Keeping content at the forefront of your website project should be the rule rather than the exception. Content strategy isn’t just a lift-and-shift, copy and paste job from the old site to the new one. If the entire site is getting a face lift, the words on the website should get just as much attention – if not more.
We’ve put together some important questions to help frame your vision and goals for content on your new site. If you’re working with an outside vendor, this typically takes place in the form of a content consultation. But these content questions are also applicable if your content is being handled in-house. While this isn’t in lieu of a full-fledged content inventory and audit that you might also want to consider, these global questions can help lay the groundwork for content goodness typically found in the more granular stuff. Let’s get started.
How would we describe in one sentence what we do?
This is a great question to kick things off, but it’s also one of the toughest. The answer shouldn’t be a line-by-line recitation of your mission statement or a long list of your services. In fact, the best answer to this content question shouldn’t be rehearsed or even particularly polished. This question is intended to get to the heart of what your nonprofit does in your own words.
Example: Our doors are open to vulnerable kids in this county. We want young people to feel like they have people like us in their corner to support them.
This answer feels authentic and it very clearly states what the organization wants to accomplish. Distilling your nonprofit’s work in this way can help with your messaging which will be infused in the content throughout your site.
What tone do we want to establish?
Your writing voice should be clear and consistent throughout the website content. Tone focuses on how a message is conveyed and should capture your nonprofit’s persona. What attitude or feeling do you want to project? Sophisticated and formal? Or lighthearted and personable? Identifying your tone will determine much of your content decisions, such as length, style and even whether to use first or third person point of view.
Example: We like to use a fruit salad metaphor to describe how we want to be viewed and understood – diverse, colorful, and fun.
This provides a clear (and memorable) picture that can help inform the tone of the content. Since content doesn’t work in isolation, this is a good example of how content and design can complement each other to convey this specific type of tone.
What do we dislike about our current site?
Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t just a throwaway question. It might seem too broad and open-ended, but the key is to make sure you’re thinking about it exclusively from a content perspective. Not liking the current color scheme and graphics is a design gripe. Sure, many nonprofits want a new site precisely because they have a laundry list of complaints against the current one. But it helps to be specific with what you don’t like about the content on the current site. Pinpointing exactly what it is you don’t like can go a long way to making it right on the new site.
Example: Our current content doesn’t make us seem as legitimate/professional/respected as we are.
This is a specific issue that can be remedied through content. Maybe the leadership page and About Us need to be beefed up to address this. Or perhaps this is an opportunity to include testimonials on the new site. Either way, this example of a content complaint can be easily remedied with a content solution.
What do we like about our current site?
Conversely, just because you’re designing a new website doesn’t necessarily mean you hate absolutely everything about it, right? You don’t always have to start at square one with your content. It’s worth asking yourself whether there’s anything you want to maintain and migrate over, either completely or in a modified form.
Example: We like how the current site includes stories of our program participants and want to make sure we continue doing that.
If there’s something that’s worth including on the new site, great! Just think of ways to take it to the next level. In this specific example, possibilities could include highlighting more stories or writing them under a certain theme.
Is there any content that’s definitely missing from our site?
This question is about taking stock of content that needs to be rewritten, refreshed or created from scratch. Keep in mind that this can vary in scope and be anything from a new page/section to a brief addendum on an existing page that will be carried over to the new site.
Example: We need to include more information on students/a specific program/an upcoming organizational milestone.
This response makes clear that there are specific gaps in content that need to be addressed with the new site. Identifying these gaps sets everything else in motion, like interviewing staff and compiling new content.
So whether you want to make some slight tweaks or launch a complete overhaul, content is a critical part of the website redesign. While this was far from being a comprehensive list of content questions, taking a hard and thoughtful look at these can put you in great shape.
What other important content questions would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.