenda from the get-go and ask questions early on in the project to make sure you don’t get to the stage of building the website and realising there is no content.
When content isn’t planned upfront as part of strategy for a website project, it often leads to:
- Content being provided late, causing delays or even worse not at all, leaving the project in limbo
- Changes required to design to accommodate the content
- Content having to be edited and altered to fit the design
More specifically, there are lots of pains experienced when it comes to content and website projects. I experienced these myself when I worked at an agency on client projects and now hearing the struggles our customers faced before using GatherContent.
Some of the most common pains are:
- Didn’t have the right people to write the content
- Didn’t have the right process or tools in place to deliver the content
- Confusion over what content is required
- Caught out by the scale of producing content
- Content delaying the launch of a new website
- Poor quality content gets through
- Budgets blow-out as project churns
- The overall user experience suffers
When planning and implementing a content strategy, there are some key steps to take and considerations to make. Content strategy is about people and process and so you need to make sure you have these in place before you get started. Let’s take a look at some of the core elements of a content strategy in more detail.
Right questions, right time
Asking the right questions at the right time is a core part of effective content strategy. This will ensure content is at the heart of the design process and the eventual user experience, and hopefully facilitates a less stressful process for all those involved in the website project.
Here are some example questions you can use as an agenda to discuss with your project team:
- Do we / you know how much content we have on our current site?
- Do we / you know what quality our content is in?
- Do we / you know who the (subject matter expert) owners are for our current content?
- Do we / you expect to archive old and poor quality content on our current site?
- Do we / you know who is going to (re)write all the content for the new site?
- Does someone have overall responsibility for content quality during the project and beyond?
- Do we / you know (roughly) how many hours per week will be dedicated to maintaining content on the new site? How many are currently dedicated to it?
- Do we / you know if any content is syndicated from other systems?
- Do we / you have a (digital) content style guide?
These simple, direct questions at the start of your next web project will force you to think content-first.
Grab a PDF copy
of our 13 content questions checklist and start planning content for your next website project.
Assembling your content team
Content isn’t a one person job, far from it. There are likely to be a number of people and roles involved including:
- Content Strategist
- Project Manager
- Subject Matter Expert(s)
- Content Designer
The list could go on, and often one person covers multiple roles and responsibilities. But the key is to assemble a team to help get the content done and once you know who is responsible for each requirement, you can create your workflow.
Defining your workflow
A workflow is essential to avoid confusion over content production. You need to be clear who is responsible for what, and by when, and communicate the workflow to the project team.
Having a workflow will allow you to:
- Identify bottlenecks in your process (not to lay blame, but to unblock and keep content moving)
- Avoid having to chase for content and updates
- Avoid unnecessary back and forth to people who don’t need to be involved
- Establish an efficient and effective way of getting content ‘done’
It doesn’t need to be complicated either. Keeping your workflow simple will allow you to focus on producing high-quality content without distraction.
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to produce content
With the right people and workflow in place, you’re setting yourself up for content production success! To plan your project successfully, it’s important to understand how much time is required to produce content. In fact, the time needed to produce content is often underestimated, especially when you have a complex review and approval process if there are lots of stakeholders involved.
A typical content production workflow for a website project looks like this:
- Brief/page table
- User test and iterate
- Upload to CMS
- Review in HTML
This is ‘typical’ and can vary from project to project and team to team but the core stages are included. During our content strategy masterclass, one exercise we run asks attendees to estimate how long it would take to get a 750 word web page through that workflow. After dozens of classes with thousands of participants, the average time is 12 hours. If you scale that up to dozens of pages (and often far more) and add in other content types and assets, and you’ve got a lot of time that’s needed to get your content done.
This can be intimidating and demotivating but with the right team and workflow in place, and by asking the right content questions early on, you’ll be creating a solid foundation on which to kick-off your website project.
At times it just isn’t feasible to get everything done for launch. This could be due to resources (or a lack of), or deadlines imposed by clients or stakeholders.
To keep momentum up, you can work with your content team to:
- Produce a clearly prioritised, single backlog of content for the project
- Identify content that can be archived / not rewritten (existing sites)
- Build a shared consensus on what is most important to work on
In these instances, prioritise content so you go live with the essential information and then roll-out additional content in iterations and following phases. It’s better to be realistic about what is feasible for a specific deadline in order to produce content that will support your site’s goals.
Ready to take control of your content process?
This blog post scratches the surface of what we cover in our free 2 hour online masterclass where you can learn how to plan, produce and deliver high-quality content, on time, for your website projects.
We share practical advice to help you:
- Assemble a content delivery team
- Design a content delivery process
- Set up and managing your content delivery
Our next online class is happening on Thursday April 26th at 4pm BST (UK time) and you can reserve your free seat now.