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Content First - Part Four - Challenges

So far in our Content First blog series we’ve covered off Why Content First, Our Approach, and Information Architecture & Wireframing but what about the challenges? We have painted the ‘plain sailing’ view so far. In reality, it is rarely plain sailing when it comes to website builds.

In this section we outline some of the challenges we experience, and what we do about them.

VALIDATING CUSTOMER REQUIREMENTS

Marketing and sales teams often have a good understanding of their customers. So one of the common responses we get when we want to do customer interviews is "we know our customers well or well enough, so you can talk with our team instead". This also has the perception of saving money.

If the client is adamant about this, we run initial customer interviews with marketing and sales team members. If there are any questions that the team cannot answer, for example, questions around why customers choose alternate suppliers, it then becomes much easier to justify interviews with customers.

There are two important things to remember here:

• Your content and website is largely influenced by your customer motivations and needs. It is critical that you get a detailed understanding of these requirements.

• Your customer motivations and needs change so you cannot rely on old information - old is usually anything older than 6 months.

DESIRE FOR EARLY DESIGN CONCEPTS

People to want to see the solution as quickly as possible. During the sales process or in the discovery process, new clients often ask us, “can you provide us with some examples of what this might look like?” This sounds like an innocent question but to answer it at this stage of the process, designs are largely fictional exercises.

Once you have presented designs, it can be difficult to back-track if the customer research does not support the design. Our response to these types of questions is to provide examples of reference sites as opposed to mocking up a new site design concept.

INTERNAL CAPABILITY AND CAPACITY

Not all organisations have a team of writers and editors.

For those that do not, content can feel daunting, especially where the organisation operates in a highly specialized field where access to suitable technical writers is difficult. There are two questions that need addressing here:

1. What is the value of content?
2. What is the appropriate strategy to invest in content?

This strategy should consider the following:

• Delivery approach (for example, insource, outsource, or hybrid)
• Demand (that is, project and business as usual)
• Timeframe (for example, if we start with an oursourcing approach during the initial delivery of the project, when is it most appropriate to transition to an internal content deliver and maintenance approach)

THE BUSINESS IS UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO PROVIDE CONTENT

The underlying issue here is that the customer needs a specific piece of content (for example, price) to help them with a purchasing or usage need, and the business cannot provide this information.

The most common causes of this inability to provide information that we see are:

Regulatory or Legal Restrictions

For example, advertising restrictions for the liquor and financial industries that constrains what can be said online.

Competitive Concerns

For example, where there is an apprehension to display pricing information to prevent price matching.

We also see this in businesses that have traditionally relied on person-to-person relationships. The perception here is that by forcing an in-person relationship the organisation keeps the intellectual property.

Continuing down this path, the fear is that by providing more content online customers will use this to understand their technical options better and then purchase the required product at the lowest cost possible (which may mean from a competitor).

There are a number of flaws with this approach including scalability, cost, and the changing path to purchase for customers (that is, customers want access to much more information before they talk to a real person).

Complexity

We usually see this where the customer has target audiences that require very different information (as in retail, trade, and reseller pricing information). The runner up is complex sign-up forms - the argument for these is that it would be much easier to process these sign-ups by phone or in-person.

It is important to understand and appropriately challenge the business drivers and logic for competitive concerns and complexity. From experience, you can usually work through these to create a better online customer experience. For example, by simplifying a new customer sign-up process and using progressive disclosure to complete customer information later.

It is best to use progressive disclosure to capture customer information when it is relevant to both the customer and your organisation. For example, capturing the customers address when they want a product delivered.

Stay tuned for the final part of our Content First series, where we outline how to sell a content-first approach to your internal stakeholders. You can also download our whitepaper on the subject here.