In all of the project talk and planning around usability, design, technologies, etc., it's easy to lose sight of the content and the fundamentals that drive it. Those other elements are important to a website project, but content drives the project. The problem is when content development becomes a line item, it gets treated like one.
Anyone who’s worked in the trenches in publications management appreciates that "develop content" cannot translate the level of sustained effort required from your writers, editors and analysts to create content (information) that is findable, useful, meaningful, valuable and credible.
These content fundamentals will go far to keep your project on track.
1. Good Content is Hard Work
Sound simple? It is. And is not.
We all know that bad content is easy. Look at any enterprise-level website.
Good content is a “heavy lift” because it’s challenging on so many levels: for the individual, the organization and for the content itself and its workflows. It takes analysis, research, writing, editing and quality assurance. If that’s not enough, toss in a healthy dose of creativity.
In the early days of the Web, content frequently was developed by one or two people working together as a centralized team. Website content today is a complex, constantly evolving output of an organization that lives alongside other communications, on and off the Web. We face content sprawl and working with (and sometimes at odds with) a community of content contributors and professional subject matter experts. We’re charged with the combined task of content wrangling and herding cats. This is the hard work in the trenches of content development.
2. Good Content Takes Time (and Care)
Bad content is quick. Good content takes time and care. There’s an art and science to good Web content development.
Done properly, Web content development requires analysis, research, creation and multiple steps in a revision process that might include multiple stakeholders. (Remember, we’re information workers, not line workers in a widget assembly plant.) Good content is accessible, searchable, findable, useful, portable, usable and contextually relevant. The needs of the website content owners must be balanced by the needs of the end-users. The sum of these efforts is a targeted, informed, creative result crafted for its intended audience.
Understanding the various components of good Web content helps everyone understand the need for time and care for its proper development.
3. Good Content is the Focus
When a project requires the development, migration or transformation of large amounts of content, the content should be the focus of the project. Seems too obvious to say, right?