I’m sure you, as a savvy business owner, have heard of the importance of a content-first strategy when going into a design or web project. Discovering your primary message and prioritizing your content in a way that is most relevant to your target audience allows everyone (including you) to save a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money.
Now, I know you love saving time, effort, and money (who doesn't?), but that isn’t even the most important benefit of a content-first strategy. The most important benefit is connecting more effectively with your consumer by allowing a cooperation between visual styles, messaging strategies, and communication avenues.
The Short Version: When you know what you are trying to say, it can make communicating more efficient and effective.
Before we go any further, let’s have some food for thought: You’re at home and you’re about to whip up an afternoon PB&J sandwich. Before you start, you review all the ingredients you have on hand, because you are definitely not going to the store, it's hot out. Also, getting halfway through making a PB&J and realizing you don’t have any peanut butter won’t go well. Having a good idea of what ingredients you have to work with will allow you to craft the perfect snack.
Now let’s move on to more specific examples related to web design. When you sought out an advertising agency, you may have been thinking, “They can make anything look pretty,” and in part you’re correct. Graphic designers specialize in visual communication, but they do their job best when they have the intended message and goals before they begin.
Content-first strategies are most prevalent in designing and developing a website. Having the content upfront is crucial in knowing how a website should look, how it’s structured, and what features the development team needs to consider. Furthermore, it helps to align the design and user experience with the target audience in mind.
In most cases, you already have a website, but it might be in need of a facelift to keep up with the web users of today. This is great because you already have a starting point, so let’s use it. When looking for the right web developer for your new site, ask them what sort of content strategies they subscribe to and what your role would be in the process. Some clients like to be a part of each step of the process, and some don’t. It’s important that you choose a company that has a content process in place that fits your needs as a business owner.
It is important to note that most agencies have a “discovery” phase before each project to ensure that the client and agency are on the same page with the goals, features, and requirements of the web project. Below are a few content-first steps Rockit Science Agency practices before going into web design:
• Content inventory – The inventory is a detailed spreadsheet that outlines the sitemap, content on each page, and links (internal or existing). This also provides a clear hierarchy of what messages/content is the most important.
• Content audit – The audit is a careful review of the current content with recommendations for what to keep, update, or remove.
• Style/Editorial guide – This guide defines rules for writing clear and consistent content. Voice and tone guides define how the organization presents itself to others through its content.
Now, where do you begin this process? Just pick up a pen and start. Keep in mind that your content does not have to be perfect from the beginning. Throughout the process, you will be able to edit and refine until your desired message takes shape. Remember, you know your business and industry best, but an outside opinion can sometimes be the breath of fresh air you need to nail down your message.