If you’ve built enough websites in your time then it becomes second nature. You get to know what you’re doing, you develop a process, you learn how to do new features of functionality and you end up with a bank of knowledge, skills, and problem-solving techniques to make the vast majority of website projects, theoretically, straightforward. There is seldom a huge deviation from this website design and development process once you have an efficient pipeline system. So, what’s the Mydas fly in the ointment?
Content is the only thing that doesn’t comfortably fit into a website design and build process. Mainly because it can’t be relied upon to turn up at the right time. For a number of reasons.
Baseline the requirements
The elephant in the room is the question, “Who is coming up with the written content for the website?” and depending on your experience with web designers, it’s not a given that they will be doing it for you. Different designers have different skills and writing might not be one of them. It also makes a difference if you opt for a sole trader or freelancer, of if you go to a web agency to build your site. Most decent website agencies will have the skills and resources to help you out with copywriting.
It’s also important to ask the question yourself if the web designer doesn’t bring it up first. Web designers are a funny breed and will assume all sorts of things and sometimes will not offer things up forgetting that the reason you are sitting there talking to them is that you need to be helped and guided through a process by them, i.e. you can’t do it yourself. Demand to be educated! It’s the purpose of being in a consultation meeting, to be consulted by a consultant.
Written content is by far the most difficult thing to collate for a website project. As mentioned above, design and build has a process but the written content is an animal all on its own. Ascertain right at the beginning of the project, before any quote or proposal has been written, where the content will be coming from. So, what are the ways it can be brought together in a timely manner?
First things first
Right at the start, before anything, a sitemap and page structure has to be decided upon. This makes sure that everybody knows what content is required. Deciding this also tells the designer what pages need to be designed. Already, everyone is starting off with a common purpose and know where they’re going together.
Option 1: Write the content yourself
Most people say to us that this is what they’d prefer, usually because of perceived cost. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it first seems. Writing for web is a learned skill and it’s important to remember who you are writing for, i.e. your audience. Just because you can speak and read English, doesn’t mean you can effectively communicate what you’re trying to say or how to write website content as an effective vehicle. This is why we’re not all famous novelists. Writing is hard. Content has to sell, be about the customer, be benefit-rich and resonate with the reader and should not be about the company, its history, or the combined years of experience all the directors have. Customers want to know what you can offer them. It’s also massively time-consuming. If you’re running a business at the same time as trying to write your website content could end up bitty, disjointed, unfocussed, incomplete and arrive late with the web designer to put in the site.
Tip: Set time aside, real time, when you’re not going to be interrupted when you can properly concentrate on your audience, what you can offer them, your services and how your customers will benefit from taking you on. Don’t see this as time away from your business – think about it: this is time you’re actually working on sales, promotion, advertising, business development and growth, if it’s done thoroughly. It should not, however, be boshed out at 10 o’clock after a few cheeky vinos and a long day at work.
Option 2: Get the web designer to do it
Really think, honestly, if you’re going to have time to do your own copy and if your web designer offers copywriting services consider asking them to do it. Web companies will have some who knows how to write website content, freelancers less so. After the site map has been decided, they should then take you through the copywriting process. They should ask you about your services, your company, vision, mission, ethos, USPs, what your customers benefit from your services, testimonials, past projects, everything that will enable them to put together some high-quality customer focussed content for your site.
Tip: Expect to pay extra for this service. As mentioned, copywriting is a learned skill. And even though you are paying extra, consider how many of your own hours you’ll be saving not having to do it yourself. The time to write this stuff has come from somewhere and time is money to everyone.
Option 3: Hire a copywriter
Again, if time is a problem for you hiring a copywriter is a good solution. It’s important to choose one that has experience in writing for web and knows how to write website content as it’s a completely different discipline to writing for magazines, books, brochures, etc.
Tip: Ask to see some example work before you commit and each copywriter will have their own procedure for collating the information needed to write your copy. Make sure you ask exactly how they will do it before hiring them.
With the best will in the world, writing your own website content without help or a sound structure will take you a lot longer than you think unless you’re a seasoned writer – and most of us aren’t. The one thing that causes the most delays in website projects is the content not being produced quickly enough. We have had, quite simple, projects that have lasted for nearly a year because clients have insisted on doing their own content and have subsequently ‘really struggled to find the time’. Let someone else do it. Website projects lose energy if the momentum is not maintained.
The other main consequence is that your message may not be good enough and may not be ‘reaching’ your customers. If you’re paying out a decent wad for a good site, why waste a fabulous frame on content that isn’t convincing or converting customers? You may have saved a few hundred quid on copywriting fees but you’ve wasted a few thousand on an ineffective website.
Be honest and realistic with yourself. Can you do it proper justice? If not, hire someone to do a decent job, maximise the value of your website and its efficacy, see a return on your investment, and don’t waste hours and days of frustrated time trying to do this utterly vital part of a website project. A new website project is an exciting process, a sign of new beginnings and progress; make sure you’re waving enthusiastically, reaching for a helping hand, and not drowning in frustration.
Once you’ve got this nailed, it’s time think about imagery! :-/
And if you’re curious about the Mydas fly, it’s big!