Content strategy on a shoe string – a few ideas

One of the problems I am seeing, specifically regarding smaller clients, is the process of making sure that a site has good site copy when there is little, or no, budget for content strategy or copy production. Of course the ‘easiest’ route is to ask the client to produce their own copy, but the result is often wordy, lengthy and (understandably) has no consideration for site architecture. What is a beautiful looking website if its not populated with clear and engaging content?

This past week I attended a workshop at DConstruct in Brighton, UK. The workshop was called Defining a Flexible Process and in it, Simon Collison guided us through a concept-to-launch project process peppered with brainstorming, paper, post-its and play.

The theory is this: supported by carefully chosen systems, templates and forms, comes the opportunity to create as you go, leave space for inspiration and experimentation, pull out paper and paint, camera and pencil – all the stuff that keeps the creative bum humming and work innovative and inspired. A little ‘freestylin’.

Although not specifically outlined during the workshop, Simon’s stable/flexible approach did inspire me to see the client/content dilemma as an opportunity for creative solution’ing.

Perhaps this is a way  to make the client/content relationship more fun, produce a good content strategy and copy, and still respect the project budget:

Step 1: even if the client is a writer or marketing guru, don’t ask them to produce copy for the site. Clients aren’t familiar with the online content process and its a test in diplomacy to convince them that areas need to be cut or re-edited once they’ve written loads of copy detailing everything they want the site to say.

Step 2: ask the client to fill out a Content Strategy Form. What do they want to tell people? What feeling do they want people to take from their copy?

Step 3: ask the Client to gather all the copy used so far on websites and in print to see what they are presently doing – does it match their answers? If not, how can the copy style be adjusted or changed and yet still hold true to their legacy style?

Step 4, a User Journey workshop: what do the Users want to find on the specific site pages. What does the client want their Users to know? How are Users going to progress through the site?

Step 5, Page Descriptions: define content requirements (in point form) around the page requirements ascertained in User Journeys.

Step 6: the User Journeys and Page Descriptions inform the wireframes – how much space does there need to be for the copy? Where does there need to be a compromise between copy and usability? What copy can be turned into a button or an action point or can be presented visually?

Step 7: time to turn what’s left into inspired copy. Hopefully the Client has learned (along with you) what their messages and site should be about and, with the guidance of Page Descriptions noting the space more-or-less available, the essence of what the content might say, and keywords and key terms to be included (perhaps even allocated with best SEO in mind) copy writing can ensue. It’s really just a case of putting it all together, injecting personality, and making sure to hold true to the structure set down.

It’s one for some testing and I’ll definitely post as I see what works and what doesn’t – I’ve no doubt that the process will need to be tweaked on a case-by-case basis.

Add your thoughts