One of the most time-consuming parts of the content strategy stage in a web design project is content gathering—which, in its most basic form, is assembling all the content (words, images, videos, the whole shebang) that the new or updated site will need.
I say “in its most basic form” because content gathering can get really messy really fast if your process isn’t sound. Our process here is pretty solid, but we’re always trying new things to see if we can make it even better. After all, no content gathering process is perfect—and if there was a perfect one out there, our heads would hurt about 10% less. It would also probably look something like this:
- Clear communication.
Doesn’t seem like a lot to ask from the “perfect” content gathering system, does it? Communication is key and it’s also one of the most difficult aspects of a project to monitor, contain, and keep stable when you’re working with a large group of people or partnering with another organization—whether that other organization is your client or you’re teaming up with an outside organization for a client’s project.
Ideally, we like providing specificity for the client on what we need content-wise—which can be anything from how many paragraphs a product description should be to how many pixels a staff member’s profile photo has to be in order to show up on the front end of the website. Ultimately, it saves both the client and us time and energy in the long run.
- A sense of realism.
For both the client and the team to have one unified vision of the timeline is a miracle at best. More often than not, unforeseen obstacles get in the way of that projected launch date and whether they come from the client’s end, the team’s, or some combination of both ultimately doesn’t matter as long as both sides can ally and figure out how to fix it.
That is to say, help the client determine how to divide and conquer content gathering within their organization, be realistic about their ability and timeframe for said content gathering, and also be willing to accept other ways to receive content from your client—the one true goal is to get all the content you need, so bending your process norms within reason might be something you have to do to achieve that goal. Even if that means a little more work for you.
- One place for everything (and everything in its place).
Communication in one designated place. File exchange in another designated place. Done and done.
- The gathering tool of all gathering tools.
Ideally, the place for all that content would live in one program. We currently use GatherContent, which is pretty close to being as perfect as a program can get for our needs and our clients’ needs as well. However, a content strategist can dream and I’d love a program (in theory) that could connect with a content management system (CMS) to start the integration process automatically and pull keywords and phrases from the copy in each page to suggest possible meta descriptions and titles for SEO purposes.
I know what a train wreck that would end up being (especially the automatic integration), but just let me pretend for a while.
Every “perfect” process has a backup plan or at least some kind of damage control when things go awry (and they usually will). Be willing to alter your routine a little to help a client, have alternative routes at the ready, and don’t let the little stressors get to you along the way.
If you find yourself getting stuck in the content gathering phase of projects and want to know more about our process, feel free to reach out to our team of Content Strategists at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat!