Creating that content

Closeup of hand holding pen, desk, paper

Every website needs content. Yet somehow, content all too often seems to get ignored when thinking about building that new website. Because it’s more exciting to talk about shiny, new themes or website features.

Content, on the other hand, seems a more nebulous concept. Of course the website is going to have content. Just don’t know what that looks like or how to get there…

Websites have multiple pages (or sections), needing different kinds of meaningful content. Check this post, The website Holy Grail: Content for more about the specific kinds of content needed.

Knowing what content is needed is part of the battle. Now it’s on to creating that content. Because words are not going to write themselves and pictures won’t magically appear out of thin air.

There are 3 approaches to coming up with content for your next website, regardless of whether it’s written, photos, video or graphics:

  • Create it yourself
  • Collaborate with a professional content creator
  • Have a professional content creator create it

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each:

Create it yourself

Pros:

  • Nobody knows your business or organization better than you.
  • You already know how to talk about your organization.
  • You possibly already have a good amount of usable material in other forms that can at least form the basis for what you need for the website.
  • The content on your website will definitely be in “your voice.”
  • Saves the cost of hiring content creators.

Cons:

  • Unless you are an accomplished writer with experience in copywriting, it’s going to be a long slog and some seriously hard work. Because writing well for an online audience and keeping search engines happy is not for the faint of heart.
  • While you do know your organization, you may be too close to things to be able to present them in the best way for your online audience.
  • Existing material wasn’t written for online use. What works fine in print, can easily come across all wrong when used online.
  • While you no doubt have a “voice” that your customers recognize, it’s no secret that it often gets lost when trying to create in a new medium. Because you’re treading all-new territory.
  • Creating your own content will take up lots of time. That you could spend doing what you really do best.
  • You get what you pay for. It might be way more cost effective to bring in a professional content creator to either do it all or work with you.

Have a professional content creator create it

If create it yourself is one end of the spectrum, then having a professional content creator create it is on the other end.

Pros:

  • You don’t have to do heavy lifting at all. Everything, including fact finding, interviews, research, as well as creating the final content, is handled for you.
  • You’ll get content that is carefully crafted to communicate the right things to your audience.
  • A professional content creator will understand what communicates well with your audience. Often better than you do.
  • You benefit from insight and experience from someone who communicates with online audiences on a regular basis.
  • You get what you pay for. This solution requires the greatest investment of the 3 options, but also delivers the most carefully crafted and fine-tuned content for you.
  • An excellent content creator will channel your “voice” possibly better than you do yourself in creating content.

Cons:

  • If communication between you and the content creator isn’t excellent, you likely won’t get an optimal result.
  • Some content creators may take a shortcut here and there and instead of optimized, present generalized (stock) solutions.
  • It’s not totally a “hands-off” process for you. You still need to be involved in parts of fact finding and research. As well as be available to review drafts/mockups and eventually carefully consider and approve the final results.
  • If not done well, your “voice” can get lost in the resulting content.
  • You may feel that you lost control over the content creation process.

Collaborate with a professional content creator

If the preceding options are at opposite ends of the spectrum, this is the middle-of-the-road solution. A blend that is perfectly right in many situations where you still want the best result possible, but cost may be a concern.

Pros:

  • Directly leverages your intimate knowledge of your organization, since you creating the drafts of everything.
  • Your “voice” comes through since you’re right there in the creation process.
  • You are not creating content on your own. You’re working together with a professional, so the end result will be much better. And accomplished faster.
  • No plodding along on your own. There’s a proven path and timetable.
  • Not as expensive as having the content fully created for you.
  • Most likely less time invested than if you try to do it all start to finish. With a better result.

Cons:

  • You are definitely involved at every step, so you must be available throughout the content creation process.
  • You must be willing to take input (editorial criticism) from your content creator professional. Open, honest dialog is vital.
  • More expensive in money than if you do it yourself.
  • You may feel some loss of control of the process because it is collaboration.

Choosing the right option for you

Which option you choose will depend on a number of factors. For instance, a very limited budget may dictate that you try to create content yourself.

Or you may be an accomplished writer, photographer, illustrator. In which case it can make perfect sense to create content in your area of expertise yourself. While still working with someone for content in other areas.

Getting reviews and feedback is crucial

The one thing not to do: Create content yourself, and assume it will be perfect when dropped into a website. It never is.

Any content needs at least one more set of eyes on it. For review and feedback. Because someone else will catch things that you didn’t. 

That’s why book authors have editors. Why movies go through test screenings before they’re finalized. Because more eyes on the product will help make it better.

Different kinds of content and bringing it all together

It’s easy to think of everything so far just in terms of written content for a website. But this applies equally to photography, graphics and video.

Just because we can grab our phone and do a selfie or shoot a video of ourselves, and use them on our website, doesn’t mean we should. 

In certain situations, a selfie or video done by yourself can be perfectly fine online. But all too often they’re not. The key is to know when.

That’s where your website project needs an art director.

An art director has the skills to conceptualize and determine which different items will go together the best to create the look and message you want and need. And will work with copywriter, photographer, illustrator, video producer and anyone else involved in creating the content for your website to ensure quality and messaging consistency. So that content pieces created by different people will work seamlessly together.

You say that sounds like a lot of people involved. You don’t have the budget for that. Fair enough. Key is to understand that some web designers are accomplished art directors. Some are not. 

A web designer who is also an art director will know how to help you get the best content created, be it text, photos, graphics or video.

Even a modest budget website project can include great art direction, when done by the right web designer.

A final word (or 2)

Any website is ultimately only as good as its content. The website itself is merely a vehicle to carry its content to the intended audience. Yet so much of the conversation about websites centers around technology, code, themes, effects, and various techniques to build audiences that the actual content often gets forgotten.

Then we settle for sub-par content. Some text and a stock image or two to fill space. The result is a website that doesn’t deliver on any of its promises. Maybe even is confusing. Don’t let that happen to you.

Investing time and resources in securing the best content possible for your website will pay off in the long run. You’ll be proud of the website and eager to show it off. Likewise your customers will be happy to tell others about it. Plus a website with great content will do well with both search engines and actual human site visitors. 

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