I’m a lucky man. I get to talk with a lot of developers and web development shops. No matter where in the world I am, one constant refrain I hear is, “Yep, we are done with the site, waiting on the client now to write the content.” OK, so most of my European friends don’t say, “Yep,” but you get the idea. Consistently, content is the last part of the equation in a website and one of the speed bumps many developers hit in deploying a website on time.
No matter what type of website you have, your content should be part of the planning stage. By the time you and your developer finish the planning stage, you will have thought through every page in the initial launch and know what content goes on it.
If you are building an application, your content list may be light. You may need nothing more than “About us” page, “Contact us” page and any other window dressing in a standard website. If you’re building an e-commerce website, you need to know what initial products that will be in the system and what you need for them. Do you need pictures and descriptions from the vendor? Do you need to produce a video showing your products in action? Think through these questions and a hundred more that will come to you during the planning stage.
Software development is like building a house. When you’re building a house, you don’t wait until the walls are up and the painters arrive before you select the colors to use. You meet with your architect and plan that out long in advance so that when the painting crew arrives, the paint is already there for them.
The same concept applies to your website project. The planning phase of your website is the time to determine what content needs to go on the walls of your website — not after your developers finish. One of the things you should have when you finish the planning phase is a “content list.” This is a list of the pages on your website that require content. The “About Us” page is a good example. Your developers will be able to create the page on your website called “About Us,” but you will have to write the content for the page.
Once you have your content list, get started. If you are responsible for the “History of the company” page, or the page containing headshots of all the partners, don’t wait until the week of the milestone to start gathering your materials or hiring a photographer, do it now. Surprise your developers by being ready when they come to you for your content.
A good friend of mine just joined a mid-sized company with its own web team. She was telling me about all the cool people that she works with on the team.
“… and they even have their own copywriter,” she said.
It struck me that this surprised her. Then, I realized the sad truth. Most people assume that owning a word processor qualifies them for being a copywriter.
If you’re spending a good chunk of money to have your website professionally created, don’t skimp when it comes to the copy. Budget for a copywriter to create all the written content you need. If you need video, find a professional who specializes in video for the web.
You are the expert in your industry. It’s your job to give guidance and make sure everything stays on message. You need to hire an expert in content creation to work with you to make sure your content is as professional as your website.
Professionally produced website and web-based applications don’t come cheap. Given the amount of work it takes to produce them, they shouldn’t be. Your content, however, isn’t the place to cut corners. Work with professionals to produce content that highlights your business.
Deliver the content during the planning stage before it’s needed to ensure your website goes live on time. Don’t let the painters stand around.
About Cal Evans: CalEvans is a professional programmer, writer and speaker. His passion in life is helping people do great things with technology. His latest book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo: How to get the website you want does just that.
Cal is lucky enough to be married to the lovely and talented Kathy, a fact that both surprises and delights him daily.