The time has come. You need a website redesign.
Websites are much like a plate of food at a 4-star restaurant. You eat with your eyes first. Most business owners only realize that it’s time for a redesign when they notice the competition is serving up something more visually appetizing. But a website that looks shiny and new on the outside may still be unsuccessful at driving growth.
Content is too important to ignore in the redesign process.
Every content experience matters. Users read slightly more than a quarter (28%) of the content they see on a web page (NNG). A single contradictory, inarticulate, or off-brand sentence could be the only thing your website visitor reads before deciding whether to stay or leave.
Users only read slightly more than a quarter (28%) of the content they see on a web page (Nielsen Norman Group). A single sentence may be all it takes for a user to decide to leave the website.
Planning for content migration, changes, and re-writes must be part of a website refresh. You must also map that content to a new sitemap designed for the new site. Without this planning, the web admin is left with a beautiful outer shell and nothing of substance to fill it with, or worse — content that confuses users and negates the ultimate goals of the website. Even the nicest looking website can’t fix that ugly problem.
So, how do you manage the content portion of your website redesign? First, you need to figure out how prepared you are from a content standpoint.
- Have you done the proper brand research to inform an assessment of your current website’s content?
- Have you used that research to build a messaging strategy that will help you assess your current website’s content and decide what to change and what to migrate?
- If you need to re-write any content, do you have the in-house resources to write, edit, and map that content to a new sitemap?
If the answers to the above questions are “No,” don’t panic. You’re not alone. It is common for business owners to overlook the content requirements when scoping for a redesign. But ignoring these demands can delay your launch.
Most importantly of all: Ignoring content requirements usually leads to a website that isn’t meeting its full potential.
The goals of your website and the voice and tone of your brand (AKA a messaging strategy) should be the highest priority factors to follow when assessing your old site’s content. If the overall content on your site does nothing to meet these goals and is not on-brand, a complete re-write is necessary. However, there are a couple of best practices to keep in mind when assessing whether your content gets migrated as-is, tweaked, or entirely re-written.
Assessing your content needs for the redesign.
- How many years ago did this content get published? Is it still relevant? If your content is 3 or more years old, it may no longer be relevant. *If your content is so old that it is gathering dust, this also impacts other content-related decisions, like whether or not your in-house team is capable of sustaining certain aspects of your website that are dated, like a blog.
- How well-written is the content? If your content was written by someone who doesn’t normally write for the web, you should at least have a copywriter or editor read through everything to check for grammar, syntax, and spacing errors. One bad sentence out of 3 paragraphs of text may be the only thing a user sees.
- Is the content well-formatted and easy to read? Nothing is harder to read than a giant block paragraph of unformatted text in a generic font. Furthermore, using header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) and other formatting is good for SEO. Luckily, this type of content editing can take place post-migration.
- Does the content encourage forward path movement? We already talked about how the specific goals of your site should inform the content, but each page should also have a forward path objective. A page without a CTA is a missed opportunity, but a page with a CTA buried beneath layers of unrelated content is almost worse.
- Does the current content map well to new user experiences and objectives? Sometimes, the impetus for a redesign is a new service offering or business model that requires some transaction on the website. That means that the old content may not reflect the new experiences being designed for.
Who will be the masters of your content?
Rarely does a content assessment result in zero edits to that content before the launch of the new website. More often than not, at least some portion of the content is modified. In some cases, pages need to be entirely re-written.
Editing Old Content
If your content just needs tweaks, a subject matter-aware editor can make those adjustments. It may help to create a spreadsheet punch-list of pages you need to edit so that you can mark them complete and provide a link to the edited copy for the website administrator to swap out.
Writing New Content
In an ideal world, the new content production aspect of a website project has a few designated roles: a subject matter expert, an editor, and a writer. One (very talented) person can do all three of these things, or three people can each be assigned one of these roles. In some cases, especially for larger more complex websites, there may be multiple writers or subject matter experts.
It is important that the person/people on your team assigned to this work be prepared to devote enough time to their respective role. A good rule of thumb is to assume that each page requires at least a half hour of subject matter guidance, up to three hours of writing, and up to an hour of editing. Some pages may require quite a bit of subject matter research and just a half hour of writing. The editor may make a minor typographic change to one page and heavily revise another. If the people assigned to do this work are not really up for the job, it may take even longer.
Not accounting for crucial content production time can lead to delays in a launch. But delivery and content load also takes some time. Excellent communication, project management, and a general understanding of what digital content is and does is key to this process.
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