Developing content first is the best way to create a smooth user experience, to keep clients happy, and to streamline the design process. Anything else just gets messy. Here’s why we like it and how you can make it work for you.
The Story Separates You From Everyone Else
In the next year, over “70% of marketers will create more content” (Smart Insights) and according to Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, if done properly, that content could make a huge impact on your readers.
“Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.” (Fast Company) So remember to use a narrative to influence your readers. Don’t rely only on facts.
But remember: your story isn’t only told through text. You have images, content, and unique details like logos, brand-specific icons, and favicons. Make those a part of your content plan, and we’ll bet that you’ll influence a large majority of that 80%.
Content Shapes the Design
You understand how people read on the Internet and you can use that knowledge to create strong content, powerful headlines, and interesting bulleted lists to keep your readers engaged.
Once you have the content ready, the design will follow. You’ll want to gather everything together so your designers can see it all:
- Every resource (PDFs, images, links)
- Headlines and on-page copy
- Every h1 and h2 tag
- All client images
- Every form (downloadable and embedded forms)
- Any CTAs
- Meta titles and descriptions
- Any sign-up boxes
When your content is laid out and your tiny details are accounted for, it will be easier to spot the missing images, text, or CTAs you need to get in order. You can keep it organized using apps like Jumpchart, Airstory or even Dropbox paper. Once you get to the design phase, you’ll have everything organized or email. Whatever you do, make sure everything’s in one place!
The Design Process Can be Sped Up
If you develop the design first and then the content later, you’ll run into some major issues.
Let’s say the client approves the design. You shoot the design mock over to the content writer, who starts writing. But after a few hours, she discovers that you need three new pages that you didn’t account for. So you send a message back to the client who approves it. The content writer sends the new pages to the designer but the new page doesn’t fit on the main nav and doesn’t fit within the layout.
Now what? You’re a step behind and 10 hours over budget. You have to go back to the content writer, who will have to tweak the content. So now, one page of content has to be deleted. What do you tell the client?
When you develop content first, this issue won’t happen because you’d already have a content plan.
- The writer can develop all content and architecture
- The client can approve everything before it enters the design stage
- The designer can work with the content that’s already there
That’s it. There will be no hangups, no waiting, and no worries. That’s why content first is important.
Make Content First Work for You
Some people might be nervous to write copy without first seeing the design, but here are actionable steps to take so you can write great content without knowing the design.
Leverage the KO Chat
Have a kickoff chat with the client, project manager, designers, and developers. Ask a ton of questions. Are you writing for a direct primary care practice? Do you know whether they want to be medical and distant or quirky and humorous?
It’s best to know how to talk before you start speaking. And that means looking at the audience. Who will be going to the site? Is it a direct primary care site marketing to other doctors? Or is a site focused on patients?
Figure out a plan in the KO stage, and it will be easier to create copy that can be used for a great design.
Draft, draft, draft
Don’t wait to see the design mockups. Do what you do. Develop content. Some people like to write from the top down (by creating the headline and going from there), others have found that writing from the bottom up (by crafting the call to action and working backwords) works. They like to save the headline and h1 tags for last. Whatever your flavor, get it moving. This will help you develop all your content before you send everything to the designer.
Save the Questions
Need to add in an interactive map on the locations page? Worried about how people will navigate from the home page to the resources page? Keep a running list of questions for the client or the designers. This will come in handy when your team gets to the development stage.
Allow space for error
Recognize that sometimes, things change. The client might come in last minute and want to update the meta data. The designer might get word that you need to add a video to the masthead. Leave some breathing room and don’t stick so close to any one idea.
So the next time you’re planning a website, remember the most important part: the content. We think everything else will fall into place after that.