Ways to Manage Content Development for Your New Website

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You finally have the approval, budget and timeline to move forward with developing the new website you’ve been waiting so long for. It’s just a matter of getting started and it will all fall together really quickly, right?

Well, yes and no. If you’re working with an agency partner who has a successful track record of developing websites and a proven process to aid efficiency, that’s a big step in the right direction.
While there are many activities that will affect how quickly the website project gets done, content development by far is the biggest hurdle clients struggle with if they are going to prepare the content themselves.

It’s one of the most important parts of your website, and the one that can wreak havoc on your day-to-day work schedule because it can demand a lot of time. There are ways to manage the content development process effectively which we’ll explore shortly, but for the most part, understanding in advance that a new website will require a time commitment will help you set realistic expectations for yourself, your team and the project’s completion. 

Several clients have asked me, “How much of a time commitment is needed? I was planning on being involved, but not THAT involved.” Even if you have an agency partner who is guiding you through the process and contributing to your site’s development, ultimately you know your customer and business best so you’re the best expert for the job when it comes to content.

Good Content Takes Time

It isn’t always easy or fast. It takes effort. It will always take more time than you think.…AND it’s worth it!

Your website is one of the most powerful marketing tools your business has because it’s the medium that most customers will see and engage with. When your customer is giving you THEIR time and attention by going online, you need to reward them for providing you with this opportunity by delivering engaging content that meets their needs.

What does content include?

Content development goes beyond just plain text for each page. It can include a broad range of communication forms that effectively market your message and help customers find the information they’re looking for.

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Other content could include:

  • Infographics
  • Images (various sizes, composition and colour – i.e. a B&W photo in your company’s history section)
  • PDF documents (i.e. owner’s manuals, spec sheets, catalogues, order forms)
  • Copy (i.e. product specs, service listings, FAQs, testimonials, project profiles, news articles, blogs)

Depending on your business, having more video on your site may be more beneficial than pages and pages of text (although scrolling on your website can improve website experience when done appropriately). You need to assess whatever forms of content will work best to promote your business online and then you can manage the process of developing it.

How do you gauge how much time and content will be needed for your new site? Let’s look at some activities that will help you answer this question.

Ways to Manage Content Development

1. Develop a Site map & Put Strategy Behind Your Architecture

Let’s face it; any graphic designer worth their salt can make something look good. This will capture your customer’s attention, but it won’t hold it if the content on your website is weak. You must have a blend of both elements to create an engaging user experience.
Part of developing a content strategy begins with creating a site map - the architecture of how your site will be organized. Putting content into sections and sub-sections and then identifying individual pages that will contain more specific information will help you start to think about why visitors are coming to your site. This will then guide you in prioritizing the flow of the information based on their needs and the top tasks they’re looking to perform while they’re there (ordering online, finding answers to FAQs, reviewing product specs etc…).

2. Perform a Content Audit (if you have an existing website)

An audit is an invaluable approach to understanding the scope of content you will need to prepare for your new website. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to. There will be segments of content on your site that are effective, up-to-date and working well, so identifying these through a content audit is the first priority because it will provide a picture of how much you already have to work with.

A content audit is done by cataloguing every page on your existing website in an Excel document, and noting whether the content is new, ok as is, needs to be rewritten, or should be eliminated altogether.

This information can then be applied to your site map by colour coding the sections (i.e. green=existing, pink=re-write, yellow=new, blue=future). For example (click the image below to enlarge):

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As you can see from the image above, this exercise visually helps you understand exactly how much work will be needed by you and/or your team and in which areas. If applicable to your situation, this process makes it easier to delegate content development to department managers within your organization who are responsible for those areas of expertise.

3. Use Content Templates to Write

This activity involves setting up a template format that each page of content is placed into. The template has a set list of criteria (that can be established by you or through committee approval) that must be supported by the content that’s written for that section.
Some of these criteria could include:

  • Who is the target audience visiting this page?
  • What is the purpose of this page? (i.e. to educate, to entertain, to inform, to instruct)
  • What are the key marketing messages that need to be emphasized?
  • What call to action do we want the visitor to take as a result of this communication?

It’s an effective way to ensure your content and marketing strategies are supported and helps guide the writing process so there is focus and consistency of information.

4. Consider Using Professional Copywriting Services

Remember, you already have a full-time job that keeps you busy. If you have a lot of content that needs to be developed for the site, you may want to consider hiring a professional copywriter to allow you to stay focused on your core job responsibilities.

So, how do you work with a writer? This is where the site map, content audit and templates come into play. Using these tools, you can brief the writer on the scope and type of content that’s needed, along with the specific details they can write from. Alternately, you could put the writer in contact with each of your department managers to obtain the necessary information.

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Another benefit of working with a writer is their ability to keep the tone and messaging consistent with your brand across the entire site. Sometimes when you have multiple people contributing content, copy can become diluted (and even disjointed as everyone has their own way of writing).

Although professional writing services may be an additional expense, consider what the cost would be if you allocated your hourly wage to writing all the content yourself. It may end up being less expensive for you to hire a writer (not to mention expediting the development process because an external writer is not going to be pulled away from the task at hand when pressing job responsibilities arise).

Keep Calm and Content On

While there are countless approaches to managing content, hopefully this brief overview has given you a few things to consider as you begin working on your new website. If there’s an approach you’re currently using that’s helped you effectively manage content, I’d love to hear about it in the Comments box below.

Earlier, I mentioned that clients always ask me how much of a time commitment they can expect with developing content. I think the quote below clearly answers that question:

“Content will always take more than zero hours.”

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