By: NATALIE TOPALIAN KAREN TRACEY Content Oct 8, 2018 Why Content Must ALWAYS Come First One of the most common trends we see when developing and designing a website—whether a new site or a site redesign—is the struggle to adhere to a content-first process. For those unfamiliar, a content-first approach means writing (or at very least planning) all content before beginning design and development. We have experienced both design-first and content-first approaches to website-building, and we can confidently say that the content-first approach is always best—all of the time. Words are cheaper than comps Think about it. We invest a great deal of time planning structure, creating design and writing code based on finalized content. If the content changes after design is complete, or after coding has begun, the work we invested has to be re-done. It takes far less time to rewrite content than it does to redesign it, or worse, recode it. This can get very time consuming and very costly, very quickly. At the most basic level, the Content-First Approach: Saves time for you and us Saves you money Despite these obvious benefits, content-first can be a pretty tough sell. Thankfully, our friends over at Gather Content (do you follow their blog yet? or use their product?) have some awesome tips on how to get your clients on board with the content-first approach to web design. We suggest checking it out. TIS is committed to the Content-First Approach Planning and writing your own content can be a scary endeavor. Ever guilty of underestimating how much time a task or project will actually take to complete? It happens, particularly with content. It's vital to understand that writing your own content truly is A LOT to take on. Don’t underestimate the time commitment and leave it to the professionals. This will save everyone time and money in the long run. We support you through the content production process. Content production requires a plan in order to set yourself up for success—whether a website project or any project for that matter. And you will want to begin content-planning activities at the start of your project. This is the difference between launching on time with good quality content or not. Identify who is responsible for content on your end. We will want to know who is responsible for the content on your end right up front! Whether this person is generating or approving the content, we will want them to be at our web-planning kickoff meeting as well as any subsequent meetings or approvals on content and wireframes. Take the pressure off yourself. TIS brings decades of experience planning, strategizing and writing results-driven content for websites as well as print projects. Writing for the web is a highly-strategic process that ensures your copy is searchable and actionable. A website exists to get people to take actions, and we're experienced in designing sites that navigate users to the actions you want them to take. TIS's Content-First Toolkit TIS brings a powerful set of tools when creating or editing content, from our audits to various templates, and our content organization system, Gather Content. Based on your comfort level, you may use some of these tools with us, and we are always happy to provide in-person demonstrations to ensure your comfort and ease in using these them. The Content Audit For websites that we're updating or redesigning and developing, we begin with a content audit which makes a huge difference in staying organized and efficient in the content-production process and creating a plan and schedule for ongoing content. A content audit ensures that you: Immerse your team in the content from the very start of the project Draw valuable insights that will steer the entire project Create a baseline for your content going forward Ensure you're keeping your content current, relevant, on-message, and engaging Remove content that isn't relevant or compelling Assist you in the management of ongoing content Content Analytics and Insights If you've hired us to redesign an existing site, we will begin by pulling insights into what’s gone before. Our digital marketing expert will dig into analytics to determine data-driven insights that will help us structure the content for optimum results. Audience Profiles Whenever possible, we prefer to create target audience profiles that include demographics and psychographics to ensure we're writing not only within your brand voice but so that we're talking to the correct audience. A 55-year-old upper-level businessman in the automotive industry takes in and reacts to information very differently than a 28-year-old female in restaurant service, for example. We define your audiences and write directly to them. Content Generation In addition to employing best practices in copywriting, strategy, SEO, and UI/UX, we use Gather's platform for content structure and organization. Gather is super user-friendly (yes, really) and is set up perfectly for collaboration within teams—both internal for Team TIS and between our team and yours. Working in Gather allows for versioning, conversations between teams, and even styles like header tags built in for easy copy/paste content transfer into your CMS. Our professional copywriters write content within this structure in voice and tone for optimal effectiveness. If you still prefer to handle content creation and production yourself... We will evaluate your ability to produce and maintain content during the project and beyond. Trust us—as your brand marketing ally, we do this for your benefit. There is no point in us investing time and energy into creating a successful, results-driven website if the content isn't going to hold up. Not only is this not in your best interest, but we also don't believe it's ethical for us to waste your money. If your team is capable to produce and deliver quality content, we will follow these steps: We set up Gather with your site's content structure based on your approved Mindmap. Your content creator provides us with your content or enters it into Gather (remember, training is available for this). We review and edit your content as needed. You review the content within the Gather structure. Once approved, we create the site wireframe—the bones for the site's design. Being a content-first agency is consistent with our goal of being your brand marketing ally. We do this as mentioned to save you time and money and create effective websites. As such we have to ensure that the project stays on track. That said, things come up—we get it! If you're unable to complete your content by the date we agreed upon, we can either step in and write it for you, or we may have to push the project completion date out. We will not move forward to the wireframe or design phase until we have finalized, approved content. What are your thoughts and experiences on the Content-First approach? We'd love to hear your stories with website projects. Did you have a web design and copywriting processes as smooth as buttah, or did it flop? Send us an email or comment below with your stories!