Five Reasons You Should Content Wireframe
Your Next Project.

10/06/10 Kristin

Client communication can be tough. On a large, complex project it’s crucial you bridge the gap between client and designer. A fantastic way to do this, and get everyone involved, is to collaborate over content. Organize content first and you’ll be surprised how smoothly the rest of your project will go. Here are five reasons why you should use a content wireframe on your next project. 

1. Opens lines of communication right away. 

First things first- the content of the site. Great design begins with the words on each page. You have to make sure they’re functional, relevant, and in the voice of the client. Most of the time this requires the client’s involvement- or at least approval! 

The back and forth chatter between you and the client about content will start the basic conversation. You get to know your client, and they become more comfortable with you. Then comes trust, casual conversation, effective meetings, and honest communication. All of this leads to a better end product. Plus, if you don’t already know how your client prefers to communicate, this will tell you. They might be control freaks… or very laid back and need some pushing. Getting these details hashed out over the content is a great way to kickoff. Opening the lines of communication does more than literally get you flapping your jaws. It lets your client know where they stand with you. 

You’re collaborating on step one; the client knows you’re keeping their interests at the top of your priority list. Reaching out to ask for their advice right off the bat lets them know you’re all in this together. You’re asking them to help build a solid foundation for the project so you can do what you do best. 

2. Lets clients feel like they’re truly a part of the process… and learn a little, too. 

Developing the content of a site isn’t something you can sit back and watch. Like finger painting, you get in, you get dirty, you make revisions and you don’t stop until the content’s perfect. You’re asking your client to paint right next to you. With a content wireframe like Jumpchart, they can make changes, suggestions, and even ask questions. 

The wonderful thing about having clients involved in organizing content for the site is that it gives you a chance to teach them a little about the process. If they don’t already know about site navigation, or keyword relevance, this is your opportunity to spread your knowledge. After all, everyone’s goal is to work with informed parties. 

More than being a part of the process, clients tend to feel responsible for the quality. Paul Boag and his team use something called the “design methodology approach.“ 

“We use ‘design methodology’ with our clients that includes them in every step of the process. This approach provides a number of benefits: • The client is educated about the principles of good design. • The design benefits from the expertise that the client brings to the table about their business and audience. • The client is unable to reject the design outright—he or she has contributed to the design’s creation, so will be unsurprised by the final result.” – The Battlefield of Design: Designers vs Clients.

When clients have to produce content in the very beginning of the project, it helps them feel a part of it all, yes, but it also helps them feel like they’re in charge of getting the site off on the right foot. And according to Boag, having clients involved with this first step will also help things along further down the road.

“A client who has seen a wireframe and has been given the opportunity to provide feedback, is more likely to sign off the final design.” – 7 Wonders of Wireframing

3. Gives clients visibility to your progress in a format they can understand. 

You could tell them everything you’re doing on the phone, or show them bits and pieces of what you’re working on via e-mail. But then they have to visualize for themselves- and that leaves room for lots of miscommunication. Instead, present them with something they can digest. We use Jumpchart to keep things really simple. We start out with basic concepts for each page: “This page will contain information about this subject.” and then we get more complex as we progress with detailed content. Andy Howard with Freelance Switch agrees visual collaboration is the best way to show progress. 

“Familiar with receiving feedback and changes via countless instant messages, email trails and project tasks? Not only is the feedback difficult to manage, it’s not visual, meaning it’s often ambiguous and can lead to subsequent changes. The solution is simply not to allow it. Instead, find a visual tool that works for you and your client, and mandate its use for all feedback and design communication.” – How to Manage Your Website Design Projects

4. Supports decisions you have made. 

You might think you don’t have to defend your decisions, but reality is that clients like to see you practice what you preach. So you can tell them till you’re blue in the face that you’d like to do such and such on this page or that page- but until you show them visually it probably won’t mean a whole lot. There won’t be any backflips. Letting your client see a content wireframe is a great opportunity to show and tell. 

  • This last point can help you not only in the content wireframing part of the process, but really during any step. When you can be visual rather than just verbal, do it. 

“If a client is a little weary or questioning one of your decisions back it up with proven examples, case studies, or performance metrics. Clients will question you from time to time and it’s only to ensure they are really getting the best possible website. Be ready and willing to provide support behind your decisions.” – 10 Tips for Communicating with a Difficult Client.

5. Gets (and keeps!) you organized. 

You have all your ducks in a row. How does this help your clients, you might ask? There is a place for everything, and everything is in its place. When your client sees how incredibly organized you are, their confidence in you skyrockets. They feel less weight on their shoulders to make sure everything’s running smoothly because they know you’re already taking care of it. 

Like I said earlier, we use Jumpchart to content wireframe our projects. Part of the reason we like it so much is because we can upload our files and images to the exact page they go on (really easy for the client to see), we can make comments on specific pages (really easy for the clients to collaborate with us on), and it lets the client really focus on the content instead of getting distracted by layout and design right off the bat. 

  1. Billee D. says:

    This is so true. Getting the client involved early in the content creation and refinement process is crucial to the success of any project.

    We typically have the client come up with some initial content for us to work from. Then we take their copy and refine it a bit, clean it up and adjust accordingly until we have it in a malleable state. After that we spend time going over and revising this updated content with the client until we’re all satisfied with the tone and verbiage.

    The end result is typically something that reflects the client’s own style and they feel like they were just as much a part of the design process as the designers themselves.

    Great post!

  2. I really like the idea of this approach. We have come stumbled across a few tricky customers and I think this method may have created a better client/designer atmosphere earlier on. I’m going to give it a try and see how we go.

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