Workflow: Craft Content at Step One
We've all been there, right? We're working on a site that we're proud of with a client who is pleased and a deadline that is quickly approaching. About two weeks out from our site launch deadline we lob over an email to the client letting them know the CMS we're using is ready for their content. There are really only ever two responses to that email:
- Absolutely. We've taken the initiative to go ahead and work with our copywriter and plan content around the site you've been working on. We'll have that over asap.
- Content? What do you mean? Isn't that YOUR job? (Cue the most confusing scene from Inception and two weeks of rallying to convince your designer he's also a copywriter.)
Lets be honest...that first scenario basically never happens. If the client does have content, it's not informed by the same things you've been considering through your work progress and will have to be significantly modified to work for your purposes. Our favorite Content Strategist (and yours) Kristina Halvorson has this to say about this scenario:
"Most web project schedules postpone content development until the eleventh hour. As a result, content quality is often seriously compromised. When we practice content strategy, we ensure that our web content is treated as a valuable business asset, not an afterthought" - Content Strategy for the Web
We couldn't agree more. Content should be your first and foremost focus before even considering what the site will look like or do functionally. It's sort of like being invited to speak at a conference, buying new outfit, getting a haircut, and never writing your speech. You may look your best but you have nothing to say and ultimately the audience isn't going to glean anything meaningful from how your new H&M jeans fit.
Many of the decisions we made in the early concepting days of Osmek centered around the central idea of separating content from design and development. The painful scenario of shock and awe content creation above is the product of content being wrongly lumped in with other unrelated tasks. The beauty of Osmek is that it supports a healthy Content Strategy focused workflow by allowing you to build your dashboard at the start of your project.
Example Content Strategy Workflow:
Adapted from Content Strategy for the Web.
- Interview Key Stakeholders.
- Conduct a rough survey of current impressions about existing content (i.e. If it sucks, why does your client think it sucks?).
- Audit of existing content.
- Analysis of existing content.
- Recommendations of how to use or repurpose content.
- Use Osmek's Content Bins and Custom Fields to begin to plan your site's structure.
- Begin to make decisions about how content is grouped together.
- Build your Osmek Dashboard.
- Deliver completed Content suggestions (Again...independent of design).
- Set up standards and practices of how the site will be maintained and by whom.
- Develop an editorial schedule with suggestions on content lifespan.
Whew... that would be a lot to try and do in the home stretch of a site delivery, huh? The good news is that by prioritizing Content Strategy at the start of a project, you have a more developed idea of the content needs of your project and can thus make content-informed decisions as you move into the design and development phases. That's not to say there can't be overlap between Content Strategy, design, and development, but rather that they need to be treated as separate but co-dependent tasks. One of our favorite quotes on the topic of this separation comes from a fantastic article from the Content Marketing Institute:
'“Content first” means structuring content for the audience, not the device, and loosening its formatting and presentation chains to make it flexible for other platforms. Therefore, we must trash “desktop first” or “mobile first” perspectives and learn how to communicate with the audience as quickly and effectively as possible.'
Why Is Content Separation Necessary?
This article above continues on to make the point that with an ever changing landscape of devices and presentation points (computer, iPad, iPhone, Android handsets and tablets, responsive designed sites, blah blah blah) it's imperative that we set up our content in a way that allows content to exist independent of whatever our design might be today. You can imagine the headache that would ensue if you used an inadequate CMS to organize a large eCommerce site and then suddenly are tasked with repurposing that site content for an iPhone app. Get ready to exercise your copy + paste skills, kimosabe.
Alternatively, if you had used a thorough Content Strategy workflow matched with a flexible CMS (cough, cough Osmek's API), you would then have a ready and waiting repository that your iPhone app could draw from. As the article above states, creating content structures is key for flexibility:
'“In short, we need content that’s structured into meaningful chunks, not giant blobs of text and formatting,” Karen [McGrane] elaborates. “To get there, we’re going to have to change the way content creators think about writing — and the secret to that is having better content management interfaces and workflows.”
In an ironic twist, “freeing” your content may require more structure. How do you make sure author, date, time, title, headline, media, and intro bits of content maintain their integrity when pushed to the mobile browser or republished through a partner website or microsite? Thinking about the content first is the solution.'
We wholeheartedly feel that Osmek is the answer to freeing your content. By using an API rather than an application, Osmek can send your content anywhere and be repackaged for any purpose. Over the last five or six years we've seen the separation of content from form allow Osmek users to survive the Flash-pocalypse of 2007 and be ready for the mobile app boom and responsive boom we're in now without ever reentering a line of their core site content.