Whether text or other media, content is a topic that is rarely considered early enough and identified as a risk. However, it is key to a making your online project a success! If there is one issue that concerns all your digital projects, whether overhauling or creating institutional or e-commerce sites, showcases or mobile apps, it is content. Often, everything goes to schedule right to the end, all the bugs are corrected and tested, but the launch date is pushed back because of content that is either late or, even worse, absent.
Delayed schedules, budget overruns...it goes without saying that there are many high-impact risks associated with content. The consequences go far beyond the project itself, even impacting your brand image, which would take a hit from low-quality content when your platform launches. The delay caused by content that is not optimized for search engines could also cost your rankings dearly.
Additionally, content is the best way to test for bugs, whether cosmetic defects or bugs that break a feature or the site’s display. But you can rest assured: there are solutions to tackle content like a pro. As is often the case, anticipation is key, but it is not the only key.
From the moment the project kicks off, content must be clearly identified as a full aspect of the project in its own right. You must press the importance of this issue and the associated risks on all the project’s participants. Once everyone recognizes this, it needs to be identified as a “project in the project” with its own structure:
One of the key points to an online project that uses a CMS is the start date for content integration, which can only be done on a stable back-office to avoid losing any data entered. It is essential to begin entering the content at a reasonable date that is communicated well in advance. This date must respect the time needed to integrate and test the content without impinging on the developments that are still underway or have not been tested.
Finally, the content work must be tracked alongside the online project with dedicated committees because, while they are interdependent, the two projects often call on different participants.
One question remains decisive in designing the new platform: what content do we already have? In the design stage of your new website, organize your content into four categories:
How you answer this question will help determine how you design the future interfaces, and you will be confronted with two possibilities:
In general, you will have six major stages to your content project: production, approval, integration, translation, proofreading and search engine optimization (SEO). While the participants vary depending on the project, you will need a suitable methodology and tools for each stage.
When producing text and other media, set up file sharing for all team members to avoid versioning problems. Organize your work files in a folder tree structure similar to your future platform: this will make it easier to navigate your files. At the lowest level of your structure, have a folder per page so you can gather all the text and images to be included on that page in the same place.
Take care not to use a text editor that inserts hidden style tags that could pollute the display once it is on your site (this is the case for the most common editors like Microsoft Word). However, online tools like Word2cleanhtml allow you to clean up your text before moving to the integration stage.
For this stage, it is essential to set up the workflows and identify the people involved. Trello is especially helpful in tracking project progress. Create a card per page and move it to a shared table according to the different stages, from creation to approval on the site.
Oftentimes, the question arises of whether to integrate manually or automatically. The answer depends on your ability to provide data in a strict format and the development efforts that need to be made.
Automatic integration is recommended when there is a large amount of content to be present on the site and the structure is easy to standardize (product pages, news, etc.). It will then be important to define the expected import format as early as possible and to carry out several tests before importing the final files onto the production environment. Manual integration is preferred when pages have a more complex structure that is hard to make uniform. In this case, use an integration file with the same breakdown as the site’s back office. Excel makes the integrator’s work easier by following the “one back-office field = one cell” philosophy.
Ideally, provide one Excel file per page to reduce the risk of confusion and store it in a folder that also contains the images and other media to be integrated onto the page (which will be identified by name in the Excel file). If possible, provide this structure from the content production phase: it will save you precious time!
Finally, keep in mind that integration is bulk, assembly-line work. To be efficient, the integrator must have all the elements available to them and be able to simply copy and paste the data into the corresponding fields in the back office. The proofreading and correction stage comes later.
This stage can be done before integration, but it is often easier to translate your content in your CMS’s interface. There are many translation plugins available for the most widely used CMSes that can make your life easier. Using automatic translation can help prepare the work.
At this stage, the content is tested directly online so that the page can be tested in its entirety (text and presentation, consistency and harmony with the integrated media, etc.). Any corrections can be made directly before the page is published.
Once your content has been finalized and approved, your SEO expert can make a final pass for technical optimization to ensure that your content is indexed according to your search engine objectives.
Whether for a site overhaul or a new creation, the issue of content should be seen as a “project within the project” that needs to be addressed alongside the online project kickoff given its impact on the project’s design and, especially, its success. Content is a key factor that you should not overlook.
While this project is particularly heavy during the initialization stage, it continues with varying volumes throughout the site’s life, and the methodology you set up before launch will help you be more productive and follow best practices.
Pauline Jude, Online Project Manager