A new website project should always start with “content first”. When you ensure that the majority of content is already produced you know that important messages and key calls to action won’t be missed. Only then will the end product be exactly fit for purpose.

However going above and beyond content first is a method called Collaborative Content First. You produce the majority of your content as you would any other project but then request to influence content decisions based on layout and technology. Collaborating with your client will give them a new perspective about possible ways in which to present their content which they may not have thought of or even know exists. After all, they know their company — but you know the web.

Just to give you a quick idea about the benefits of collaborative content I’ll run through three possible situations below.

No content upfront

Imaging trying to build a bit of flat pack furniture without the instructions. You’ll eventually get it built but it’ll take longer and may not turn out exactly as expected. That’s what will happen if there is no content provided at the initial wireframe/design stage. You’ve no doubt made up headings before or even populated them with lorem ipsum. This method tends to end up with a client making suggestion the first time they see the site in a browser — at the end of the project — when amendments are a real pain in the arse. 

All content upfront

This will obviously be better than no content upfront. As the designer you will be able to use what is provided to lay pages out and then can suggest amendments to content to provide a more suitable design, but you are more restricted to what is already produced. Generally clients tend to produce too much content and deciding what to remove or producing new content for your suggestions is additional work for them.

Collaborative content

Instead of requesting all content upfront, you suggest a title only and content region approach. Allow the client to suggest required content areas. For example on the homepage they may wish the talk generally about the company, then specifically about a couple of major products. Allow them to suggest a paragraph count for content region, then give them a wireframe layout based on what is suggested. At this point you have the freedom to suggest reduction in content, or perhaps suggest new content areas to balance a page. You could recommend an innovative way of displaying content, or maybe you feel that a particular content area may benefit from being converted into a video instead. This way the client hasn’t invested too much time producing what may well be obsolete content and you have the opportunity to give the end user the best experience possible.

Summary

The client know their company, and you know the web — so content production should be a collaborative exercise.

Obviously every web studio works slightly differently, so maybe this method won’t work for you. Maybe you write for your client or outsource the copywriting out, however hopefully I’ve given you something to contemplate the next time you start a web project.