Comments on Prioritizing Structure in Web Content Projects

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  1. This makes a lot of sense…as long as you are confident that an editorial team will be put in place to write the content to fit the new model. Otherwise you might be better off taking a phased approach and keeping the model more flexible until you are certain that content will be developed. For example, you could add the fields but not make them required. In my experience, writing or editing content is the biggest lift on any design project and often the resources are not provided to do so.

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  2. We just wrapped up a redesign that followed this similar path.

    1. Create Content Strategy
    2. Audit and Revise Content
    3. Design the Site and Information Structure
    4. Revise the Content

    Reading this read like my (still-a-work-in-progress) debrief.

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  3. Eileen, I loved your post. I’m with you on structure first when you’re dealing with content that needs structuring. Based on my experience, it’s less emotionally taxing to make adjustments to your structure than it is to make sweeping changes to content you’ve asked writers to develop. So I prefer to map out the requirements before assigning content development to a team of writers.

    I also agree with @Lisa on taking a phased approach with non-required fields if some content will be trickier to generate. I’ve had to do this when trying to integrate content from other systems (like a massive ERP or something). Sometimes that data needs a lot of clean up and work before it plays nicely with the CMS. So letting those fields be flexible until the data is ready can be helpful.

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  4. Love this. I think structure has to come first (with the stated caveat of flexibility as you approach final). I am also one who bridges the content to tech space, but I find a content-first approach tends to neglect the possibilities of a better user experience that are possible from a tech/structure side. If I don’t know the site’s behaviour, how can I write copy for it?

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  5. Thank you, thank you. Whenever I am explaining content strategy and management to clients or colleagues, I like to say that you need a skeleton, whether that be a wireframe for a landing page or a set of modules on a CMS template. Once you have the skeleton in place, you can put meat on the bones. If you don’t have a skeleton first, things get messy.

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  6. I agree that strategy and communication goals definitely need to come first, and I also like to get that skeleton sorted out before editorial rewrites come into play. But one thing I’ve found really useful is to start having content creators “play” with editorial stuff as a means to define the model.

    That is, I’ll have them evaluate the existing content based on the new strategy and the user journeys we want to enable, and ID what’s missing or not working about it. Then we’ll use that to list out the bits of content we need to be thinking about to achieve our goals.

    It’s a loose mix of editorial and structural planning done at once, and it serves two goals: it gets the team thinking about the rewrites they’ll need to do (and clearer about how to identify content problems and fix them), and it gives us a rough sketch of the content model. From there, it’s a lot easier to rewrite a small set of sample content to fit/vet the model, iterate, and then engage a larger group in the actual rewrite process—which typically needs its own parallel timeline and management from the technical build-out of the model.

    Thanks for this, Eileen!

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  7. Hi there -

    Very interesting article and super relevant to work I’m doing right now. Totally relate to the “chicken and egg” feeling about content & structure. On content-first projects, it sometimes feel that UX is looking for guidance from me and I’m just not sure where my work ends and theirs begins.

    I find it intriguing that you’re pushing for “structure first.” Just one thing, though…

    What do you mean by “structure?” Do you mean IA? Do you mean sketches? Do you mean content priority templates?

    I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a “content model” and ultimately abandoned it because I didn’t see the relevance to work we were doing. It felt duplicative of both a content audit and IA.

    So are we talking about some interim sketching step? What do you mean??

    Ahh!  :)

    Thanks for any thoughts you may have.

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  8. We recently got a real estate project where the client is into selling and rental of properties, more specific, flats. He has absolutely no idea about content. He gave us his visiting card and said to take care of rest. The problem is his property data changes, depending on the sales and rental occupancy.
    We are planning to get internal details of his functioning and trying to also understand what makes him unique, if it does and what could be his additional expertise to put on website. He says expertise, is related to property verification and that is sometimes like a case study. Putting such details on web could pass on trade secrets on which he convinces his client, on case to case bases. 
    It is becoming difficult to frame a content based structure, other than just positive information, general in nature.

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  9. A blog cannot survive for long without quality content. If you post quality content on your blog, you’ll see quality backlinks generation on autopilot. Other than that, guest posting is also very important to get backlinks and readers. I enjoyed reading this post. Well written. :)

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  10. Nice insights. I agree to the point that keep the structure first for any website development process. It is important to have clarity of thoughts before running and searching for a system that supports business functions. A proper plan guides a decision maker right from the content management selection phase to the development and maintenance of a web application. Make sure to understand business requirements and consider a system that fits them. There are numerous web content management system and the one that is flexible, scalable and reliable will best satisfy future requirements. The structural plan help developer to decide on tools that must be included in a website. It also allows to decide the user roles and responsibilities. Plans acts as a guide for a developer.

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  11. trully amazing concept.. piastre per capelli

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  13. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.