Thinking About Site Content, Wishfully

Wishful thinking can invade a project or relationship early on. I blame high school romances, the ones you thought would last forever, where you could only see the good in the other person and not the obvious to everyone else issues that were heading down the track. In my experience with building websites wishful thinking almost always clusters around content.

We enter every client relationship thinking that content wrangling couldn't possibly be as bad as last time. It almost always is.

This content monster has two heads.
The first head is the client's. The client thinks they can write, they do it all the time- right?, so they commit early on to writing the site copy. They make this commitment, usually, without any idea of how they are going to fit it into their already busy schedule. They make this commitment because they want to save money. I get it. But what they don't realize is that the project will almost definitely be delayed while they struggle to find time to fit copywriting into their schedule. Deadlines will pass and the project loses momentum. That first blush of excitement we both felt at the kick off meeting has now completely withered. We are now deflated and completely bummed out. Where has the love gone?

The second head is us, the agency. We are letting this happen, it is really entirely our fault. We know it's going to happen. It happens almost every time, dammit, and why haven't we figured out how to solve this problem? The reason is that we want to meet the client's budget and content is the first, and usually only, thing that the client can reasonable take on as their own. Also, we are being lazy, afraid to have that hard conversation- "in our experience clients can't write Web copy". We don't want to lose that good feeling we all have about working together. This is where the wishful thinking comes in. We tell ourselves- hey, they know their business so it just makes sense for them to write their content. But it still ends up being a trainwreck. We are not controlling the process. The client doesn't know how to build websites, we do, but we are being led when needing to lead. In dealing with this issue routinely after having built 100+ websites the last 5 years I've finally had enough.

Here's the solution we are going to implement
. Communication, Creation and Control.

Client Communication
- no more wishful thinking at the beginning of the relationship. We will set expectations during our initial conversations and maintain that throughout the project- "we welcome your involvement in creating content but we won't wait on it or expect it to be Web friendly, so expect us to have billable hours on content creation and optimization".

Content Creation- we are in charge of site content, not the client. The client will have a window of time to get us whatever content they have but when that window closes our copywriter will work with those assets to create Web friendly site copy. From that our designers will create any needed graphics assets to go next to that page copy. All of this will be governed by a....

Content Control
- a shared Google Spreadsheet with nice color coding to show what content is due, when it's due, who is responsible, etc. We will share this with the client during their content window. If they want to create their own site copy, awesome, we look forward to working with it as long as it's delivered on time. But we will still review, rewrite and optimize for the Web.

In the end this is really about creating and controlling the total client experience. The new website experience should be like a trip down the Tunnel Of Love not a trip to the dentist.