Before You Plan Content, You Have to do This.

10/03/13 Kristin

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.

Architecture.

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.  Keep Reading

You’re on Board with the Content First Approach. Are Your Clients?

10/01/13 Kristin

I usually don’t talk about client interactions, but this time I’m going to make an exception. An exception that will hopefully help close the bridge between you and clients who can’t wait to get to the sparkly design stage.

When you explain to your client that you work with a content first approach, you might be met with a raised eyebrow. You might feel like you have to defend your process – but you don’t! Instead, educate them. Convince them. Remind them that their project is going to turn out great, and this is why.

When you invite someone to a Jumpchart project, you have the option to include a personal message with the invitation. We have some default content there that explains what Jumpchart is, and I think a variation of it can be used in this situation, too.

Here’s the content as it stands in Jumpchart now:

You’ve probably heard us mention Jumpchart in bits of our conversations- here’s a little more information on it as we move forward. Keep Reading

Content First, No Matter Who You Are.

08/05/13 Kristin

Neil Patel makes a (good) living by helping all kinds of companies grow their revenue, including Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom. He also co-founded Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, so his resume is pretty solid. Not all of his advice resonates with me, but he recently posted an article about boosting website conversion rate, and I got sucked in. There was one bit that stuck out to me in particular. He agrees it’s best to go the content first route.

“To ensure that the marketing copy throughout your whole site is aligned, you should first plan out all the pages you are going to have on your website before you start writing copy. This way your messaging throughout your whole site will portray one message.”

Doing this has more advantages than just maintaining one voice, so I want to take it a step further. Plan your architecture first. Then plan what text goes where. Chances are, you’ll realize you don’t have anything concrete to say on a couple pages and end up eliminating what would have only gotten in the way of your core message. You’ll be trimming the fat before your site’s even overweight…

So it doesn’t matter who you are, what industry you’re in, or what you’re selling: planning content first is a sound way to get better results. Simple as that.

Read the whole article in 7 Simple Copywriting Tweaks That’ll Shoot Your Conversion Rate Up.

Why Responsive Design Puts More Pressure on the Content First Method.

07/30/13 Kristin

With the rise of responsiveness, a lot of time has been spent talking about design. I get it. It’s the design that has to shift between screen sizes. It’s the pixels that have to be pushed, and reorganized, and whipped around to give the user the best experience. But I feel like something’s being left out of the conversation.

Content is Still as Important as it Ever Was
Just because the design changes from screen to screen doesn’t mean what’s being said on them is any less important. The user being able to view the website comfortably is only the first step in retention. After they realize the site will work on their tablet or mobile (which people come to expect anyway these days), they get down to the nitty gritty – the content. Information is the whole reason they’re there in the first place, right? That hasn’t changed.

Content Has to Adapt, Too!
As the screen shrinks, the less the user sees. Which means the words they do see have to be strategically placed, and incredibly purposeful. Your headline has to have more punch. Your intro has to get the point across quickly and effectively. When you only have a small amount of space to prove yourself, every character counts. So obviously this changes the way you plan the content for your site. Or at least it should. Keep Reading

Why Content is the Foundation for a Successful Website.

06/11/13 Kristin

I think we can agree that in order for any project to succeed, you have to have all your ducks in a row.

But there’s something else the “content first” theory brings to the table. Something incredibly valuable, but often forgotten. And when it is forgotten, the end result is that you find yourself clicking about frantically inside a website trying like hell to get out.

Flow.

The transition between website pages should be smooth. Seamless. Melodic, even. But what’s more, it should be expected. In a world where the goal of most advertising efforts is to knock you off your feet and commandeer your attention, you should never be shocked at what’s on the webpage in front of you. You clicked because you’re looking for something, and you expect it to be there when you arrive.

Design and content go hand in hand, but design looks to content to lead the way. Be half a step ahead. Maneuver around a steep drop, or a sinkhole. There’s no better time to work out the kinks than at the beginning of a project. Admittedly, the first thing people see when they come to a site is design – but once the awe of beauty wears off (and it will, eventually), they’re going to read the content. That’s where you either retain visitors, or lose them.

Laying out navigation and content first is a surefire way to lead your visitors down the path of your choice. Anticipate the information they’ll want, and the order they’ll want it in. Figure out what’s most important to them, then make it easily accessible. Develop pages and subpages that will quench their thirst but still leave them wanting more … which just happens to be when you point them to the contact page.

It makes sense to me that content should come first when planning a website. The words and tone tend to dictate the design direction, and how can you do one without the other? Plus, what designer doesn’t love swooping in and icing the cake? They can spend their time actually pushing pixels instead of redoing the nav 8 times because it wasn’t figured out before they started designing. Design follows in the footsteps of navigation and content, but they all cross the finish line at the same time.

The Launch isn’t Dead.

06/06/13 Joe

I wanted to take a minute to write a rebuttal to this.

http://layervault.tumblr.com/post/52226746701/the-launch-is-dead

Obviously we just had a major relaunch, so it’s fresh on my mind. While iteration is a huge part of of software development, it’s not all of it. The web has enabled developers to zero in on fixes, and release code on a daily basis rather than boxed gold masters as Kelly so accurately described. It’s a fantastic way to work.

But we came to a time when we were quite literally trapped inside our own platform. There was not a smart way for us to make the design responsive. There wasn’t a clear way to add the new features we wanted without them feeling “stapled on.” So we set about something more ambitious. We rethought the layout and organization of the application.

Maybe we could have subtly tweaked our way from there to here. I can’t imagine it, and it would have take 5x as long.

At one point Kelly says:

“If you’re at the helm of a young company preparing for a launch, don’t. Roll out what you have today to the appropriate users.”

If we had done that, we would have quite literally rolled backwards. Our first drafts were not hatched, and had no business seeing the light of day. We tested internally, tested with users, and when we were happy we released. Diving in sounds great —but in reality? What successful team doesn’t iterate then also periodically relaunch? Apple? 37Signals? Surely you can’t only iterate and stay in front of your competition forever?

Kelly goes on to talk about PR value, and its being a short-sighted goal.

We’re small; we rarely get any media attention. So it’s great for our team morale to have people talk about us and to us. We all had a blast yesterday, and that’s nothing that moving a button 5px could ever aggregate to. Either in publicity or in love for your job.

Not to mention, the hundreds of new users we got yesterday. Momentum is a funny thing. It picks up speed the more you get. It’s really hard to develop that gently rolling up and down small hills.

Anyway. LayerVault seems great. And I don’t know Kelly. But there is definitely more than one way to run a company. So for any of you feeling like you should reevaluate your launch plans: Since Kelly worked some great movie references in to her article, did you also stop drinking Merlot after watching Sideways?

Announcing the Launch of Jumpchart 5!

05/21/13 Kristin


Intro Image

You’re good at what you do. But now there’s a tool to help make you great. If you’re a designer, programmer, copywriter, project manager, art director, or all of the above, you know how much work goes into planning a website. We originally created Jumpchart to help keep you organized — now Jumpchart does so much more than just organize content. Introducing Jumpchart 5. 

What’s New with Jumpchart.


Performance Enhancing Responsiveness. If you’re anything like us, you work from all over the place. So you’re not tied to a desk all day, right? Jumpchart is now tablet optimized, so it will adjust according to your screen size, allowing you to do great work from anywhere. Easy on the eyes at all sizes.

iPad-Retina-Display-Mockup3

Organization Boosting Interface. We’ve taken an extra step to help keep you more organized. We’ve moved some buttons, made content formatting easier, and put the features you use most right at your fingertips. Intuitiveness + Edginess = Jumpchart’s new interface.

organization


Drag and Drop File Uploads. The days of a 3-click file uploading process are behind Jumpchart. Now you can drag and drop your files onto the page for a quick and easy upload. Get back to what you’re doing – faster.

Resources. The all-new resources section gives you an aerial view of all the files used across an entire project. Instead of being limited to viewing files on a per-page basis, you get an incredibly helpful at-a-glance view of your uploads. Read more about the new resources section.

resources

Better Sitemap. The newly improved sitemap view is much easier on the eyes. Up against a versatile grid background, you can see the entire site in a clean, clear layout – including parent pages and subpages. Click any page to view the content in detail. This view is great for collaboration meetings and at-a-glance architecture analysis.

sitemap

Homepage Organization. Your Jumpchart homepage is now organized visually. If you’ve uploaded a mockup, that mockup will serve as the project icon, helping you identify what’s what just by glancing at it. If you manage lots of projects, you won’t believe how such a simple thing can improve how you use Jumpchart.

homepage-organization

Team Member Avatars. We’ve found it’s helpful to visually associate a team member when collaborating on Jumpchart projects. Now you can identify who’s commenting on which pages just by looking at their avatar, bringing communication full circle.

team

Content Formatting Options. You’ve always been able to format content inside Jumpchart – nothing new there. We improved how you move inside the content edit field; we took the most frequently used features of Jumpchart, and put them at the tips of your fingers.

content-formatting

Revised Plans and Pricing

We’ve added a new Freelancer plan that we think will be perfect for a lot of you, so be sure to check that out. In addition, if you pay in advance for a year, you get a discount (who doesn’t like discounts?).

pricing

We’re really psyched about releasing Jumpchart 5. We’ve been using it internally for a while now, and we can’t wait to hear how it improves your workflow. We’d love your feedback, so as you dive in and (we hope!) watch your productivity skyrocket, shoot us a note!

Check it out yourself.

Who’s in Charge?

05/16/13 Kristin

I hear it all the time. “That project has too many chiefs…”

This situation can derail an awesome project faster than a parent chasing a two year old making a mad dash for the stairs.

When lots of people are giving their input, it’s often the case that sidebar conversations get left out of the general stream. Progress loses its groove and you’re headed straight for stalls-ville.

We know connecting all the dots can be tough. It’s one of the main reasons we built such a strong collaboration feature into Jumpchart. Here’s my favorite part, though. You can collaborate how you want to – whichever way fits your workflow best, Jumpchart accommodates. We made it easy for everyone to have a voice, or for the elected team leader to share the project with the committee and relay feedback that way. We know not everyone’s workflow is the same, which is why Jumpchart fluently adjusts to fit even the more specific situations. Here are a few we’ve run into:

Situation #1: The Committee’s in Control! 

In this unfortunate situation, you probably have lots of people actually making the decisions. They all want their voices and opinions heard. There isn’t one person “in charge” to give the final word. Well, that’s okay. Keep Reading

Jumpchart 5 Feature Highlight: Receipts.

05/15/13 Kristin

It might seem like a small improvement, but we know it’s the little things that matter. You’ve always been able to access your previous receipts – with a little help from us. But in the upcoming new version of Jumpchart, you can elect to have them sent directly to your email – right from your account tab. We’re passing the control over to you!

screenshot13


 

Not a Content Strategist? That’s Okay.

05/14/13 Kristin

We’re not big on titles. Around here we all try to pitch in where needed; we wear many hats. We know it’s like that for a lot of you Jumpchart users, too. Whether or not you think being able to do more is better, know this:

Just because your name tag doesn’t say “Content Strategist” on it somewhere doesn’t mean you don’t play the part as you’re building websites. That’s okay. I repeat: That’s. Okay.

We’re not content strategists, either. That’s partially why we created Jumpchart in the first place; we wanted a tool that allowed us to be better at putting the pieces in the right order. Jumpchart makes it easier to navigate the waters of site architecture and content organization. But maybe more importantly, it allows you to make edits to everything, anytime. You’ll never lose any of your work – you can always change your mind and go back to and older version of content. Pretty great, huh?

Let’s face it. On your quest to help your readers accomplish their goals in the most useful way possible, you probably won’t nail it on the first try. So take a step back, look at the bigger picture (Jumpchart has a fantastic site map view for that) and try, try again.