Before You Plan Content, You Have to do This.
You’ve heard it here, you’ve heard it everywhere: content comes first. But that’s actually not entirely true. There’s something even more important that comes before content. It often gets lumped in with the content planning phase, but I think it’s important enough to have a blog article all its own.
You know, the real backbone of the site. This is actually my favorite part of planning a site (nerd alert, I know) because it forces me to really focus on what the site’s purpose is. Kicking off content creation for a project, I have a bunch of notes scribbled in my notebook: headline ideas, tone concepts, calls to action, or things the client has mentioned they want included. It starts to pile up on my desk, but before I pay attention to any of it, I put together the thing that will tie all that chicken scratch together.
I know a lot of people do it differently, but I start with a blank page, and a pen. I jot down everything I think might be useful. If it enters my head, it hits the page. The list grows quickly, but I don’t leave anything off. It’s the writer’s version of a free-write for navigation – I let my thought process sort of run wild, but the end result is an all inclusive list of what might make this site great. Then I tear it apart.
This is fun because I get to temporarily step out of my role as “architect,” and step into the role of the client’s client. If I’m a client visiting their webpage, what am I looking for? What buttons will get me there the fastest? If this website is going to be as helpful as possible for me, what’s on it?
As I step back into the role of architect, I switch my viewpoint again. As an organization, what is the overall goal of the website? What’s most important to the client? Is their website serving an educational role in their customer’s lives, or acting as a store?
By the end of the process, I have it. The short list of top level navigation items, and a slightly longer list of subpages. Then it gets really real: I fire up Jumpchart and give those pages a home.
Now, let the real work begin…