What if you were going to write a book or a magazine article about your business? What kind of information would you include? What would people want to know about your business, and what would you want people to know?
Undoubtedly, you’d share information about the products and/or services that your business offers. You’d give your office hours and contact information so that people could do business with you after reading the article. If your business had a physical location, you’d talk about that too – how to find it, what it’s like, where to park, etc.
And then you’d probably include some information about yourself – who you are, why you started the business, what you want to accomplish. You might talk about and introduce any employees you have working for you.
Think about all those things you’d want to make sure to include in a book or magazine article profiling your business. Write it all down, then use that to start your web site.
Start with content
What? Start with that? A boring text document that goes on and on about your business? Yes! That’s how you’ll figure out what kind of content your web site should contain.
Any web site worth its salt is going to start with content. Not with a pretty design, not with a pre-selected content management system, not with a stunning logo. But with content. With a capital C.
What if it really was a book?
Think about it this way – what if you really were writing a book about your business? Would you start by designing the cover and layout of the book, then write to fill in the layout you’d created? Do you suppose a magazine starts by creating a layout each month and then fills in the holes in the layout with content?
Books, magazine articles, newspapers – they all start with CONTENT. The design, the layout, the look and feel, are then based on the content, not the other way around.
Content really is king
If you’ve spent any amount of time reading articles on the web, then you’ve probably come across the saying that ‘content is king’. And you might have surmised that this meant you really needed killer content – that it needed to have keywords for search engines to find, that it needed to be easy to read, that it needed to be interesting and relevant.
And all of that is true, certainly.
But it goes even further than that. Content should be the driving force behind your web site. You should create and edit all of the content first, then build up the design and layout around the content. Once you’ve decided what type of content your site will have and how often that content will have to be updated and by whom, that’s the time to figure out which CMS solution is going to fit best. Content should be driving the entire process the entire time.
Write it out first
So, start your web design project by writing that book (if your business is big enough for a book) or that magazine article. Figure out what you want to say, everything you want to include. Then start working on the look and feel, the design, the layout and selecting a solution for managing the content.
You can hire help for this, but don’t expect that help to necessarily be your web designer. Web designers have many talents, but copy writing or copy editing is not necessarily one of them. If you can’t even think where to start or detest writing, then hire a copy writer to interview you and write all the copy. If you think you can get most of the copy together and know what you want to say, but aren’t confident that your writing skills are up to par, then hire a copy editor to go through and polish and organize it all after you’ve written it all down.
The content should be turned over to your web designer before your web designer ever starts working on the design. And your web site will be custom-designed to perfectly accommodate your content and will capture and reinforce the tone of the copy. And the quality of the site will be top-notch.