There is an advertising campaign out now for Farmers Insurance called the “know the gaps.” We’ve all heard about unexpected bills following flooded basements or totaled cars. The purpose of the ads is to educate people on these potential gaps in their insurance coverage and how to avoid them. It’s easy to assume that simply having insurance will protect us from all loses. Similarly, it’s easy to assume the firm that you’ve hired to create your website will be responsible for every aspect of its development. In both cases, these assumptions can become costly and frustrating. Content is an aspect of website development that, despite increased recognition of its importance, remains especially prone to unclear expectations, poorly communicated assumptions, and broken dreams. We’ve outlined three common content-realted gaps to keep top-of-mind as you develop your site. We hope they’ll help keep you out of the ditch on your next interactive project.
1. Identify all content types for your site
Content is the primary purpose of a website. Whether it’s Facebook or a checking account portal, users are there to absorb the site’s content— be it cat videos or their transaction history. Part of our job at Crux Collaborative is to design the appropriate containers for delivering the content of a website to its users. We run into trouble when we get deep into the development process and learn about new types of content. Trying to shoehorn stock performance data onto a page that was designed for a newsletter article is neither strategic, nor effective. The most efficient way to develop a successful design system is to start by generating an exhaustive list of all types of content that will be included on the site. Looking at the interface elements in totality at the outset ensures that we have time to thoughtfully consider how each content type will be displayed and how it relates with other content types.
2. Content doesn’t grow on trees
Developing compelling content that provides value to your users requires planning and expertise. Whether text, audio, video, or imagery – content does not create itself. Your website is a vehicle for delivering content – avoid the mistake of delivering stale, useless, or sloppy content to your users. We can design a lovely page to serve as a container for thought leadership or product content. But if the business process and resources aren’t in place to generate and support that content, we’re going to run into a massive gap. In our experience, the best content is developed by dedicated resources and subject matter experts. Good content often includes images, videos, and infographics to help support storytelling, break up text-heavy pages and make pages easier to scan. Make sure you plan to have resources who can provide visual content along with the written word.
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3. Content entry, dirty work but somebody has to do it
At some point in the process of building a website, someone has to input all of that thoughtfully written content and meticulously designed imagery into the content management system. Most commonly this is a manual process of data entry. For your site to launch “on time” it’s important that we carve out an appropriate timeframe in the project plan. This is an important step in the process and needs to be completed before any testing or QA can begin. For content-heavy sites, content entry is an especially time consuming process and often gets tossed around like a hot potato — or forgotten about altogether. When working in highly regulated industries, it’s also important to remember the legal hurdles that content must pass before it’s ready to be entered. Content entry is a service that we can provide, but our clients are surprised to learn that because it is time consuming, it is also expensive and rarely included in the user experience design portion of an estimate. Setting clear expectations up front around who will be entering the content, how long it will take, and when it needs to be done, will help ensure a smoother implementation of your website.
At Crux Collaborative, we build flexible design systems by identifying the full array of content types at the outset. We collaborate with both internal and external content developers to ensure consistency, flexibility, and governance in the system. We’d love to talk about your next interactive project, our process for avoiding content gaps, or the overall importance of user-centered design. If these topics are of interest to you, please contact us.
By Gregg Harrison
Gregg’s passion for all things digital started two decades ago as a project manager and has expanded over the years to include a focus on user experience consulting, client management, and operations.View Gregg's Bio