Redesigning your website: A content-first approach
Redesigning your website is exciting. You have the opportunity to refresh your look, upgrade your technology and even shift how you do business with your audience, but it can be hard to know where to begin.
The best place to start is with content
A proper content phase starts as the website project kicks-off and then weaves throughout the entire redevelopment. Think about your website’s core purpose: to provide information about your products and services to your audiences, and to promote yourself to current and prospective clients. Beyond all the bells and whistles website technology offers today, achieving these goals still boils down to content. In fact, your content is often the most crucial and the riskiest part of your website.
Your site can be beautiful and modern and use the latest technology but if your user doesn’t immediately find the content that they’re looking for, they’ll leave your site within seconds. For this reason, the layout, sitemap and content of your website should guide the technology and design that you use, and not the other way around – despite the allure of building your website based on your favourite flashy, colourful designs!
Downfalls of starting with design
Many organizations start their website projects with design and technology, filling in the spaces left for content at the end. They do this because the content phase is daunting, complex and time-consuming, and let’s be honest – images and design are just more fun. However, leaving the content phase for last can lead to:
- mismatched or irrelevant content
- pages that are too long or short
- the need to redesign or redevelop later to meet content needs
- sites that are pretty to look at but difficult to use
- sites that offer no meaningful information and send the user searching elsewhere for what they are looking for
Although the content phase may not be as glamorous as design, it's the core piece that all website projects should start – and end – with. You might think that a picture (or showy graphic) is worth a thousand words, but images should never replace content on a website for so many reasons, including accessibility, user-understanding, and search engine optimization.
Audit your existing content
The best method for ensuring the content-first approach is starting with a content audit. Unfortunately, this essential phase is often overlooked or rushed because it can be tedious. The most basic content audit scans your site and creates a list or spreadsheet inventory of every page. Your team will use this as the first building block to understand the size and organization of your current website, and your needs for possible website redesign.
To take your audit one step further, you may also want to include:
- traffic to the page (if website analytics are available)
- basic description
- department that owns the content page
- attached files
- news, articles, FAQs, basic pages, calendars, interactive forms, etc.
- website accessibility (for both user-ability and responsive design)
A web writing expert should then review, comment on, and even grade several pages from across your website against web content best practices. This will help you uncover specific ways to improve your site's content.
Create a new sitemap
Once you’ve got the lay of the land, you’re finally on your way to creating your new site. This starts with your sitemap – the blueprint that shows where every content page will fall under which menu or submenu. Without a navigable and intuitive sitemap, your content counts for next-to-nothing because your audience needs to be able to find it in order to read it and understand the information that you are providing.
Recreating your sitemap is an opportunity to make everything simpler and more logical for your user to find. Web experts have found that companies tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly. They often map out websites the way an insider sees the information rather than organizing it in a way (and using the language) that would make it easiest for someone from the outside to understand and find.
Make your content work for you
These tips will help you get started with assessing your content and redesigning your website and help to ensure that your users have a great online experience.
To learn more about how to plan your site for easy navigation and how to produce meaningful content, contact the specialists at GHD Digital. We have years of experience and hundreds of clients who we have helped build better, more meaningful relationships with their audiences online.