“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
– Jeffrey Zeldman
So you’re ready to build your website? Not if you haven’t planned your content!
Why writing your website content is the elephant in the room
So you’ve got your business up and running and now its time to get your website online. You’ve got a web developer lined up and they have given you a timeframe for the project. You are happy now things are underway. But are you ready to begin writing your website content?
The biggest challenge we see as web developers is not designing and building the website, that is usually pretty straight forward. The biggest challenge is getting the right words (web copy) that will address the need in your niche market, tell people what you do, how you do it, who you are and convince your best customers that you are the right fit for them.
“Messaging and content are the building blocks and foundation of the website. This means they should be carefully thought through and documented well before any colours, fonts, and layouts are considered.
The design elements should complement, highlight, and showcase the key messaging and most important content.”
– Rebecca Gill, SEO Consultant
Content delivery is the single most common cause of website project time over-runs
If there is ever anything that will stall a project it is content delivery being behind schedule. Building the best solution for your business requires your input because you know your business best. The time it takes to create great web copy is always longer than you think (perhaps waaaay longer).
In order to get you thinking more actively about the content creation process, we have created a check list. Look through even if you are getting a copywriter to write for you as there are still other things that you will need to supply to your copywriter and your web developer.
If you envisage any challenges with getting ready always let your web developer know as soon as possible so they can help or work with you to adjust the timelines.
Things to consider when preparing and supplying/creating content for your website
“Content is not a monologue; it’s a two-way conversation with readers, listeners and viewers… It’s important to think about both sides of the conversation.”
Henneke Duikstermaat, Copy Blogger
Some of the things below you might think are web developer specific. However, most of us really want to make a website that works for you, that gets you found online. If you take the time to look through this list and think about everything before you sit down with the web developer then it will be a much quicker (and therefore, cheaper) process for you both.
1. Target Audience: Do you know who you are talking to?
This is the key. Its no good creating an amazing animated website design with cartoon characters if you are trying to sell the latest piece of high tech equipment to university staff. You need to know who you are talking to;
- what language they understand and feel comfortable with
- what are their individual challenges,
- how your solution will benefit them.
- You also need to know the paths you’d like these visitors to take within the website.
This will help with finding keywords, writing the content and generally help the web designer make something appropriate to your target audience.
2. Time: Have you set aside enough time?
Time is the biggest consideration when doing a project like this. Its a good idea to at least double or triple the amount of time you think it might take.
- Have you set aside enough time to do everything you need to do for this project to be completed within the timelines agreed to with your web developer?
- Have your taken into consideration the time it will take you to write the page content?
- Do you have someone lined up, ready to proof read it for you or will you have to wait on them?
3. Websites of Inspiration: What do you like?
Do you have any favourite websites that appeal to you? You can also look at the websites of your competitors and notice what you like and what you don’t like about their sites. These insights are useful to help identify your requirements and expectations. Ask yourself
- What is that I really like about this site and why?
- What works for me as a visitor to the site and what doesn’t work?
- Can I find the information I need easily or do I have to search for it?
4. Domain Name(s):
The domain name is the URL or address of your website online. E.g. avoca.design or avocadesign.nz
- Have you already bought your domain name?
- If not, do you know if its available?
You can use the search on 1stdomains.nz to find out if your domain is available or not.
- Do you want the .nz version (goodhonestcontent.nz) or the .co.nz version (goodhonestcontent.co.nz) or do you want to protect your brand and buy both?
- Will you remember to renew your domain or do you want your web developer to look after it for you?
If you get the developer to look after your domain make sure they list you as one of the contacts for that domain.
5. Branding, logo and fonts:
To make the website consistent with your branding and print materials your developer will need your logo, brand style guide (if you have one) and the originals of any images used to customise your site. You might need to approach your graphic designer to share these with your web developer.
They will want to know the names of the fonts you use and will need any key design files that you were given by your logo designer or brand developer.
It is useful to give them any printed materials you have if you want to keep your branding consistent across print and web. Have you got
- Your logo in its original form?
- Your branding guidelines?
- Do you know the fonts that were used?
- Any images that are used in the branding – preferably in their original size?
- Printed materials, business cards, brochures, letterheads?
The menu is how most people will navigate around your site, looking for the information they need to make an informed decision. Some of these questions should become clearer as you go through the design process. However, its good to start thinking about this now. Your web developer should help guide you through this process and will make helpful suggestions based on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
- Do you know what the main menu will look like?
- What main pages (sections) do you need?
- Will there be sub pages or sub sections?
- Do you want just a single menu or will there be drop downs within each section?
- Do you want different menus for different sections?
7. Copy (page content): Do you know what you want?
If you are writing the content then the web developer will want finalised content (text) for each of the pages on your website. This will take much longer than you think. If you are finding it challenging we can put you in touch with a copywriter.
Make sure you check any content thoroughly before sending it in so it can be can uploaded directly to the website. If you supply non-proofed content your developer will most likely deem this as work outside the scope of the project and charge you extra to make corrections or upload new copies.
- Do you know who you are talking to; your target audience?
You need to know this in order to write in a style that will resonate with them.
- Do you know what pages you need?
- Do you know what information you want on each page?
A rough outline to start with is a good idea and then you can flesh it out.
- Have you any idea of the sub headings (sub topics) that might go on each page
- Do you have an action that you would like visitors to do once they have read this page
(e.g. phone you, find out more information, fill out a form, buy a product etc).
This is called a “Call to Action”.
- Is your content proofed, grammar checked and absolutely ready to go?
- Have you had someone else check it for sense and mistakes?
(Sometimes we are too close to see mistakes that will be immediately apparent to someone reading it for the first time.)
8. Proofing your content and the website:
There is nothing more off-putting than finding a lovely site that is full of spelling mistakes, bad grammar and links that don’t work. Everything needs to be checked, headings, words, images, calls to action, links to other parts of the website or to other sites, the forms etc).
- Have you set aside time to proof the content before you send it to the web developer?
- Do you have someone (or several people) who would be willing to read through your content to proof it before you send it?
- Would they be prepared to go through the website to check it before it goes live?
9. Images, graphics and files: name, size & alternate titles
You will need to supply any images, graphics and any documents you wish to use on the website, preferably in their original size, in jpeg, jpg or png format for images and PDF format for files would be appreciated.
Name your images and files in a logically way. There is nothing more frustrating than getting a pen drive with hundreds of images all named IMG_xxx.jpg.
The web developer doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of your products, process or services so you don’t want to waste their time and your money for them to guess where IMG_2345.jpg belongs, when it looks almost exactly the same as IMG_2348.jpg!
- Do you have your images organised and named so they are easily recognised by you or someone else in 5 years time?
e.g tree-stumps-being removed.jpg is much easier to find than IMG_2345.jpg
- Are the images grouped into folders for specific pages to make it easier for the web developer and cheaper for you?
- Are they the biggest (original) images you have?
10. Call to Action: What is the most important thing you want a website visitor to do?
Ask yourself what the most important thing you want a visitor to you website to do. Make it easy for visitors to know what to do next so tell them clearly. These “Calls to Action” may differ from page to page or from section to section. Would you like website visitors to:
- Phone you
- Email you
- Call your mobile
- Sign up for your newsletter
- Find out more information
- Go to your shop page
- Find out more about your services
- Visit your portfolio
- Buy something
11. Categories: Does any of your content need to be ‘grouped’ together?
Are you creating anything that will need to be in different groups? If so, how do you want to group them and what are those groups (categories) called?
- A blog – news, media releases, book reviews, success stories
- Products for a shop – hats, books, widgets, farm machinery
- Sponsor levels – gold, silver, bronze
- Events for an event calendar – shows, concerts, workshops
12. Social Media Links (URLs): Do you have Social Media accounts?
Social Media is a great way to get people interacting with in different places online. Find out the URLs (web addresses) for your relevant social media accounts if you have them. For example:
- Google +
13. Contact Page details:
- What contact details do you want displayed on your contact page?
- Do you have a physical address or a postal address or both?
- Do you have a landline phone or a mobile or both?
- Do want to display more than one phone/mobile number?
- What information you want to collect on your email contact form?
- Do you want to display a photo of your premises?
- Do you need a map?
- What is the email address(s) your contact email form going to go to?
14. Legal Disclaimer or Terms & Conditions:
Does your website require a legal disclaimer or Ts&Cs?
15. Do you know what will they type in the Google search box to find you?
Ah, the BIG Kahuna! Getting found online is the whole point of having a website.
The art of getting found online is called SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. If you don’t tell the search engines what you have or what you do they won’t be able to find you.
You need to know what Keywords or Key Phrases visitors are likely to type into the google search box to find your products or services. We can help you with this process if you are not sure. Its a great idea to ask around friends, neighbours, strangers in the street what they would type in to find you.
SEO is a complex and rapidly evolving process.
It takes time, effort and money to get to page one and to stay there because things change so rapidly. Check out our post on Search Engine Optimisation for some ideas of what this involves.
We pride ourselves on giving you a great foundation for basic SEO. We can develop a longer term SEO strategy if you need to get onto page one of Google.
The most important thing when considering SEO are keywords; what words or phrases people are likely to type into the Google search box to find your website and engage with you. Your content needs to include these key search terms.
- Do you know what people use to search for your product or services?
- Do you know what keywords your competitors use?
- Have you asked your friends and strangers what they would type in the Google search box to find you?
- Have you created a Google My Business Account with all your correct and relevant details. This is a must for local search.
Write your own or get a copywriter, that is the question
A large proportion of our clients like to write their own content. That’s great as it will save them paying for a copywriter and they are the ones who know their business inside and out. (That can be both an advantage and a disadvantage for writing content.) However, everyone of our clients so far have vastly under estimated the time this takes.
We do run courses on writing content which can help get you clear on the how’s and why’s.
However, good copywriter is worth their weight in gold. Tthey can tease the story out of all the details you give them and write content that will reach your target audience convincing them you are the one for the job. It will save you time.