Content: the regularly-forgotten king
We’ve all heard that content is king, so why is it so often forgotten in the excitement of moving to a shiny new website and what can you do to make sure that it is on your radar?
On web projects, often content can be the elephant in the kick off meeting room. Companies usually have staff members in place to look after the content on their beloved website, but when a website redevelopment project is on the cards, the focus is on how the pages look and the functionality of a website. And if a content strategy or content input isn’t in the budget line an agency may presume that a company is confident in handling their own content and knows when and how to prepare it.
But should such an important part of your users’ web experience be pushed aside so easily? And can you really just take the content from your old website and slot it readily into your shiny new website?
First and foremost
In my experience on working on larger websites, content is actually something that should be thought about before even beginning to brief in a website – whether that is by the company commissioning the site or as a content strategy piece of work by an agency.
This is because really your template designs should be led by your content-needs (rather than the other way around). A new website is an opportunity to create the templates that you actually need. Often people shoe horn content into ill-fitting templates. This is understandable for a legacy website but if you are building a new one from scratch this is your chance to get it right. For instance, you may have been editing basic pages to make them work for your events – adding in conference banners and images of buttons in the main body of the page – when you could have a proper template that would auto-style this for you and you would simply add an image and a link for the button. All of this thought can feed into an informed brief.
Agency to the rescue
An integrated agency can take the headache out of content strategy by not only analysing your content, with a subjective eye, but also working closely with colleagues while website templates are designed, and formed, to make sure that the website you are building works for the content you need – as well as looking great. This can even go down to the detail of making sure that fields allow for the fact that your products usually have long names or that there is a particular titbit of content that needs to appear on more than one page.
Regardless of who is handling the content, a new website is also a great opportunity to carry out an audit to make sure that your content is working well for you and to spring clean those pages that are hanging around with no one reading them. The most quantitative way to do this is to pull off Google Analytics data for each page (and patterns overall) so you can see exactly how many people are using a page. Spending time on this is much more valuable in the long run than simple copying and pasting everything on your website wholesale (without any thought). Each page will take time to move and if you don’t use a new website as an opportunity to check your content it could be a minefield to update later on.
It is also an opportunity to consider your website from a user perspective and restructure as a whole (with redirects in place of course). Some larger websites grow organically over time or are structured in a way that reflects a businesses internal structure, rather than how the customers will look for something.
When content is forgotten
People can fall into the trap of thinking that the point at which the website is ready to input into is the point at which to consider their content. This approach is understandable as they need a tangible place to put their content to really understand what content is needed. Yet if the wire-framing, specification and design processes are clear enough there shouldn’t be any doubt. Apart from the disadvantages explained above, doing things this way around is also a classic reason for a web project to be delayed. People don’t always realise how time-consuming analysing or even inputting content can be and if you start early you will have much more time for this important part of your project.
So take my advice and make content your king, not a forgotten pauper!