Top Tips and Tricks of Content Planning
Table of contents
- What is content planning?
- Why is content planning important?
- Best reasons to plan your content
- Creating realistic website/content goal
- The rough process to create a basic content plan
- Content planning when using a template
- What content should be collected for the website?
- Who can help with content creation
- How to organize the content for your website
- Planning for a content driven web design process
- 10 tips for planning your content
What is content planning?
Getting the right information about a business onto a business website is a daunting task because there are so many bits of content needed and it all needs to be high quality.
Not to mention to the continuous supply of promotional content needed for digital marketing.
Even a small business website has large content requirements. For a large project, content collection and creation can be monumental task with many people involved.
Content planning aims to make collecting, creating and production of content for a website easy, timely and efficient.
Being organized and knowing ahead of time what content to deliver will give people enough time to research and write good content.
Why is content planning important?
Without careful planning, the lack of content will slow down the delivery of website design project.
If the website design goes ahead without a detailed content plan it can cause the design of the website and the content to misalign later on resulting in an amateur looking website.
If content delivery is rushed to meet a deadline, it will be badly written and will have to be rewritten again in the future.
In practice, there is never enough time to produce enough content before launch, so a practical solution must be planned content.
Best reasons to plan your content
Think of the level of organization needed to publish a newspaper. There are meetings, junior and senior writers, researchers and so on. Now imagine how much effort it take a write and publish a small book. Think along those lines and you’ll get a good idea why you need to plan your content.
The best reasons to plan your content are:
You will know what content to deliver
You will be sure to not have all the content ready at the start of the website project and you will need to work on its content and collection so that it’s ready for editing and insertion before launch.
You will know what format and how much content needs to be written
Content comes in many forms from long articles, to copywriting. Where it will be used will give you an idea of how much to be written and in what style.
You will be able to pace yourself and write efficiently
Knowing what to write, how much to write and for what purpose will make your writing faster and without so many revisions.
Content writing is a skill in itself. Having a plan on what to write will stop you writing about the things you want to write about and help you write about the things that your users want to hear.
Creating realistic website/content goal
The more content you wish to put on your website, the more work it will be for everyone involved and the longer the project will take to launch.
You need to be realistic about the amount of content you can get before launch but also bear in mind that after launch, it will be harder to keep the momentum of writing and content gathering because business priorities will have moved on.
Questions to ask:
- Do you want a very small, small, medium, large or extra-large sized website?
- Do you have the ability to produce the content for the size of the website you want?
- What are the post-launch content requirements?
- Will you have the means to create content post-launch?
A rule of thumb is that the smaller and newer the company, the smaller the website. Larger more established companies will have more manpower to produce more content.
The rough process to create a basic content plan
Here is an example process that will help the content and the layout fit like a glove.
This is an example of a content-led process. There are other ways to this. (Content driven, visual led and visual driven)
This is a collaborative process between the content creators and the layout experts where the content and the design will be edited and adjusted in a back and forth manner so that the content fits a visually attractive structure and the structure does justice to the needs of the content.
Since this is a content-led process – the content leads the process but the visuals follow close by. This process may be suited to websites with medium to low amounts of content.
A rough process might look like this:
Create a basic site structure
Websites are usually divided into standard pages such as about us, what we do, contact us.
For each industry and type of website there will be different content requirement but this can be worked on later.
Gather the basic facts
It’ easier to start with the basic facts. Start with a single document, then build out
A good place to start is the “about us” and “what we do” pages.
Gather as many “single line” facts as possible. For example:
- This is a new company
- The focus of the company is “legal and business advice”
- It has 3 staff
- Thomas – the office manager
- Simone – the legal expert
- Sally – the human resource specialist
Create a content questionnaire
Through a content competitive analysis, get ideas on what to write about and how to write it.
Look at websites that are similar to the one above, in size, age, purpose. Find 20 of them and create a list of common facts to gather.
This would be the start of the basic content plan.
Lay out content in a wireframe
After you have gathered more facts for each page, lay the content out in a wireframe in its simplest form which would content in black and white with no supporting images for the time being.
Use a content flow that makes reading easy. Group into different segments, which will be translated into page segments.
Create a visual structure
Once the content has been ordered and grouped, create a visual structure that will fill out the page with supporting visuals. If the visuals serve no purpose, leave them out.
Alternative approach at this stage would be to use a template.
Repeat for each page
Repeat the above process for each page before balancing out and creating uniformity between pages and improving the website page structure.
You can now go back and refine the content by filling in the gaps in the logical flow.
The content plan
The wireframe serves as the visual content plan. For larger projects, a spreadsheet of detailing the content left for collection would be created.
Content planning when using a template
If you are using templates (template driven design) rather than a custom design approach, you have to consider when to introduce the template and how that will affect the content planning.
If you introduce a template too soon, then it may affect the research. If you introduce a template too late, then you’ll given yourself too much work.
The choice of whether to use a template is partly based on how much content you have. If you have a lot, then a template may not be suitable, since templates are usually for lighter websites.
What content should be collected for the website?
As mentioned, each type of website will have its own peculiarities, which is why you need to do an analysis to really understand what content is needed.
Here are some basic content ideas needed for most websites:
- The basics
- The who, why, what, where and how
- This would include about us, what we do, who we are, where we are.
- Content that is required by your legal department or the local government.
- Products and services
- A list of all products, product descriptions, facts, specification, PDFs
- The story behind…
- Content for the about us sections
- Case studies and testimonials
The about us section can take between 1 and 4 pages
- Contact Us
- Home Page
- SEO friendly Articles
- Social media content
- Product descriptions
- Legal content
Who can help with content creation
Even if you hire a professional writer, content ideas need to come from many sources since knowledge and skill isn’t with the professional writer but with the experts within the company.
Without proper input from the people within the business, the content will lack substance and impact.
People will need plenty of time to work on the content. They may be too busy with other concerns or they may need time to think about what they want to say.
Content may come from a variety of people including:
- The CEO
- Former clients
- Department leads
- Graphic designers
- SEO specialists
What sources can you tap for content
Content can come from a variety of sources including:
- Your old websites
- Your suppliers
- Sales brochures
- Technical documents
- Stock photo libraries
- Digital Assets libraries
- Internal documents
- Business plans
How to organize the content for your website
Keep your content organized
Content should not be dumped in a pile at the desk of the designer. It needs to be organized clearly and neatly so that they aren’t spending time trying to understand what goes where. Keep your content clearly labelled and organized.
Label your content for external usage
Images, PDF files, documents need to contain the right file names with the right folders so that the developer can upload the content in an SEO friendly way.
If you label the content “Marks_photo_with_beard_v2.jpg” – it may help you but it won’t help the designer
Use a spreadsheet
A master list of content, its source, department, purpose can be made and looked after by someone on your team and someone in the web developer’s team.
Planning for a content driven web design process
A lot of websites benefit from a content-driven approach. This is where content is used to drive the layout and flow of the website.
Websites that have a unique message, that want to content to be the thing that drives interest, rather than visuals – need to plan the content and how it will be displayed before thinking about the visuals.
Wireframes are used to keep the content
10 tips for planning your content
- Iterate the content process, whilst going through planning and web design.
- It’s not going to be perfect on the first try – plan for that.
- Don’t bite more than you can chew – content takes longer to prepare than you imagine.
- It doesn’t have to be original – you can “seek inspiration”.
- You can always improve after launch – plan for post-launch work.
- Larger companies, get buy-in from department and have someone in charge.
- Think about content strategy before planning.
- Decide early on whether a template is going to be of benefit.
- Use wireframes to visually plan your content.
- Use a spreadsheet to systematically plan your content.