It’s 2020 and we rely on the internet more than ever to communicate, shop, consume and work. The average person in the US has access to up to 5 devices: Personal phones, tablets, home computers, consoles, work devices and more. As a result, your website is more important than ever. Here at Ignition72, we have built websites for NASA, our City Government, large private clients like Marriott, small startups, and more; amassing a wide range of experience and insights into this process.
While every site is different, when you have been doing this for a long time you tend to see trends. This post looks at the top three reasons for a new site launch being delayed, based on our 15 years in business and speaking with our partners.
Content may be King; but it’s a difficult monarch to work with.
Everybody knows that your content is king. Nobody comes to your site to see the theme or bask in your CMS; they are there for the content, and many clients underestimate what it will take to get their content ready. When discussing content for your site, there are really three main elements: Content Definition, Creation/Refinement and Approval, and Content Loading.
In a compelling modern website, we are typically using more than just words on a page; we have images and ideally, interactive tools and features. In a perfect world, the site should adapt and respond to the user, enhancing the visit and hopefully helping to solve problems. Given that a website is an engineering undertaking, as well as marketing one, we start most projects by understanding the content types used in the site. Keep in mind, it is not just a question of what something is; but also a question of how it will be used.
This can include:
- Text, but also different kinds of text: Alerts, Events, Press Releases, Callouts and more. These may all start on a Word doc, but on your website, we need to understand how the text can be used in functional parts of the site as well.
- Images, including a wide range of formats, but also photos, illustrations, icons and more.
- Rich media is the term used for videos, animations and certain interactive features.
- Databases, collections of documents, training courses, and more.
- Every site has different content types specific to their audience or goals.
What you are trying to avoid is discovering a week before launch that you need a rush custom content type created, as in let’s say a sortable table.
The challenge is not only finding/building a sortable table, but it is also redoing all of the testing, validation and verification work (which can take days) over again to account for a last-minute addition which should have been accounted for from the start.
Creation, Refinement, and Approval
In 2020 it is rare that we are building a company’s first site unless they are a startup. As a result, we typically have a ton of content on the live site, and most clients want to refresh, update, and improve that content as part of the new site.
For a large website you might have 500 to 1000 pages of content (or way more) and this content was likely originally created by dozens of people. As a result, a workflow must be created to both marshal your resources and distribute the effort:
- Establish a content guideline document, detailing the average number of words per page, the expected tone/voice, and any other things that you want uniformly present throughout the site content.
- Define keywords that are important to your brand to ensure that they are heavily used throughout the site.
- Determine who your content team is and what each person’s role is; You will need writers, editors, and approvers. Using a project management tool like Jira or Asana can make this process more efficient.
- Where you edit/update your content can be flexible: We have had clients edit the current live site so that we can programmatically migrate the content; others copy content into Word or Excel, edit it for later manual loading. The truly brave (or crazy) start from scratch and write a new site, which can be a huge undertaking and unless there is a strong business reason for doing it, we tend not to recommend this path.
- Keep in mind that content includes not only the words that visitors see, but also content for the Alt Tags, Meta Descriptions and other SEO and accessibility elements, as well.
- The timeline is key: People have to understand that if they want their new content live at launch it has to be ready at least a month in advance. We often give people an option: New content by this date, or old content gets used; then once the site is live, you can edit/update it anytime you want.
The second issue is that in 2020, the web is getting more complicated—not less. As a result, content loading takes a significant amount of time, which is why the final content needs to be ready early. At Ignition72 our team of content loaders have years of experience and work very efficiently within multiple CMS systems, but even they can only load 3-5 pages per hour, depending on the site layout/structure and amount of content. Properly built pages are more than just text:
- Images and their alt tags, so that you are Accessible.
- Links in your text to other content on your site.
- Charts, tables, and other data points.
- Search Engine Optimization content, including meta tags.
- Functionality, as appropriate.
Once the content is loaded you then have to have it reviewed by a designer/visually focused person, to ensure consistency and proper layout. You also will want an Accessibility specialist to review everything as well, to confirm your are in compliance with WCAG 2.1 .
To be sure hiring the right company is key: This blog post is not about managing your web team; it’s more a client guide to the most common single pitfalls that could make the delay your fault.
At Ignition72 every site we build includes a certain amount of content loading (in the original scope of work). We then train our clients, with a custom site-specific user manual, so that they can participate in content loading as much or as little as they choose. This defrays much of the cost, although we are always available to assist with content loading on an hourly basis, as well.