For small and medium-sized organizations, content is usually the trickiest part of putting together a website. That often results in it being the one thing web designers are left waiting for when trying to finish off a project. Even if the overall design and functionality are a go, a lack of content halts progress.
Over the years, I’ve found myself asking why this is such a challenge. But after seeing it time and again, a few things have become clear.
First, clients are generally not content creators. Most don’t sit there and write on a daily basis. Therefore, they don’t necessarily know what to say. Or, even if they have some talking points, they might struggle in articulating them.
Then there is also the obstacle of time. People who are busy running their business or non-profit may simply have trouble finding a few hours to concentrate on writing. Content strategy takes a back seat to other tasks.
This presents an opportunity for web designers to come in and save the day. With a little help, we can get the processes of creating and organizing content moving in the right direction.
Here are a few ways you can help your clients with their website content strategy.
Focus on the Most Important Details
If you’re redesigning or completely rebuilding an existing website, some of the hard work may be done for you. You can look to that content for clues regarding what’s important.
Even if that existing content is messy, it can still be useful. Search out the key selling points and discuss them with your client. Present them as a means to achieve their goals for the project.
Each organization will have their own unique message to share. An eCommerce shop, for example, may want to talk about their attention to detail when it comes to customer service. Meanwhile, a medical practice will want to concentrate on their expert staff and specialties. This type of information can prove vital in content creation.
The goal is to help your client to narrow their focus. Having a better understanding of the task at hand can provide them with confidence. They’ll be better positioned to produce compelling content.
Provide Visual Guidance
Another way to help clients develop a successful content strategy is through visualization. We do this by providing templates or prototypes that outline the various sections of a page.
This offers an immediate form of guidance that your client can reference when writing. They’ll have a better idea as to the desired length of content, along with how to make it easy to digest. It takes a lot of guesswork out of the process.
Of course, they may not exactly stick to the standards you’ve set. But that’s not the point. It’s more about getting them to think in terms of how that content will be seen by users. Even if they’re not initially thrilled with the mockup, you can work together on finding the right balance.
Another side benefit is that this trains clients to take a more consistent approach. In practice, this means that although the content may change from page to page, the format doesn’t. Users won’t be treated to succinct descriptions on the Services page while being expected to read a meandering, 20-paragraph opus on the About Us page.
By providing visual guidance, clients can simply fill in the blanks. It’s more efficient and less stressful.
Promote Common Sense and Ease-of-Use
When it comes to organizing content, things can get out of hand in a hurry. And they often become extreme.
Some clients may insist on cramming a massive amount of information onto a single page. Others could be just the opposite, with secondary pages that contain no more than a sentence or two. Neither of these strategies is likely to be a hit with users.
Thankfully, a little education can go a long way. When discussing content organization, focus on these fundamental questions:
- How easy is it for users to navigate?
- Is all the content on a particular page truly relevant?
- What is the overall point of the content, and, is it obvious to the user?
- Should a long page be split up into multiple sub-pages?
- Are we missing any key information?
- What’s best for SEO?
By asking these questions, you have the opportunity to fill your clients in on the finer points of a user-first approach. The answers should lead everyone in the right direction.
Write It Yourself
There are certain clients who may never become comfortable with writing and organizing content. Or they may just be unlikely to get around to doing the work. This is not only fine, but it’s also an opportunity for web designers.
By offering to write the content yourself, you will take some pressure off your clients – not to mention make some extra money. It could be a win-win situation.
You may find clients who are very happy to delegate this responsibility and pay you for it. In addition, it allows them to act in more of an editorial role. They can review what you’ve done and then collaborate with you to make the content the best it can be.
However, your work will likely be better received if you put in that initial research. As mentioned above, have a discussion about the most important messaging points. This will ensure a smoother process and better end result.
A Proactive Approach to Content Strategy
As with other areas of web design, being proactive with content is often key to a successful project. Keep in mind that your clients are most likely looking to you for some guidance. Therefore, your expertise and leadership may be just what they need to move forward with confidence.
And, just maybe, it means you won’t have to wait around nearly as long for that content to arrive.
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