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Better Content. Better Websites.

Using the Content-First Approach for a Great User Experience

Content is arguably the most important thing on your website. In fact, it’s the main reason you have a website. If you are like most companies, you have a website to provide either content or functionality to your audience. For example, if you are a company that provides healthcare services, the main goals of your website are likely to communicate services to potential clients,  provide some functionality for existing clients to do things like pay bills. However, even functionality requires content to help the user understand what they can do on your website and how to do it.

Now you may be thinking, “I heard nobody actually reads on the web, so why is content that important?” Great point. This is actually a major reason why content is so important. It’s been well=documented that users read very little on the web. It’s not that users don’t read at all - they just don’t start at the top of the page and read until they get to the bottom. Users scan content looking for keywords or phrases until they find what they are looking for and then start reading. This is why it’s important to have optimized content for the web. Be concise in your writing and only post content that people will really care about.

Another perk of having great content is that it will help you get more traffic. According to Google, providing “quality content and services” will improve the SEO of your website.

So what’s the problem with existing processes?

The Problem: Waiting on Content

The traditional way of designing or redesigning a website is to understand just enough of the content needs to develop a site structure and then start wireframing and designing the homepage and a secondary page using greek text such as Lorem Ipsum. The actual writing and editing of the content is generally forgotten or not a priority until the website goes into development and the team starts seeing all the pages that need content. At this point, not having content starts causing issues that can affect budget and timing, including:

  • The site launch gets delayed because content took longer to develop than expected
  • The designs weren’t built for the actual content, so updates have to be made to accommodate it
  • Additional templates are needed because there is a wider variety of content than was expected
  • Content has to be rewritten to fit the designs/templates better

In addition to issues that cause budget and timing problems, waiting to develop content often results in poorer quality content. This means lost opportunities from potential clients that visit your site and more calls from existing clients who aren’t sure how to effectively use your website. Both of these issues affect your bottom line.

The Solution: A Content-First Approach

Creating great content to fulfill the needs of your users isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work and a deep understanding of your audience. That being said, setting up your website project to revolve around content is actually pretty easy. It’s often called the Content-First Approach. Basically, the content gets put at center stage rather than being an afterthought. Getting a strong handle on content should start as soon as the project starts.

Key Points

  • Start thinking about content as soon as possible 
  • Understand the types of content that will be on the website before you begin design  
  • Writing/Editing can happen simultaneously with design. Often, it’s a collaborative process between the designer and writer to create content that is fully optimized for the user

Getting Started

Here are some ways to start using the content-first approach:

  • Create a content inventory to help you and your team understand what content already exists. Tools like Blaze, Screaming Frog and Content Insight can help make this process easier
  • Create a gap analysis to help you understand what content needs to be created
  • Pull existing content from a current website or printed materials as a starting point 
  • Use draft content in designs. Content doesn’t have to be final to help designers create better mockups
  • Use a tool to help aggregate, organize and collaborate on content

Our favorite is GatherContent, but there are other options, such as Google Docs, PenFlip, Draft and JumpChart. Don’t let content be an afterthought any longer. It’s an imperative part of the web design process. Create better content. Build better websites.

 

 

 

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