Don't leave the most important part of your site to chance.
Plan and produce high-quality content.
In many ways, the words you use and how you use them is more important than the visual design you apply to your site.
With so many sites now replicating each others look and even elements your content is most likely going to be the differentiator from your competitors. If you apply this reliable approach to building something purpose-driven and useful, then your site will become something that simply works better.
When we refer to content, we are not only talking about the text that fills up the bulk of your pages or posts. All of the words on your site, images, multimedia make up your site content.
Instead of seeing content as just words and images, think of the role it plays and evaluate its importance based on how critical the role is.
Different types of content can fill roles such as:
There is a myriad more ways content fulfils critical roles in your company which directly affect how successful your site will be. You cannot afford to take the role of content lightly. It should have as much attention throughout the entire build process as the design.
Throughout this process, we have been highlighting how important it is to focus on the goal/purpose for every part of your website.
When you consider what content will be required and also when that content is produced you must always adhere to this way fo thinking, otherwise you will undermine all the other work you have put into the project.
As Sally Bagshaw, Content Strategist from Web Content Strategy outlines:
The most important thing you can do is have a very clear vision of how content will help you meet your business goals by fulfilling your customer's needs. Is your content there to inspire them? Educate them? Or assist them to complete a task? It's better to launch a site with a small amount of thoughtfully planned quality content that you can evolve over time, than a bunch of pages that don't serve a particular purpose
The goal for any piece of content doesn't necessarily have to be obvious, such as a Call To Action, but it should be deliberate.
You should have a reason for why you are creating a case study. Why have you have chosen this subject to write about and why is it being used? What message is it delivering, what are you using to achieve, why did you chose these images?
A critical part of developing your content needs is best served with traditional Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Research.
This research is in truth a key part of multiple areas of this guide including Research, Scoping and Content. You need to make sure you use SEO Research if you want to fully develop a result driven brief.
Ed Pelgen from Online Kickstart explains it like this:
SEO is simply about making sure your website pages and blog posts get found when your prospects are searching online for a product or a solution to their problem.
To understand the fundamentals of SEO in site development you can find some fantastic resources including MOZ's Beginners Guide to SEO as well as plenty of informative articles and guides on conducting Keyword Research.
Using Keyword Research techniques will assist you in creating unique pages of content on your site to match user needs, improve your content types and categories based around how humans search for your products or services.
Using this knowledge will also assist in creating more human friendly and logical site structures and urls.
There are a number of paid and free Keyword Research tools some of the common ones are Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest.
When you wrote your first draft scope of the site, you will already have identified a lot of content elements that you need to write or create and the reason behind their need.
Now you need to collate all the requirements for particular content types into useful lists that you can give to the people who will produce the content.
You should separate content into the type e.g. written, images, video and make sure you outline the exact requirements.
If you are going to be engaging an external copywriter, it will be important for both them and your budget that you organise these requirements. Allowing them to quantify how much is required, and have a real insight into its purpose will ensure an accurate quote, budget, and timeline for production.
Internally you can start to gauge how much time it will take to pull the content together.
It is extremely common for a design agency to undertake the project with an expectation that the content will hold up the delivery of the project, and it's rare that even draft content is ready for the initial briefing phase.
If you can compile the requirements for content and commence production you are going to be a long way ahead in the process of completing the end product.
Make sure you include all the content you will need including email responders, on-screen thank you messages and other automated content items. List out Social Media image styles that you might need for blog posts and icons for the different social accounts you have.
All of these elements make up the overall content master list for your site.
You can make this as complicated or as simple as suits your needs, projects and how many people are on the team. I recommend you at least outline the individual requirements per page (e.g. Images, Body Copy, Call to Action) over simply listing the page as needing content.
When you start collating and producing the content, it is very easy to lose track of what is in draft state, final state and even things missed.
This is a sample table view to create a list:
This is a guide only and is intended more to show a method that will help you stay on top of all of the content items needed to complete your project.
You will build this Master List by working your way through the Scope document, Site Map and Wireframes. In each instance, you will cross reference that each part of that document group has relevant items. Where you see new requirements that you add to this Master List, you need to add it to the corresponding Scope page or another document so that they are all accurate and up to date.
This process is the final step in making sure each part of the process is accurate. Items that you may have skipped over quickly in the Scope Document because you needed more answers or clarity should be filled out in more detail now.
There are some great online content collaboration tools available, and we often use Gather Content, which allows us to create templates to re-use for certain content types. You can set statuses and lock content when finalised which you can then provide to the design team as finished and approved documents.
Whichever method you use, you need a managed repository for version control, a naming convention for documents and images, etc. so that you can find them, and good discipline in creating folders and placing items in there ready for use on the project. You may wish to record on the Master List the name of whoever provided the content to help manage changes etc.
If you want a high-performing website, you need to ensure you allocate adequate time to the preparation and production of all content.
This includes a suitable budget. As Sally's quote highlights you are better to have high-quality content in smaller amounts than lots of thin and poorly prepared content. If you have a tight budget, use it wisely and produce the essential content well that will impact your results.
If you can't afford a copywriter and custom photography in your initial stage, then choose good quality and nongeneric stock photography or illustrations carefully and get your copy right. Then come back later and further enhance with better photography or illustrations.
Be realistic but importantly you need to understand the impact that the right words, image or device in the right place can have a significant impact on how your website is used and consequently the results it generates.