Developing content for web is serious stuff. I would even say a Herculean task that requires thorough preparation, consistent execution, and restless support. One of the ways to be sure you do a good job is to use a checklist that would become a helpful roadmap in your journey to the successful web content.
There are four basic stages of creating web content: preparation, creation, review, and maintenance.
While on each of these stages, go through the corresponding section of the checklist below. Be sure to answer each of the questions and pay attention to the tips as they will help navigate your way to creating well-aimed web content that reaches its audience.
1. Preparation stage
✓ Who is going to read the content?
✓ What’s their goal?
✓ What’s their background and education level?
Use personas to make a sketch of your audience and try to write for them.
✓ Who are the stakeholders?
Find out who the owner of the content is and how they want their content.
It is also a good idea to know who else has a vested interest in the website content and how you can use their expertise during the content creation.
✓ What are their objectives?
Formulate the stakeholders’ vision of a successful content.
Setting the purpose early will help you make your communication most effective.
✓ What’s the purpose of each piece of content?
The purposes may be:
- Change behavior
- Enforce some rules
2. Creation stage
✓ In what order will the pieces of content be created?
✓ When will the pieces of content be ready?
✓ What is the structure of the website and where does the content go?
✓What is the structure of each website page — what pieces of content are included and how are they presented?
✓ What information to include? Make sure that information corresponds to the determined purposes and is:
✓ Does the content have a call to action?
Don’t expect readers to actively use your content, rather ask or persuade them.
✓ Is the content understandable?
✓ Is it in plain English? (present tense; passive voice less than 20%)
✓ Is the content style minimalistic? (word count as low as possible; average sentence length 15-20 words)
✓ What tone of voice is used?
Any piece of website content holds a message for the readers, and the task is to communicate it as clearly as possible. But we’d also like to set a mood for that message, for example, to make it formal when talking about rules/obligations/regulations/standards or informal when offering a service (create some excitement that would engage) or help (more personal approach).
Make sure the tone of voice is consistent with you purpose and assists it.
✓ What formatting should be used?
Web content should include:
- Title – a text that appears at the top of the browser window for any web page. It is used to tell search engines what the page is about. The title should be no longer than 66 characters (HTML <title> tag).
- Meta description – a snippet of text that appears below each link on a search results page. Use your target keyphrase that should be no longer than 155 characters (HTML <meta> tag can be used to specify page description, keywords, author, and other metadata). Metadata is used by browsers (how to display content), by search engines (keywords), and other web services.
- Keywords (aka ‘trigger words’) – a target keyphrase that should appear in the text for 2-5 times (HTML <meta> tag).
- Headers and subheaders – meaningful headings that help breaking content into digestible parts. Use 8 words or less.
- Short paragraphs – use one idea and no more than 3-4 sentences for a paragraph.
- Emphasis – use bold, italic, color coding for attention focus and better scannability.
- Lists – short presentation of information that is easy to scan and work with.
- Links – an opportunity to give users additional information about your product by directing them to more resources.
With time, try to update content with more links.
- Images – at least one image would make the content more interesting and appealing. You might also consider adding a description to your images in case they fail to load (that would go in alt attribute of HTML <img> tag).
3. Review stage
✓ Are there any spelling and grammar mistakes?
✓ Are all the words used necessary?
If not – remove some of them. Make the content as short and concise as possible!
✓ Has content underwent a peer/SME review?
4. Maintenance stage
✓ Who owns the content?
Make sure that there is a dedicated person to keep each piece of content up-to-date.
✓ Is there a content plan?
The content plan is for you to know how the content is going to develop, at least during the next 12 months.
✓ Is content governance established?
The content governance helps to manage content creation processes: roles, responsibilities, and workflows.
✓ Is a style guide developed?
A style guide is created for everyone to know how to write content about the product.
I hope you find this roadmap useful and also share your tips.