Defining a workflow to deliver content at your institution

4 minute read

A content delivery workflow outlines each stage a content item needs to pass through from brief to eventual publication on a website.

Defining this process early on in a project, with the relevant people involved, is key to delivering content on time and in budget. This article looks at how teams can define their own content delivery workflow, using a typical workflow as an example.

A typical workflow

Every project is different and the most appropriate way of producing and moving content through a workflow differs. Some sites will need a legal review and others may require academics to sign-off on every page. Perhaps you have to deliver multilingual content, content for digital and print or include subject matter experts at different stage who work across multiple departments and campuses.

For big redesigns or new sections of a website, you may require a larger workflow to accommodate more stages and people. If you're adding content to an existing site or producing regular content then the workflow may be smaller and less complicated. The important thing is to have a workflow for all content production. It really will make collaboration easier, deadlines met and expectations managed across your institution.

Whilst you have to be prepared to adapt the stages of your workflow, there are common stages across website projects.

  • Brief
  • Research
  • Write
  • User test and iterate
  • Review
  • Revise
  • Upload to CMS
  • Review in HTML
  • Publish
  • Govern/Maintain

Already you might be thinking about how you would change some stages, add some, rename some and so forth. All to make the workflow relevant and useful for your own institution, team situation and resource.

Designing your own bespoke content delivery workflow

The earlier you can design your own process, the better. It can seem like a big investment and a delay to getting to the visuals and design stage, or to just getting the content published. But the more time you invest upfront in your content, the fewer obstacles and challenges you should face during the project lifecycle.Running a workshop is a great way to design your process whilst engaging key stakeholders. Begin by identifying the goals of your workshop such as:

  • Design an appropriate workflow for the project
  • Identify content delivery gaps early
  • Inform content governance after launch

You may require a workshop for stakeholders within a single team, a department, a whole school or an institution-wide project. Which ever it may be, there are six main tasks that you can cover in the workshop that will help you to achieve these goals in collaboration.

Task 1: Map your content workflow

Divide attendees into two teams and ask both teams to capture the appropriate workflow steps for producing the example content item during the website project. This could be a new course description, information for international students or an open day announcement. Something contextual always helps to set the scene and get the participants inspired.Ask them to use a post-it note for each stage (to move them around)

Task 2: Add people

Assign and label a person or role to each stage in their workflow. This will help you identify any unassigned roles and if one person is responsible for multiple responsibilities (which may not be productive or realistic).A good method here is to use colour-coded stick-men or post-its to quickly visualise recurring roles.

Task 3: Identify risks and pain points

Highlight and annotate potential pain-points in your workflow. Consider bottlenecks, known issues, lack of skills, and internal politics.This will help to surface issues such as there being lots of people with a say in the content, an unfair workload falling on one person and any shortage of the required skills.

Task 4: Design solutions

Develop ideas that could help to mitigate or smooth out the potential pain points. Consider the use of software, systems, and tools and ask what are the current techniques and coping strategies for producing content?This is a great opportunity to dissect existing processes and can even be a chance to audit the current tools being used. Never miss a chance to save time or money!

Task 5: Estimate time

Estimate in fractions of hours how much Effort each stage may realistically take and total them. Remember to be realistic and go with previous experience.Calculate the actual man-hours of work (Effort) required to complete the stage rather than the span of time (the Duration) it takes for the stage to be completed, although both are important when planning resourcing.

  • Total up all the stages at the end of the process
  • Multiply the total with the anticipated pages on the new site to get an estimate of total Effort for all your content

Task 6: Pitch and critique the workflows

Present your workflow for the rest of the team to critique. Each group walks the whole room through their workflow and invites discussion. Video the presentations to watch back later, take lots of high-res pics of the outputs and back up ASAP.

After the workshop

Digitise the agreed workflow and disseminate this to all relevant stakeholders, some of whom may not have been involved in the workshop.Summarise the process that you went through to come to the final workflow and clearly communicate what the stages are, what needs to be done at each stage and who is responsible for getting those tasks done.Remember to make sure the latest workflow diagram and supporting docs are easily available to the project team and stakeholders. Hosting your workflow in a central place (like GatherContent!) makes it accessible to the entire team so there is no mis-understanding as to who is responsible for what.

About the author

Robert Mills

Rob is Head of Content at GatherContent. He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and regular contributor to industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, 24 Ways,WebTuts+, UX Matters , UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy and ContentOps at leading industry events.

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