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Content First - Part One - Why Content First?

While every web project is ultimately about results, all web projects attempt to solve a slightly different business goal; from increasing sales, to decreasing the cost to serve existing customers and everything in-between. The one thing all projects have at their heart is content. Your users are coming to your site to consume content. (Go to Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.)

What does a ‘Content-First’ approach to web development mean?

‘Content is king’ is a term that has been over-used in recent times but is 100% true when it comes to your companies website. Your customers, prospective customers and users are all coming to your site to consume content yet content is one element of a website project that traditionally gets very little airtime and budget. This results in more costs, delayed delivery and frustrated teams.

PRO TIP: Taking a content first approach means planning for content based on the actual motivation and needs of your customers.

 

Why content first?

In typical web projects it would not be uncommon for 85 - 95% of the budget and conversation to be about functionality, platform and design. Yes, fundamentally all of those things are important but they are important in that they should be there to enable the user to meet their objectives. Meeting their objectives is reliant on delivering the right content for the right audience group.

Taking a content-first approach to website development requires a fundamental shift in thinking about web projects. That is that content is critical to the success of your website. While this sounds common sense, it is not that common.

Understanding the importance of content leads to the following changes:


Delivering the goods: delivering your website outcomes

Building a website without building out content first is like building a house without knowing how many people will live in it or how they live.

When we treat content as an afterthought we limit our ability to make good design decisions and our sites fail to achieve their goals.


Budget

We create a budget category for content. If you are doing well, you will also weigh these costs from a value perspective comparatively with other budget categories.

We have been involved in too many projects where the content budget is less than 5% of the total project budget - this does not work.

While each project is unique, we recommend allocating between 20% and 40% of the total project budget for all activities relating to content.

Having a budget for content is an important enabler to ensure your customers become the priority (that is, you need a budget to deliver useful content during and after the life of a project).


Customers become a priority

Increasing the priority of content means that you must think about who will use the content and their specific needs.

This (along with an appropriate budget) means that you will conduct research to develop buyer and user personas that provide actionable information on the content and functionality needs of people considering purchasing your products or services, and existing users of your products or services.

By focusing specifically on customer needs early in a web project puts you in a much better place to deliver real value to your customers, and in return return value to your business.


Lean mean content machine: process efficiency

In our experience, designing page layouts or creating design concepts without a detailed understanding of the content that you will use in the final website always requires design and/or development rework. To be clear on this, a detailed understanding of content means that you are not reliant on Lorem Ipsum as a generic content placeholder.

Having a feel for the following before you start creating wireframes makes it easier to wireframe pages and create designs:

  • Structure
  • Size
  • Priority
  • Intent of content

More importantly, the likelihood and magnitude of design changes reduces, which means that you can get into development quicker. In terms of impact, we are talking days to weeks of time saving.


Reduce go-live madness: minimise delivery phase pressure

It would be an understatement to say that people get frustrated when it comes time for loading content near the end of a project, and the approved design, all of a sudden, does not work as expected.

We have been involved in projects where the client requested that we remove whole sections of their site in the days leading up to go-live because they could not provide the finalised copy or this copy did not ‘look right’ on the page. Eeek!

Starting the discussion about content early in a project brings everyone's attention to the real work required to create content for the delivery of the initial project and the ongoing development and optimisation of content.

With everyone starting the journey with their eyes open to the content expectations and requirements, you can reduce last minute surprises and the stress associated with getting your new site live.


Plan for kids: create a site you can maintain after go-live

By talking about and planning for content upfront you are much more likely to deliver a site you can realistically sustain post go-live so you don’t unwittingly provide a poor user experience with outdated and irrelevant content.

This therefore affects the decisions you make in the project. Make websites not war: actually enjoy building a website.


Partner/client relationships

We believe building a new website should be an enjoyable experience for the team involved. In our experience where a relationship between a partner and client is not optimal, the lack of discussion about and planning for content upfront is often the root cause.


Team Morale

Website projects can be stressful for your team, who often have day jobs that don't go away while they are working on the project.

When content is planned for upfront your team goes into the project knowing what is expected of them and the required timeframes. This reduces surprises and pressure at key points of the project.


WRAP UP:

By now we hope you have an understanding of the benefits of taking a content first approach to your next web project. If you want to download the full whitepaper of how to implement this approach click here. In the next post we will share the ins and outs of implementing this approach – stay tuned.