Lots of website clients come to us because they like our designs. And they should — we’ve created some great-looking projects.
But when it comes to the content side of a new website, our writers often get confused looks from clients.
“So… you’re gonna write for our business? How’s that gonna work”?
Answer: it doesn’t have to be that difficult. And with these five simple steps, you can have everything that your content writer needs to do a great job before you even show up for the first meeting.
5 Steps to Prepare Your Content for a New Website
1. Gather Your Materials
Whether or not you have a content writer on your team, it’s important to collect all of your company’s content assets when you’re trying to get a new website off the ground.
In real terms, this includes the text on your existing website and any marketing materials that might have valuable language, such as product descriptions, company information, or marketing verbiage that your team has approved.
For the new site’s design, you’ll also need to collect any proprietary images — company logo files, staff photos, product images, etc. If you have videos or social media accounts that you’d like to include in the new design, you’ll need links to those as well.
Now that you have a starting point (all of your existing content), spend some time looking through it with a critical eye.
What do you like? What do you hate? Is any of the material out-of-date? (Hey, that rhymes!) What can be improved upon? What should you throw out and start from scratch?
Even if your final assessment is “all of this should be destroyed in a dumpster fire,” at least you’ll know what you don’t like about your existing content.
3. Identify Goals
At this stage, you should know where your existing content stands. Now it’s time to think about where your new website is going.
Your new website will only succeed as a marketing tool if you know what you’re trying to do with it. Who is your audience? What do you want them to do? What incentives are you offering for them to do it?
These might sound like basic questions, and maybe they are. But if you don’t have easy answers, it will make it difficult for you and your web design team to define success for your new site beyond pretty pictures and colors.
4. Know What You Want to Say (Even if You Don’t Know How to Say it)
As a business owner, you probably have a good idea why your best customers come to you. Maybe it’s because no one else offers your specialized services. Maybe they’ve been working with you for 40 years and trust you like family. Maybe you’ve built an amazing reputation and draw your business from referrals.
Whatever the reason is, you’ll need to articulate it if you want to compel your web audience to action. As Simon Sinek says in our favorite TED talk, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
Put another way, your content writer won’t be able to help you refine your message to your audience if you don’t know what that message is in the first place. If you know what you want to say to your online visitors before you start building your new website, the creation process will be much more likely to succeed.
5. Remove Thinking Wherever Possible
This point is borrowed from a seminal book in the web design world titled Don’t Make Me Think. We won’t dive too deeply into the details, but the gist is that the user experience on your website shouldn’t require “figuring out” for the average user.
If someone wants to contact you, or learn about your company, or get product information, they should be able to do so without having to stop and think about where that information might be.
This step is a bit more advanced and might require some input from your web design team, but you probably know your content and your goals well enough at this point to identify some areas for improvement. If your most popular product is buried beneath five layers of submenus, for example, you could tell your team to call out this product in a section on the homepage or make it easier to reach with a highlighted button.
Now, these 5 steps to prepare your content for a new website aren't exactly a guarantee. You and your web design team will still have to do a lot of work to make sure your message is compelling and cohesive throughout your new website.
But if you can do some of this work before you launch your new website project, you'll have a huge advantage — and you'll be that much more happy with your new website when it's ready.