A Content Manifesto Web Designers Can’t Afford to Miss

Searching for advice to cure all your content headaches in under three minutes?

If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve landed on the wrong page.

Commit to a new path and accept your quest requires a bigger investment than the time it takes to boil a kettle.

Quick solutions to complex problems are as rare as white rhinos buying tickets to a poachers’ safari. And they come with the same huge risks.

It’s no different for web designers jumping through hoops for clients with challenging projects.

Where do they begin? Which pieces come first – the design or the content? What are the messages? Who is the audience? Where will it be seen (device, context)? How should it be presented? When does it need to be ready? Why is the website being created? What problems does it solve?

Daunting, isn’t it? They are all big questions even the world’s best web designers struggle to answer on their own.

Fear not, there is another way. Enter the content strategist, the concept of collaboration and content services that can be sold onto your clients for a profit.

What is content strategy?

In simple terms, content strategy is the process of planning, developing and managing all content on a website.

Content strategy is much more than a vital component of web design. It should be the starting point and its driving force. Content informs the design process throughout the entire life of a website.

iStock 000045447420 Medium 300x200 1In his article Content Strategy Within The Design Process, marketing director and author Brad Shorr describes content strategy as “the glue that holds a project together”.

The best looking websites fail the user experience (UX) litmus test if the content is lousy or lacks cohesion.

MORE: Is The Death of old SEO a Zombie Apocalypse With a Happy Ending?

Kristina Halvorson, the founder of Brain Traffic and a leading content strategy author, says “it’s inherently impossible to design great UX for bad content”.

“Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place. Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all: it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants.”

MORE: Content Strategy and UX: A Modern Love Story

How does content strategy change the design process?

Rule #1

Have a content strategy *before* deciding what the website will look like and how the design elements will seamlessly integrate the content. It’s all part of the same process.

Or, as Kristina Halvorson eloquently puts it: “Help people face up to the fact that content can no longer be the thing that fills the buckets – it has to be the reason we design and build in the first place.”

So, it’s out with template design and in with collaborative content that informs the design process.

MORE: 11 ways to boost your content strategy

How is this done?

iStock 000016514208 Medium 300x200 1In his blog How to Bake Content Strategy into Your Web Design Process, design studio owner James Deer said organising content in the design process was a “big problem”.

“Gathering content from clients is difficult enough, but even more troublesome is managing the infrastructure, workflows, publishing technicalities and approval process.” he said.

“Let’s face it, content development is still a massively frustrating process. How much time do you waste playing word document tennis over email?”

Plainly, not all web designers have the resources or skills to refine content to a standard clients should rightly expect. Being bogged down by delays in signing off projects and constantly dealing with complaints costs money and destroys customer relationships.

Working with a quality content agency, staffed by specialist writers in key subject areas, brings a forensic approach to editorial content that clients demand. Article Writers Australia has got these areas covered with content planning, creation and management services specifically designed for professional businesses, and web designers and marketing agencies to onsell to their clients.

Rule #2

Don’t leave the content to your client. Take charge of the strategy and outsource editorial responsibilities to a professional agency skilled in creating quality content that works within the design framework, is delivered on time and meets the brief.

iStock 000065482183 Medium 300x275 1Competition for eyeballs on websites has never been tougher and this trend is unlikely to change anytime soon.

For businesses whose clients are primarily other businesses or people seeking professional services and advice, trust is everything.

Increasingly, building trust and developing fruitful relationships involves sharing expertise, adding value, answering questions, demonstrating skills, having a unique offering, standing out.

These are the cornerstones of a successful content strategy and the number one reason why people browse the web.

MORE: A Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy for the Web: 10 Things You Need to Know

Today, a website is used less for advertising business wares (the What) – unless you are running an online shop – and more to explain its purpose (the Why).

Rule #3

Understanding what motivates someone to visit your website and connecting with their needs should guide the content strategy and design process.

With less real estate to work with, the importance of this mantra is amplified on mobile devices.

The author of The User Experience Honeycomb, Peter Morville, puts it like this: “No matter how brilliant your designs, if the content is bad, the honeycomb crumbles.”

“Succinct, engaging
and accurate”

I’ve worked with the team at Article Writers Australia for over 2 years now. They’ve been instrumental in ensuring our articles and case studies are succinct, engaging, and accurate.

They do feel like they are part of my team – they know us so well I think I could write a brief on a Post-It note.

Fi Arnold, Digital Marketing Manager, Kennards Hire

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