It’s easy for clients to focus on the visual aspects of their websites. We need to remind them to focus on the words.
If you work in the realm of web design, you’ve seen it over and over again. Everything is moving along smoothly until the client needs to input content. Next thing you know, the design is broken, the navigation elements don’t make as much sense, formatting elements (headings, subheadings, etc.) are all over the place, images are distorted, and the project gets sidetracked trying to fix it all.
Sometimes the site content is outdated, but gets migrated over to a new site anyway, causing the stale content to clash with the shiny new website. At other times, clients may realize they need to create a slew of new content for their site; but, since writing is a challenge, it tends to become lower on the website priority list and hinders the project timeline.
We know. We’ve been there. Many times. So, rest assured, you’re not alone. And there’s something that can help with all this: content strategy (do you hear hoots and hollers here, or is it just me?)!
Content strategy can get ahead of these issues before they arise because it is a plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content. Along with Interaction Design, Content Strategy will examine the audiences that are consuming the content, whether the messaging aligns with the audience’s goals for visiting a site, and the business goals of the organization. Armed with this knowledge, we can guide clients to craft content that ties to those goals on every page. This makes it useful and usable. Alternatively, we can review content already on a site and provide recommendations for how to present it better to an audience. Usually, this involves omitting a good chunk of irrelevant content and educating the client about best practices for writing on the web.
In some cases, a department does not have a communications role established to maintain their website content. The task falls into someone’s lap, who may not be excited about how important it is because he or she has other primary responsibilities. On the flip side, there may be multiple authors for content, and therefore, many voices communicating with the website visitor.
Content strategy can help with both of these scenarios. For the first example, we can work with the client and stress the importance of serving as the contact for website updates. We can tell the client that it’s an excellent professional development opportunity that could be useful down the road. We can offer resources to make content updates less of a burden.
For the second scenario, we can provide these types of clients with valuable tools. The creation of a voice and tone guide can give their sites a consistent voice. An editorial calendar and workflows can help the client plan ahead for content updates and how the content will be delivered to the audience. We can even develop a governance model to establish roles, such as who will write, edit, approve, and publish content. We will take a deeper look into governance in a future blog post. For now, keep reminding your clients to keep content high on their list of priorities.