Most companies looking to build new websites (or redesign old ones) focus almost exclusively on design. They want a site that is modern looking, professional, clean — all important design elements. They usually have an example or 2 of websites that they’d like to emulate. But they usually say nothing about content. They have a general idea of what they think they want on the site, but they haven’t taken any concrete steps to create or organize that content.
While the design of your website is important in representing your image and brand, it’s the content of your site that will inform, engage and convert visitors into customers. Your content is also what Google uses to decide how often to display you in its search results.
So why are companies so unprepared when it comes to the content for their new website?
Because creating and organizing content is hard. Really hard.
Creating Website Content
Here are the steps involved:
Before you write a single word you should know what the objective of your website it. If it’s only to serve as an online brochure, then you might just need a few pages of informative content about your company. If you want it to drive traffic from search, then you’ll need a lot more content focusing on the keywords you’re trying to target. If your website will be instructing and supporting customers, you’ll need to have in-depth technical content. In many cases you might have a combination of several objectives required a variety of content. Determining a content strategy is a vital step in the web development process that cannot be skipped, but it often is, simply because companies are not even aware it exists.
Once you’ve determined your strategic objectives and the type and quantity of content you’ll need, it’s time to create the content structure of your site. A simple example might be – Home – About – Services – Blog – Contact. Each of these main categories will probably have subcategories. So the About category might have History – Values – Team – Testimonials. Some of these might have subcategories of their own.If you have multiple services, you might decide to create a unique page for each. Some of those subpages might also have their own sub-pages.
In the diagram, Services has 3 subpages. The Programming subpage has 5 subpages.
Create a flow chart is one effective way of organizing the content structure of your website and determining what pieces of content you need to create.
Some, or even all, of the content you need for your website might already exist within your company, on your old website, brochure, catalogue, support materials, manuals etc. You might have the perfect images on your hard drive. Before creating any new content, review the content you already have. Much of it might need to be be updated and optimized, but it’s usually easier and time efficient to do that as opposed to starting from scratch.
After you’ve curated your existing content it’s time to start creating any new content you need.
Design vs. Content
The entire content process is daunting for many companies, especially if they don’t have dedicated marketers or writers on staff. Web design agencies need to step up and do whatever it takes to move the project along. That includes writing the content for the client. The client still has to provide an outline or notes, but the agency should create the actual content.
The problem here is that since companies are almost exclusively focused on design when seeking an agency to build their website, they often end up hiring a designer who might be an expert at design, but not at content strategy, structure and creation or SEO. These designers usually price projects for less than full service agencies, because they’re only taking design into account.
Sometime, when I quote a price for a website project, the client will show me a lower quote from a designer. My response is usually — I can give you the same price for the design, but then I’m also adding content, SEO, marketing strategy etc. Hence, the higher price.
Content is usually what delays website projects for months and even years. Making sure that doesn’t happen is a team effort between the client and web agency.
Here’s what the client needs to do:
- Hire an agency that has content expertise in its tool kit.
- Designate a capable staff member to gather together and curate all of your inhouse content.
- Be responsive to the requests of your agency for outlines, notes, content and feedback.
Here’s what the agency needs to do:
- Help the client clearly define the website objectives
- Guide the client in organizing the structure of the website (flowcharts help).
- Give the client detailed instructions of what you need them to provide, with specific examples.