Web design is an exciting field to be involved with. Many times, clients are relatively new to having a professional online presence, which leaves us a lot of room to be creative. The downside, however, is lack of content. Organizations that haven’t had a good web site before don’t have the copy needed to propel their new site.
The problem goes from bad to worse when we reach the end of the project only to realize there isn’t any good content. This is the content crunch and it can delay your projects indefinitely.
How can you avoid the content crunch? Below I’ve outlined some simple and effective tips to stop this problem dead in its tracks before it brings the project down.
Anticipate the need
The most effective way to deal with copywriting issues is to address the need before you sign onto the project. In meeting with clients, I always try to discover what their current content inventory looks like. If it doesn’t look very good, I try to get a feel for how the prospect wants to deal with content.
Some prospects will commit to developing content on their own while others will request that you or someone else do it. Make sure it is known whether or not this is part of your offering.
Team up with a good copywriter
Copywriting is a tough business. In order to write powerful copy you need to have a thorough understanding what you’re writing about. And of course, you need to be a good writer.
Really talented copywriters are hard to find. I’ve dealt with both the bad and the good. My recommendation is to try out a few and then narrow it down to the best. Use this copywriter on an ongoing basis until you’re comfortable enough to offer them as part of your services for clients in need of content.
Know what you have to work with
After onboarding clients into the project, I try to get a feel for the resources I have access to. Is there a marketing department within the client organization? Are there marketing brochures or sales presentations? Ask your client what kind of resources are available and then help them brainstorm how to use these resources to generate content.
Involve the client in the planning phase
When creating the wireframes, site maps, content inventories, user profiles and so forth, make sure to welcome the client’s participation. By involving them in this critical planning phase, the client will be able to get a better grasp on the extent of the project.
Many times, in completing a final site map, my clients will realize just how much content is going to be involved. This then enters the discussion and we can start talking about solutions. The key is to get the client to recognize the need for content. You don’t want to be left at the end of the project with no good content to show.
Use milestones to help remind clients of their content obligations
If a client chooses to complete content on their own, they’ll oftentimes need a gentle reminder to do it. One way to accomplish this is to set early milestones for the client. These milestones could be related to sections of the site or pieces of specific content.
Regardless, by setting up milestones, you give the client ownership over that part of the project. If you’re using good project management software, the client can even receive email reminders that their milestone is coming up to its due date or that it’s already due. This can help nudge the client into action.
Use what you have and expand later
If you’re in a real crunch situation and the new content just isn’t there, use what you do have and expand on it later. For example, if the client has an old site, use the content from there and hide any sections that have no content.
The reason to do this is because some clients will just never give you content during the project lifecycle. It’s only after the web site has launched that they’ll realize they need new content. Since you don’t want the project to drag on forever, get as much of the site up as possible and help the client to understand what needs to happen with the content.
And as a side note, don’t launch anything that is shoddy. If you think launching the site without all of the content in place will make the client look bad, don’t launch the site.
Give clients early access to the content management system
During the course of most of my projects, I’ll hold off on giving the client access to the content management system until the end. However, it may be a good idea to give certain clients early access if you think it will help them to better formulate the necessary content.
Some people are just incapable of sitting down with Microsoft Word to type out web content. They need to edit it in web form to see what it looks like on the site. This is understandable and may be something you want to confront the client with if you’re having trouble getting content.
Be a resource
Most of the time, the client will not use you or your copywriter to get content done. This is workable, but it shouldn’t preclude you from being a resource to the client on content matters. If the client starts sending you really bad content, give them some tips on how they can revise it to be more appropriate for the internet. Writing web copy is not easy. For example, the client might be writing huge blocks of text. One tip would be to break up those blocks of text into a more digestible list format.
What about you?
We all have encountered the content crunch. How have you approached it? Leave a comment and let me know.