Why website content first matters?
Designers have the task of visualizing content and information. In consultation with the client, the structure and layout are clarified, but content is not always finalized before the design phase begins. It is worthwhile to prepare content well.
Planning and creating content takes time, and in most cases there are multiple iterations that develop the information in a particular direction or make it appealing to the desired audience.
Identify your target group
Target groups are always in focus in product development or content development. With the help of user profiles, content can be created in a targeted manner, as it is easier to mentally address the needs and interests. The characteristics of the target group, features such as gender, age, income or place of residence, wishes, problems or needs should be described in the form of personas in order to give these potential customers a face.
The first questions to be answered are:
- Are they business customers?
- Are they private customers?
- Who, if anyone, is obtaining information for whom?
For the target group definition, it is also advisable to carry out a market segmentation, which can be determined according to the following criteria:
- Demographic: age, gender, marital status, place of residence, household size.
- Socio-economic: level of education, occupation, income
- Psychographic: motivation, opinions, desires, values, lifestyle
- Purchasing behavior: Price sensitivity, satisfaction, purchase reach, media use
Strategically plan content and generate topics
Most small business owners describe topics on their website that are not necessarily relevant to their customers. It can be helpful to review existing website content and briefly ask existing customers how they feel about the information content. A survey can be very informative as to what customers' expectations and actual interests are. Possible points mentioned by customers focus on:
- User guidance
- Information architecture
During the survey, it's also worth tapping into which topics might be relevant to the customer in the future in order to subsequently create a list of areas of interest for which content can be researched and created on a regular basis. In practice, categories are helpful in creating content variety on the website. In addition, sustainable content planning supports findability via search engines or customer touch points, where and when, which content might be accessed. The latter analysis is part of product marketing, which clearly defines the customer journey. A website without findability and relevance is basically just a digital business card on the Internet.
Why should content be available before the design phase, if possible?
Designers often face the problem of setting up designs for client requests that may evolve in a completely different direction as the collaboration progresses because there are changes in content. Iterations are part of the design process, yet too many adjustments can distract from the actual project and also exceed the time frame. In website design, one primarily works with mockups that help the website developer to technically set up components and specifications. Real content is a very big advantage, as it allows the website programmer to plan future adjustments and extensions in parallel in terms of system architecture. For designers and programmers, downstream content adjustments always involve other tasks slipping down the timeline, and the actual plan for the release may have to be postponed. In addition, the client's budget may suffer due to these unplanned process interruptions, especially if content, design and development work are pushed to perfection. In general, it is recommended to apply the Pareto principle of 80/20 to the finalization of content, design and website development.
A website is a medium that should evolve regularly, so content adjustments should take place iteratively via the content management system and not via mockups. Mockups are basically only a communication basis, in which direction the development should go and they count in the end to the wake-up products in the cooperation between customers, designers and developers. Website development is also very likely to deviate from the mockup's pixel specifications, which is why it's also not worth creating predominantly high-fidelity mockups unless you want to get investors excited about a potential product before implementation. Web browsers render website designs differently. In addition, a designer cannot map mockups for all devices, but only a handful of viewports as examples, which help the developer to define breakpoints and appearance, as well as behavior of the website components.
Content and design are also no longer as durable as they once should be. Due to advancing digitalization and general technical progress, customers' demands and expectations are changing rapidly. These changes don't take place every week, of course, but the search engines' algorithms and social media pretty much contribute to a website being classified as less relevant the less change or expansion takes place on it.
Plan and create image content
Social media works a lot with the combination of images and text. Increasingly, video content is in demand because users want to experience information quickly and compactly, so reading content on digital devices tends to be perceived as a pain point. Website designers know that users don't engage with content on a website the way they do with a book. The way they interact with digital media is different because their concentration is usually very short. Different screen formats invite users to more or less scan content and search for relevant keywords that convey context without having to be in a specific place. When reading a book, other regions in the brain are active. Those who choose to reach for a book instead of a laptop, tablet, or smartphone take the time to process and think about or report on it word by word, line by line, page by page. A book is rarely read through in one piece without a break, unless you make it a sport and train your own reading speed. However, it is questionable how much content the fast reader can memorize and reproduce.
It's a different story with website content, blog articles, and social media posts. Users rarely search for information specifically, as they would in a library for a particular book. In the competition for users' attention, companies and content creators use media such as images or videos specifically to draw the viewer's eye and increase click-through rates. A high click-through rate can be lucrative when digital ads are placed through market leaders Facebook Ads or Google AdWords. However, if the website operator is more concerned with conveying relevant content on his website, images or videos can help to better grasp contexts.
Texts can be formulated by authors. Images and videos require creative experts to deal with the textual content in order to develop visual concepts that can be repeatedly created and used to accompany them. In addition, authors of visual media should have knowledge of optimizing website load times; a high-resolution photograph with many different colors and contrast gradations results in a high volume of data. A vector-based illustration that can be saved as SVG not only offers the advantage that it can be integrated into the website in the form of lean code, but is also freely scalable, which is particularly advantageous for users of large-area computer monitors, as image components are not displayed pixelated at some point. There are a variety of compression methods for each output format without visible loss of quality.
In order to be able to publish image content regularly in time with the completion of text content, it is also worth creating a project plan here and informing the respective expert or team about it. Certain processes can be automated in image and video editing so that recurring tasks do not necessarily have to be completed manually by employees. In Adobe Photoshop, for example, the batch function has proven very useful. Images can be automatically cropped to the correct format, given specific editing settings, and saved in a web-optimized destination folder. Videos are on average the most time-consuming to produce, but again, the visual concept can save significant time with automation. The more experienced the handling of visual content on the website, the more time or budget is available to incorporate new considerations and initiate new developments.
For the design and implementation process in web development, it is always supportive to work with ready-made content, as designers and programmers can concentrate on system-relevant tasks and the work flow is not repeatedly interrupted by detailed content adjustments. Clients can hire someone to focus only on content planning and creation. This is more targeted and cost-effective than employing designers and programmers to do it. A content creation expert usually also has the great advantage of knowledge and experience in search engine optimization, which in turn is a sustainable component for the development of the customer journey and improves the quality of the content in the long term.