Well, maybe not bears. But for content creators on the web, designers and writers sometimes seem like two different animals.
How many people can honestly say that content drives design?
This was the question pointed at the audience during Karen McGrane’s (@karenmcgrane) and Jeff Eaton’s (@eaton) session at this year’s Web Content Conference in Chicago. Very few hands went up. I immediately answered to myself—concept drives design and content where I’m from. After the concept is formed however, I concede that more often than not, designs are developed seperately from the writing, and vice versa. What results is a melding of one person’s vision of how the concept should look vs. the other’s vision of what it should say.
Designers and writers: Aren’t we talking about the same thing here? Yes. We are indeed talking about the same thing–the design communicates nothing without good supporting content, and the content communicates nothing if the design doesn’t support and highlight the copy. The results may vary, but one thing is certain: together, we can do better.
This doesn’t mean we’ve been totally wrong in the past. We’ve been sticking to our guns, and letting the other specialists on the team do their job. Separately. Sure we review each other’s work together, and try to make sure we’re saying the right things, and that the copy and design are on brand. And yes, individually, they are both right on.
But if we look closer, is one helping the other? Maybe, maybe not. When you really break it down, you start to see holes that need fixing:
- Does the navigation nomenclature match the brand voice?
- Do the buttons support the right attitude for the concept (“Click Here” vs. “It’s Go Time, Baby”)?
- Does the writer know about the new design feature (that the designer just invented) that calls for a product or video description?
- Is the body copy too long or too short?
- Are there appropriate cross-links and outbound links written in?
- Do metatags match with appropriate page copy?
- Are page titles intuitive for users and search engines?
All of these questions seem to show up at the 11th hour, when it’s either too little or too late.
This is when responsible, passionate creatives who thought they were “knocking this one out of the park” start to see the project’s glory fizzling right before their eyes. They think they’ll fix it next time. But they won’t. It’s not that they don’t want to—rather, it’s just something that’s not embedded as part of their creative and operational process. It’s not “how we do things here”, or worse, the budget doesn’t allow for all that “planning.” Seriously? If I learned one thing in Chicago last week it’s this: We can’t afford not to.
Enter Content Strategy (which I’ll cover in my next post). With a sound content strategy created at the beginning of each project, our web content will improve dramatically, translating into more site visits or transactions, conversions or brand loyalty—whatever the goals. We’ll start to see better interactive experiences. And our clients will thank us for it.