At SMILE, we’re trying to improve the way we plan for content with every new project. Being on the agency side of web design and development, we don’t have a content team ourselves. However, with our designs being led by content, it feels part of our responsibility to be involved in discussions around content, especially when our developments result in new templating and site architecture.
With news posts, events, knowledge base articles and courses to consider, it’s never too early to help our clients face the difficult questions. Questions such as:
- How much content is there to move?
- Is content expected to require ‘spring cleaning’ (editing/polishing) on the way into the new site?
- What are the template mismatches between the current and new sites and what work is required to map between old and new?
- What is the capacity of the in-house team? Will external agencies or freelancers be needed?
- Who is responsible for different stages of the workflow when it comes to editing/moving content?
Whether due to misunderstandings, poor internal communication or sheer underestimation of content amount, we have found that these questions are often asked too late in a project.
As a web development agency, there is a level of automated migration that we can sometimes assist with. But it is seldom the case that this will smoothly move hundreds of items of content with no need for human intervention. Even when this is possible, the lack of advanced planning for a solid content mapping structure is a common shortcoming that can add months onto the end of project deadlines.
With most content-centred decisions and workload falling on the client, it is easy to see how quickly agencies might be convinced to wash their hands of responsibility for any delays and hurdles that come about based on the issues described above.
But this isn’t cool. A university or college client, for example, don’t want to be overhauling their flagship website, every one, two or even three years if they can help it. And after four or more years, it is likely that the digital team will be full of new faces whether due to leavers, newcomers or staff restructuring – not to mention the technological leaps that will have been made in that time. Accordingly, it is likely that plenty of members of the client’s team may not have dealt with content migration before. The difference between us and them? We do it every day. Or, more accurately, we see it every day.
So while we won’t have a large part to play in matters of content, with experience of the pitfalls and pain points that come along with poor organisation in this area, surely we can help? Not only to lend a friendly hand to another team trying to do their best work, but to keep the project as a whole on time and on budget. To make a start in this direction, we could:
- Ask the pre-project questions in the bullet points above.
- Lay out a blueprint for the roles and responsibilities that we believe need to be covered during a content-heavy project.
So that’s what we’ve done. It’s a work in progress, which we’re sure will be revised as it is put into practice, but it’s a start. It is, essentially, a list of ‘hats’ that – in our opinion – need to be worn during a project’s content phase. It doesn’t matter whether one person wears more than one hat, but all hats need to be worn.
|Role Title||Responsibilities Overview||Basis (how involved?)||SMILE/Client/3rd party|
|Delivery Manager (x2)||– On the client’s side, this is the person we expect on pace calls, reporting on content matters|
– It may well be that this person also wears one or more of the heats below
|Communications||SMILE x1/Client x1|
|Senior Editor (x1)||– QAs all content|
– Own and enforces style guide
– Essentially head of CMS input client-side
|CMS Editors (x? As many as needed)||– Input and maintenance, including adding media, metadata and inputting content into CMS||CMS-Active||Client/3rd parties|
|Content Strategist (x1)||– Extensive digital comms experience|
– Is the Author of Style Guides, tone of voice etc.
– Essentially the head of content client-side
|Subject Matter Experts (As many as needed)||– Consultation people, authoritative voice, provide the latest info and data|
– If the content piece is a matter of pure migration, this hat might not be needed. But if our work has produced the need for new data/stats – this person will be needed
Without too much over-explaining of the roles described in the table above, we believe the main takeaways from this blueprint can be summarised as follows:
- Cross-team communication is essential. We require one Delivery Manager client-side to liaise with their counterpart SMILE-side and to report on progress/pain points, ideally at the project’s fortnightly pace calls.
- Some of the team are necessarily needed to input and edit content in the CMS. However some are required on a sheer consultancy basis.
- On a very small team, several hats might be worn by one person. However, some roles are expected to be fulfilled by multiple personnel. It may be necessary to grow a team of CMS Editors for example, during a period of heavy content input. Dedicated content-focused agencies or freelancers may be very useful here.
We’re excited to present this to clients on upcoming projects in the hope that it can provide a backbone to the work required. As much a statement of intent as a working blueprint, it is the beginning of a commitment to pay greater attention to our clients’ struggles with content. Content leads our designs so we truly believe that by doing this, the information contained on our sites will be presented in the best light possible.
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