Psst, you there. Yeah, you. I’d like to share a secret with you: most websites can’t be built in 1-2 days or even 1-2 weeks, given all the other projects that a typical Web team is working on. Not only that, but there’s a lot of strategizing behind the scenes that many don’t see. In other words, a truly good Web team doesn’t just copy and paste your content into a CMS without giving it a second thought, pushes a magic button, and then say to you, voilà, you have a website!
A Content Scrubbing
When we receive your content (and please note—building a site starts with having content to work with), it first goes through a scrubbing. It’s edited for grammar, consistency, spelling, adherence to branding standards and our university’s Web policies, and so forth. Quite often, content needs to be edited down and for the Web. That’s a major point to consider, because many content providers are not familiar with good Web content practices (nor is it necessary their job to become a Web content expert). Also, many content providers think that content for a print publication will translate perfectly for a website, when in actuality, this doesn’t always work. For one, content for a print publication is not optimized for search engines. For another, it’s not optimized for grabbing your Web readers’ attention immediately—and if it doesn’t, you run the risk of losing them pretty early in the game.
A good Web content editor also needs to balance how you think your content should be divided among pages, and how it really should be divided. Think of the pages or menus or navigations that comprise a website as chapters in a book. They need to flow logically from one to another. They need to be in the correct order. They need to be properly titled so your users know what to expect when they select a navigation. The titles should not be too long, but nor should they be so short as to render them meaningless. And is it really necessary to have 3 pages devoted to saying pretty much the same thing when all it really takes is 1 page?
Let’s Insert an Image of a Girl Under a Tree!
Then there are images to consider. Images should be relevant to your site. However, many content providers don’t have images at their disposal or appropriate images. This is when a design and/or photo department gets involved and starts designing images or setting up photo shoots for your site. Obviously, all this will add time to your site creation.
Hey, How About a Twitter Feed (Oh, Wait, Do I Still Owe You Content?)!
Let’s not even get into when coders and developers enter the fold (that’s a whole separate post in and of itself!), or when a client gets excited about other assets and bells and whistles: for example, creating and embedding a Twitter feed or a Flickr slideshow for their site and other widgets and gewgaws. It never ceases to amaze me when people start talking about doing all these “fun” and “interesting” things yet haven’t created the meat of any website: content. I’m not putting down the relevance of Twitter and Flickr, etc.—far from it. In fact, I think they can add a lot to a site when done appropriately.
But take my word for it: start with the content, and the rest of your site will naturally fall in place. Start with the content, and you’ll actually see if the other assets and ideas you have in mind make sense. You’ll save yourself lots of time and agita.
I hope this gives you an idea of all the thoughts and efforts that go into creating a website. And keep in mind: these are just the basics. Web teams often hear, “I gave you only 3 pages of copy. Surely, you can turn around a site for me in 2-3 days.” As should be clear from reading this post, there is a lot of strategizing behind building a site. Anyone can copy and paste content into a CMS without giving it a second thought. It is the exceptional Web team that takes a step back and reviews your content and site from all angles and think, would this make sense from the perspective of someone coming to your site? Would the site resonate with your target audience?
Which Web team would you rather have?