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Content is priority, not an afterthought in web projects

By June 9, 2018March 5th, 2021Rants, Web Development

Here’s a story/rant about content priority. Too many times I’ve seen web projects go sideways when coordinators or project managers push for a site outline first rather than completed copy — then let that copy drive the outline of a project. If the content is an afterthought and not a priority I always expect a few things to happen:

  • The project will run late waiting on copy for made up pages that don’t exist in the site outline.
  • Poor quality content will get rushed though to fill pages and meet a budget.
  • The overall site objective will fail to push to a coherent call to action.
  • The user experience will suffer.
  • And lastly, the client and coordinators will have a sudden realization of how hard it its to write copy.

I would say that all the points above would make the project a failure and probably lead to some frustration between all the parties involved. Never underestimate the time it takes to produce content (because it always takes longer than you expect).

New rule of thumb – content first, site outline last. However, there are ways to address content production and avoid bottlenecks. Here is what you should do to make your content production a success.

Gather as much of the existing site content as possible before beginning

Content is a serious investment to create and then maintain. So it’s better to be sure what content you actually need to produce – which could mean brand new content, a heavy rewrite or an update to existing site content. You’ll need to have a clear picture of this before you even begin a project so collect everything from existing page copy, pdfs, white-papers, printed materials, and everything else you can get your hands on.

Then review your google analytics reports to get a clear picture of the content that is popular on your website. Mainly, how visitors get to a pages, what keywords they use to find your pages in Google, and what they click once they are there.

These two steps should clarify a path to a site outline and a clear punch list of to-do’s right up front.

Prioritize content for launch, then publish more in follow-up phases.

If you don’t have it, don’t push it. Meaning, if there is specific content that still needs to be written, don’t let it hold an entire site launch up for weeks and months if you have the majority of it done. Stalled project launches cost both the the developer and the client real time and money.

After reviewing all the content, (before you even start) — communicate early the pages that will need some extra help, then communicate and work around the possibility of them launching a bit later than the rest of the site or hiring a copy-writer to get them done.

The beauty is that websites are always works in progress. And thanks to modern content management systems, you can edit or add content at any time in real time, even after a site launch.

Identify Subject Matter Experts

This is important — Unfortunately much to the disagreement of many people, I am not, and never will be a “YES” man. I’ve been in too many situations where someone has promised a client something because they where told they (or their agency/company) needed to always be the expert for the client. This has caused great grief in the life-cycle of many projects. I find this fundamentally wrong as a core principal because there is nothing wrong with saying “NO” or “I don’t know”. I also find most people appreciate this view, especially business owners.

I’m a web developer. I don’t know anything about being a dentist, CNC machine operator, tug boat captain, running a state wide nature preserve, or making specialized telescope lenses that see into the furthest reaches of space. Yet, those or some of the clients I’ve developed websites for. Telling any of them that I was an expert in those fields and that I could write copy or find content for them would be absurd.

I AM an expert in web development, and I CAN display your content, message, and brand in a super amazing and modern way. So, instead of trying to “be” an expert copywriter on a subject I know nothing about, I’ve learned to “identify” the experts among my clients and leverage the knowledge that they might bring to the table to complete a project. Or, be fully transparent about needing to pull in a third party copywriter if needed.

Why It Matters

We’ve all heard the expression “content is king.” But what does that mean in terms of the content that’s on your website? The residual long-term results of starting with content and letting that drive your website’s site outline and design will be far reaching. Starting with good content is going to increase your traffic and ranking right from the start and lead to an increase in lead-to-sale as points of conversion will be even clearer for users. Google will also rank good content higher and if that content has a long life on your website, it will continually be attracting and converting new traffic as the days, month and years go by.