We all hear the hype about content these days. The popular saying "Content is King" can be heard ringing from many a marketing blog and Content Strategist has become a very real profession.
I think we can all agree that content is important. It's good for your users, good for SEO and it's the "meat" of a website. So it seems strange to me that I often go into design kickoffs where the website content hasn't yet been considered... at all.
My belief is that content, or at least an outline of the content to be created, should be like your logo and your corporate colors. It should be there when you walk in the door to start your web design. And if it isn't, there is some serious work to be done to flush out at least a fraction of it right away.
I can, (and often do) create a website design without content, but it isn't nearly as effective as if I had some content to begin with. Typically, when I design a site without any existing content to pull from, I am taking information about your company from the creative brief (I hope you spent a lot of time on it…), any marketing materials you gave me (I hope they are recent… ), the hour or so we chit-chatted at the kickoff (we had a lot of fun, didn't we?) and your current website (when was that designed?). I take all this information and make my best guess at to what is still relevant, what is most important to your target audience and what I imagine you think would be a priority for your users.
Sometimes it turns out I was right on the money, and I've produced a home page with just the right amount of space, highlighting just the right content at just the right time. But sometimes I'm not right. And if it happens that there's a new initiative/product/direction for the organization that is upcoming and was missing in our communications, all we can do is hope that we have the right templates and site design to not only accommodate this new content that slipped through the cracks, but to call it out in the manner it deserves.
Or, we can go into the site design with some clarity and some content in hand.
I'm not saying that you have to have all the copy wordsmithed down to the apostrophe, or all the photographc taken, purchased and edited. But to come in with a definitive idea of what you want on the home page, an idea of what the point of your home page is, and how much stuff is going on there, would be a major step in the right direction.
On top of that, having a content maintenance plan will also be of huge benefit before designing your website. What I mean is, already having thought about which content will change frequently, versus that which changes rarely; which areas you expect or hope to grow in the future and which pieces will remain mostly static, as well as deciding who will be responsible for the content, now and into the future. This will help the design and also the architecture of your site to be created in a way that will most likely work for you down the road.
And if you aren't quite sure about all this content business and feel as though this is a lot to ask up front, we can help you with that! One of our main services, Web Strategy, helps you develop a strategy for your website. This includes assessing your content, choosing your messages, identifying your target users and creating clear calls to action. And the best time to do this is BEFORE you come in for your design kickoff. That way, we can be sure we are creating something that has the space, capacity and flair to work as hard as it can for you.
I know you can't know everything right now. I know things change. But the more thinking and planning we can do before we dive in, the more potential the project has for being a success now, and in the future.