Most web professionals narrowly focus on design and development.
Content is secondary, and to be dealt with after the client provides it. Too many web professionals assume the client is capable and has content covered.
But underestimating content is a lethal mistake. Content is a silent killer. Quietly strangling the life from website projects.
It happens time and time again. Why?
Because clients and web professionals don’t give content much respect. Our design and development egos are high maintenance and clients love to feed them.
We let clients go unchecked, flailing to create content, and then wonder why shit hits the fan. The website design ends up being nothing more than lipstick on a pig.
And the client? Still a distant 4th to the competition after blowing big dollars on the website.
Watch this Mad Men clip of Don Draper “handling” client feedback on the content of a new ad.
Content First and Design Second
The client doesn’t get it. It’s not about better design and more product features. These things have little impact compared to a strong message.
End users connect with content, not design. Design is simply there to make it easier to interact with content.
Check Your Ego
I love design. I like to see pixel perfect designs from my team. I expect my designers and developers to deliver a great experience on all devices.
Above all, I demand that my team understands the importance of content and messaging. Do you?
The highest paid and most in-demand web professionals practice the following:
- Put content first
- Design to the content
- Deliver results
Early in my career, design came first and content came last. Frustrated with the outcome, I decided to put content first in my projects.
This simple act cut my project headaches in half. I was amazed at how much better designs turned out when content was provided beforehand. I didn’t realize until later, but designing to the content delivers better results.
Design is there to direct and lead people to the important messages which ultimately leads the end user to an action:
- Setting an appointment
- Requesting more information
- Buying something
Whatever the action, results matter. The client hired you to get them out of 4th place. Focus on delivering results for the client. Your design and development egos will thank you later.
Check Your Client
Most clients say they are embarrassed by their website to some degree. But why? Most answer with “the website doesn’t represent who we are and what we do.”
I suspect clients say things like this because most web professionals let their design and development egos come to the rescue with wiz-bang layouts and widgets.
Take that big content fish and slap it across the client’s face. I do this early in the relationship. Preferably in the sales process.
I recommend getting these points across early regarding content:
- Content is important
- Content is complex
- Content demands a professional
Early in the sales process, I pitch the importance of tackling content first. The client needs to buy in to how design and content work together to deliver results. If they don’t then it makes sense to shake hands and part ways.
Somewhere along the way, clients typically present the “I know it, I’ll do it” mindset. In the past I would overlook this concluding the client wanted to create content because of pride or budget.
But neither is true. Most clients simply don’t understand the magnitude of content. The planning and creative effort that goes into content production is just as complex as design.
Most small business clients investing in a new website want to create content themselves. However, you must persuade them to accept their primary content role as subject-matter expert. Their secondary role is working with a professional content producer, not creating it themselves.
Become a Content Strategist
By ignoring content, a web professional’s creative and earning potential is limited.
It’s your job to help clients collect, organize, create, edit, and publish content. Conquering content starts early and is key to getting projects launched and paid on time.
Long term, when content and design are working together, the client’s happiness exponentially grows because the website is a success. Everyone can see it in the results produced month over month.
Clients getting results don’t give half-baked referrals like “my new web pro isn’t as bad as the last one.” When you deliver a complete solution, referrals start to sound like “my web pro turned the website into my most valuable marketing asset.”
Putting content first was a turning point in how my web agency produces websites. How important is content in your website projects?