Content is the most important component of your website. Getting the content that best serves your visitors, communicates your mission and engages your members is a challenge.
If you thought through your content when you planned your navigation bar (See Part III), then you have an outline of the content that you need. Ideally, the content is identified by titles that are clear and transparent to everyone looking for information. For example, visitors will find information on the staff on the Parish Staff page not hidden away under some abstract title.
If you are starting from scratch, the first challenge is selecting writers. Often groups expect staff members responsible for various areas to write the content for the pages addressing those areas. The truth is that not everyone writes well or meets deadlines. If this is your method of gathering content, you have to work with the writers you have and realize that some will need more help than others.
If you are re-using content from your current website, it needs to reviewed carefully and updated as needed.
The second challenge is editing. Every page requires an editor’s eye. It is good to have several people read over page content for clarity and accuracy, but at least one person needs to be responsible for editing content overall. In cases where one person is the writer and the editor, he/she is well-served to invite others to review the pages and give feedback.
A well written page has:
- Clear, simple language—no jargon
- Consistent style and punctuation for example, when do you use church-lower case and when do you use Church-upper case
- Acronyms spelled out the first time they are used on every page, for example: Parish School of Religion (PSR)
- Sentences use active voice
- Short paragraphs–use sub-headings on a page with more than two paragraphs
- A friendly, inclusive tone
- The view that “less is more”—do not overwhelm the reader with unnecessary details or explanations
Not every interior page requires an image, but if you have good quality images that go well with the content of certain pages, by all means use them.
Depending on the number of writers, the commitment of the leadership, and the skills of the content editor, it can take weeks or months to get all the content together. Sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes it doesn’t.
If you commit to having all of your content website-ready before you hire your designer, the design phase will go much faster and more smoothly. I can tell you that from experience.
What has been your experience gathering content for a website?