Content Development: A Critical First Step to the Creative Process.

In the early stages of a website development project, we work intentionally through the site planning, content development/copywriting, and wire-framing process. Having the “blueprint” of the website, and being 100% clear on the messaging and actions we’re driving users to take is critical, before ever thinking about the aesthetic and what things will look like.

And while as Proof’s Content Strategist, I love this part, it can be the least “sexy” part of the creative process for our clients. Condensing 100-page websites down to improve UX and navigation, re-writing staff and team bios, articulating your process and services in a concise, actionable way – all of this is hard work. And our process is entirely collaborative.

Step 1: The Content Audit

The Clash said it best, “Darling you got to let me know…” And it’s true with content too! The first step in any content development is to decide what from your current site needs to be on the new site and what can go. Traditionally we go through this process in our Understanding Your Brand workshop, sitting side by side, going page by page through your site, making our best recommendations. This is where we suggest combining pages or simplifying navigation. We use SlickPlan to create a new shiny sitemap that reflects our decisions. It’s one of the most satisfying parts of my job, to see a clunky 50+ page website be pared down to a tidy 10, without losing any necessary information. Remember: site size impacts site speed as well as the user’s experience.

Step 2: The Internal Brain Dump

I lovingly call this part of the process the brain dump because it truly is all about emptying your brain on the page. We build a content doc in Google Docs which encourages collaboration, starting with any existing content you have in place. We format it to match the new, approved sitemap and begin refining headlines, body copy, and calls-to-action, notating where there are gaps or things needed from the client side, and making suggestions for design, functionality, and user experience.

Step 3: The Client Brain Dump

This is where we rely heavily on your insider knowledge of the brand and your vision for the new site. Sometimes we need simple things to complete the content – like updated bios for the staff page or sending high-resolution photos. Other times we need a little bit more work from you. Maybe there’s a new page you want to add or a new service you provide. We ask that you provide us content for those sections – that only you will truly know. Whether you send this info over in bullet points, stream-of-consciousness notes, or Frankensteind copy from other collateral you have – with your help, we do the hard work to finesse and clean it all up to match the rest of the site.

Step 4: Content Approval! Yay!

At Proof, we do not move into the design phase until all content is complete and approved. It may seem that small text changes here and there may not affect the end design, but they can be huge hurdles to overcome. That’s why we make sure all of the content is good to go, reflects the brand’s message, and is packaged up nicely for our design team to begin their role in the creative process

Call me a masochist or just a word-lover, but I absolutely love working through the words and hierarchy of how a brand presents itself online, in collateral, on social media, or beyond.

Our goal at Proof is always to set expectations and follow-through, making the process as painless as possible for all the none copy-crazy.

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