Nine out of ten times, the biggest hurdle we have to overcome when engaged in a web design (or redesign) project is content. It is all too common for us to have a website designed, developed and ready to go, only to have content playing catch up for days, weeks and even months.
Content is also the single most important and underestimated part of any effective website. You know what they say: content is king.
Regardless of how good looking, search engine optimized, responsive, call-to-action-packed your site is, it won't matter if your content isn't clear, concise, engaging, and impactful. Creating this level of quality content isn't something that should be rushed or assigned to the office intern. It has to be planned and carefully thought out. Not only will this result in a more effective, engaging website, but it will also make the web development process much quicker and efficient.
Treating content as an afterthought will limit our ability to make good design decisions and our sites will fail to achieve their goals.
What is content strategy?
Having a content strategy for your new or redesigned site simply means approaching content production with a concrete plan, and not leaving it as a secondary, last-minute item to check off a list. It can be as simple as setting a few minutes aside at the beginning of the project to really think about what content needs to be produced and who will be in charge of it; or as complex as a company-wide strategy that will involve several departments.
Ultimately, the result will be the same: high-quality content that will provide a better, more engaging experience for your website users. Also, a much more efficient, fluid web development process and even a learning experience for a company's staff, in which they'll end up with a better understanding of your audience and your site's purpose.
In an effort to avoid the common pitfalls of undermining the importance of content, a content-first approach to web design is quickly gaining traction in the industry.
The reason that poor content strategy is such a consistent source of headaches for any web designer or digital marketing agency, and the reason it keeps happening over and over again, is because clients that are beginning to get involved in a web design project are usually not as aware of this issue as the web developers and project managers that have already had this experience one too many times.
The way to counteract that is by diving head first into the problem. That is, content-first. This doesn't necessarily mean that every last word and image that will go on the site needs to be 100% done before the design process begins; but rather that content should be a first priority and a solid plan should be established and in motion by the time design begins.
These are just a handful of the benefits of approaching content production with a strategy in mind and as a first priority in the project:
- Keeps web project budget and timeframes in check.
- Assignment of content responsibilities for all parties
- Creates a consistent experience for all -- know what to expect, reduce surprises and last-minute changes
- Puts audiences and business goals first. A better understanding of content means a better understanding of your business.
- Produces only high quality content that will be effective and appealing to website users. This means more engagement, which means better results towards achieving the site's goals.
- Results in sites with realistic ongoing content demands that clients can sustain beyond launch with their available resources
What happens when content is not given the importance it deserves?
- Late content can (and most likely will) delay the project and website launch
- Unclear content responsibilities means no accountability, more difficulty tracking progress, and it's likely to end up in delays and rushed content.
- The website ends up with low quality content pieced together from several, possibly outdated sources, that will result in a less than engaging experience for the end user
- Designing a website from templates full of placeholder text isn't ideal for anyone as it results in guessing what to use to fill an empty space instead of designing pages to convey a specific messange in the best way possible.
Let's face it: even if content is left as an afterthought, if you're desigining or redesigining your website, you're going to have to produce content one way or the other, sooner or later.
With this in mind, and considering that content is the main reason your clients or potential clients are visiting your site in the first place, it makes all the sense in the world to make an effort and approach content with a solid strategy early on. The extra time and work put into it will pay off many times over during the course of the project and you'll end up with a much better, more effective website to show for it.