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All websites need content, that's a given. But how do you attack the huge task of writing content for a new site? Here are some tips that I share with clients that help them get over this hurdle.
Know When to Start
In a regular website project you'll go through different phases such as discovery, information architecture, design, buildout, review, and launch. There are specific things you can work on in each of them to make content development more manageable.
- Discovery: Think of this as a time to review your existing website and the content you need to delete, revise and add. Make notes for yourself to refer back to later. Don't think that you need to update the content on your current website to clean things up as it tends to be a wasted effort and not pay off in the long run.
- Information Architecture: Use all your discovery notes to generate a new site map laying out the updated structure that works for your content strategy. It's also helpful to add in content recommendations so that you can refer back to them later.
- Design: Once you have a final sitemap take a deep breath and plow into content development. If you file this document away and get busy with the design process and other things then content can be overlooked. Keep the momentum going and continue on with content in mind during all phases of the project. Build off of the design phase excitement and tie that into this task by looking at the layout of content and how you want to write things.
- Buildout: This is the time to focus on any dynamic content writing. Coordinate with your project manager for any specific formatting that will help keep this content consistent. Creating a list of form fields for each piece of dynamic content can help you keep on track for the data you need to provide.
- Site Review: Take this time to look at the content on an actual webpage. Look for any formatting updates that will help users scanning the page.
- Site Launch: Take a break from content review and population while your new site makes its debut. Get some user feedback and make some notes on improvements that you want to do later.
Leave the Big Picture for Last
It sounds counter-intuitive but sometimes the hardest content to write is the overview information. Give yourself the option to leave this to the end and delve into the easier pieces first. It might be more cut and dry to compile your press releases or other deeper content first. Just don't forget to go back and write the overview text for each section as that is important to provide an introduction to each section for users to find it in the site. The same thing goes for the homepage - sometimes this is the last content to be written.
Know When to Ask for Help
If content is overwhelming or you don't feel like you have the writing ability, ask for help from others at your company. Even if people aren't a part of the website project go to different departments and ask for their input on content that makes sense for them to work on. Divide up the sitemap sections between people and check in regularly to make sure that progress is being made.
One Final Review
Before you load content into the website, take a final read through all your hard work. As you're reading check to make sure that it has one cohesive voice and doesn't sound like many different authors contributed pieces.
Acknowledge this is a Big Task
Most clients I talk through these steps let out a sigh of relief when I tell them it's a big task. It's not a sigh of relief that the job is so easy now that they have these tips, but of the acknowledgment of the level of effort this takes. Don't worry if others tell you this should be a simple transfer of content from an old website to a new website. Take the time and work through the content to make your new site a success. You'll know how much effort it takes but you'll also get the sense of accomplishment.