The Content First Approach

Cast Media - Website Design - Content FirstWe love building websites.  We really do. But our team also understands that one of the greatest challenges to launching a live website is receiving thoughtful, targeted content to ensure client success into the future.
 “Content is King”, you’ll hear that sentiment echoed every day at the Cats Media studio.

We love a beautiful finished product that’s aesthetically pleasing, functional as heck and working to grow SEO in an organic manner. Everyone wants a pretty website, understood. But like we learned as kids: what we really want is not necessarily what we really need.
I am NOT saying “here’s an ugly website but you should like it because it does everything you need it to”. I am not saying that at all. In fact, your website is an extension of your business and if it doesn’t look professional, neither do you. What I am saying is let’s ease the focus of a website towards its actual content. Let’s think about websites less as shiny objects and more as tools which allow you to grow your business. The great thing is, you can have it all!

So, if you’re in the market for a new website – and this is a real insider tip here – focus on recognizing the value of your content first. This is referred to as the “Content First” approach. Think about what content works best for you and your audience:  at the end of the day, it will be your website’s content that will help you achieve your goals.

Borrowing from James Deer*, there are essentially 5 main components that should be kept in mind when developing website content:

1>    Audience: Who are you speaking to? Whether you have formal personas or not; it’s essential that you have an idea of the people with whom your content is communicating.

2>    Purpose: What is this webpage trying to do? You should think of a simple summary of the function of every page in your project. This is a great way to strip out excess chatter.

3>    Context: Context is the setting in which your content is presented. It can be difficult to gather concrete contextual information, but doing so will help to remind you that you are writing for humans, in human situations.

4>    Meta data: Meta data is supporting information about your content that can be understood by machines. You should include keyword considerations for search engines, internal site search information as well as guidelines for content organisation within your CMS.

5>    Rules: What else do you need to know? Technical restrictions for different types of media? Legal obligations? Design implications for responsive sites? It's good to clarify some ground rules first.

By shifting the mentality from “what colour will the ‘Sign Up for Our Newsletter’ button be?”, to “Does this content read like something that will appeal to my audience?”, you’re ensuring yourself an end product which is both robust and purposeful. You’ve hired a website developer to assist in determining layout and design, don’t pay them and then put yourself to work on their tasks. Stay focused on your contribution to the success of the project and you’ll get to the end together!

*, July 2013