We see it all over the Web: a beautifully designed site, but where’s the content? Many sites take an “If you build it, they will come” attitude towards content, as if it will magically appear. Social media sites can get away with that, because they don’t create their own content in the first place. But unless you are Facebook, creating your content is one of the most important success factors. Planning how that content gets created can become the cornerstone of your website strategy.
There is no “one size fits all” to content strategy—every site will be unique depending on its size and the size of the organization that is supporting it—but we’ve found a few common pitfalls that can be easily avoided with a bit of planning:
1. You Designed the Site. Then You Wrote the Content.
Contrary to most "statements of work," your web project is not about technology or design. It’s about communication. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced far too few projects that have invested enough time or allocated enough resources to content development and planning prior to beginning the information design or technology platform selection.
Too often, web sites are designed with placeholder content. It is difficult for stakeholders to understand how the site will actually work when the content in prototypes is not real.
Mitigate this risk by taking the following measures:
- Plan to support website design and development by identifying staff / content to support content strategy
- Include content strategy tasks in web project budgeting
- Talk to your design and development team early and often about REAL content
2. You Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Editorial Calendar.
Unless you are developing a brochure website about your company, you will want to continually add new content to the site. Planning for this early ensures that you are allocating resources to the development of that content. It also ensures that you are publishing content on all of the topics that will support your organization’s goals.
3. You Do Not Link to Related Content Within the Body of Your Posts.
We often get caught up with cool ways to dynamically show related content, such as putting a block on the right side of the page that pulls in all content related to certain meta-data criteria. However, what we find in usability testing (as well as usage statistics) is that users are far more likely to click a link in the body content than those on the right block.
4. Your Content Strategy Doesn’t Account for Images / Accounts for Images and You Have None!
I’ve been involved in many web projects that build images into the design requirements; however, they never make their way into the content development requirements. If you are planning to use images, be sure that you develop a plan:
- How will you obtain those images?
- Do you have funding available to purchase images?
- What types of content require images?
- What images will be largely static? What images will require updates over time?
5. You Publish The Majority of Your Content as Downloadable PDFs.
In most circumstances, the best way to publish content on the web is in HTML. The are occasions when you will want to upload a PDF to your web site. For example, a long report or annual review. These are the exceptions.
If you avoid these common mistakes, your site will have a much greater likelihood of success, even if you have some design or technical issues. Remember, content is king.