Content Tips for Launching a New Website
When launching a website, whether it’s a brand new site or a redesign of an existing site, getting content into the site is often the most overwhelming part of the project. Clients frequently ask me where to start when the content entry phase of the project comes around. The design and the development pieces are usually in the hands of an agency or partner, so they’re doing all that work for you. But now the pages are designed and all the functionality is built, so it’s your turn.
But where do you start? What’s the logical first step that will set you up for success and keep you organized? Here are the steps I take when working with a client on content strategy.
1. Develop an Information Architecture
Information architecture is the structure, design and labeling of the pages on your website. It sets up the patterns for how your content will be organized. Starting here enables you to understand the relationship between the pages on your website.
Each page should make sense as a stand-alone, but the relationship between the pages is just as important. The information architecture gives context to your content and establishes initial patterns for what content you need to include. Before you decide what words to put on a page, decide where that page will live within the overall navigation structure of your site.
2. Build Out Navigation First
Once the site is in your hands, build out the entire site navigation before inputting any headlines, images or body content on pages.
Tackling this step first ensures that your pages are organized. Plus, when you have content on one page that needs to link to another page on the site, that page has to exist first before you can link to it. If you build your navigation first, you’re saving the step of having to go back and remember all the places where you need to add links.
3. Start Working on Your Content Before Development is Complete
The time consuming project of making editorial content decisions and inputting it all into a website is frequently the phase that delays a launch date. The good news is that you don’t have to wait until the designers and developers are done to start outlining your content.
There are great tools that allow you to build out a structure that mimics the future navigation of your site and create templates with content fields for each type of content you plan to include on a page. GatherContent is a personal favorite of mine, but there others out there that work just as well. With a tool like this, you can develop, curate and organize all your content, and gather all your images ahead of time. Then, once the website is developed, inputting the content goes quickly.
4. Divide and Conquer
Depending on the size of the website, it may require a team of people to get it done. Divide the content pages into logical groupings and assign them to internal groups or departments. The GatherContent tool allows you to assign pages to individuals, comment on blocks of text, write notes and ask questions. Making the process of collaborating on content very easy.
5. Stay Organized
It’s finally time to start populating your carefully organized content into the website. So where do you start? I always start at the beginning.
As mentioned before, build the navigation first, then tackle the homepage. Getting that page dialed in can help set the tone for the rest of the pages in the site. Then, take it section by section, especially for bigger sites. Don’t jump around all over the place. Entering content following the pattern of your navigation sections, helps to ensure pages don’t fall through the cracks and end up with no content.
6. Preview & Edit, Preview & Edit
Continuous editing is an inherent part of web content. Because the web is visual medium, you need to view the front end of the page as you’re entering content. Sometimes, once you see how the page lays out within the actual design, it becomes clear that a bullet list needs to be added or more sub-headings would help break the content up into smaller, easier to read sections.
Understanding best practices for how to format web content can help tremendously. Entering web content is a back and forth process, with lots of edits and tweaks before the page is perfect.
7. Do a Happy Dance! You’re Done
It’s time to launch! You’ve carefully strategized your information architecture, organized all your content, and entered it into your content management system. You can launch the site with the satisfaction of a job well done. Time to move on to other things…
8. But Wait, Not Actually
Web content is never done really. It’s a fluid, almost living, breathing thing. It gets older over time and tends to die off. Pages that once generated a lot of leads or traffic may not always perform as strongly.
Implementing a good SEO strategy can help keep content findable, but you also need to make sure your content stays relevant to your customer needs and your business goals. Regularly evaluating the usefulness, accuracy, and performance of your website content and adjusting accordingly helps make sure your website never gets stale.