Clients often underestimate the amount of work that it will take to produce web content and overestimate the amount of time that they are willing to put into its creation. As a result, gathering web content from clients almost always translates into broken deadlines, delays and headaches all around. In fact, content is often the last piece missing in the web design process and ends up delaying web launch. The goal should be to make gathering content more fun and effective while maintaining a positive relationship with the client.
How to effectively gather web content from clients
What is the biggest obstacle to client created website content?
We usually rely on the client to deliver content because they know their business best but that means outsourcing one of the most important parts of the website to a person who we cannot control. The biggest issue comes with small businesses where one person is wearing many hats and simply doesn’t have the time or willingness to make the time to produce their content.
Put web content into the production schedule
It is important that content is put into the web design production schedule with a deadline so the client understands its role in the completion of the website. One idea is to put content creation as the first step in the process to allow the client plenty of time and remind them that they don’t need to wait until the website is built to start writing. Educate the client on how much time you think it will take them to complete the content and ask if they have the time to commit to the work.
Incentives and penalties
Incentives and/or penalties need to be established at the beginning of the web design process.
Creating an incentive is a way to encourage the client to produce content. Some ideas include a five percent discount on the project for getting their content in on time or offering a small extra service at no charge such as free hosting for the first three months.
Penalties are a negative way to convince the client to produce content and should be used sparingly. Some examples include contracts that state that the project will be put on hold until content is produced or that they will be charged a fine for late work. Web designers can also send the bill for their portion of the work even though the website isn’t completed.
As the designer you can:
- Create a list of content needed based on the pages of the website
- Build wireframes that show where the pieces of content will go
- Send examples or explain how you want the client to deliver content
- Ask what the client needs from you to help them get going
- Before launching the project, ask the client if they would like to hire a writer to create their content. If the answer is yes, hire a third party or create the content yourself if that is a service you offer.
- If content creation has stalled, step-in and offer to hire a third party or to create the content yourself.
- Schedule a meeting with the client where you can showcase that the website is working and ready except that it is empty.
- Make sure to check in with the client weekly to see how the content is progressing and remind them that their new website is so close to being ready to launch.
What tools can be used to help gather web content?
Basecamp is a private team communication tool that keeps general communication plus specific instructions, requests for edits, tasks and deadlines tracked and organized. To-do lists are separated from message boards and can be assigned to the appropriate team member. Basecamp is one of the tools that we use at Softwired.
GatherContent is a tool that promises to save time by structuring the content authoring process by allowing you to manage content production in one place. It’s a central place for you and your client to store and review content.
Jumpchart is a fairly in-depth site that helps with the entire website planning process. There is space to collaborate and track revisions. Content can be linked to a working wireframe, making use of minor interaction design.
Finding the right content gathering and creation tool for your web design business can help to get the content process rolling and hold the team accountable. It is also a way that you can help support your client’s role in the project and hopefully reduce the headache of gathering content.