Over the course of 2019, we’ve shared the details of Savoir Faire’s “win a year of marketing services” contest with the winner, HydroComp Inc. While the project is running slower than we had hoped, we’re now to the content authoring stage of website development, which utilizes the wireframes we’ve written about in a previous post.
Content authoring is one of the final stages before launching a new website. At this stage, the client has approved the information architecture of the site, wireframes and the content that will appear on all the site pages.
Wireframes serve as a blueprint of a website. Purposefully, we generally leave colors, fonts, images or other visual elements out at this phase, as the focus is on structure. Wireframes demonstrate page structure for various types of pages in a website (home, contact, products), to look at basic functionality, such as content areas, headers, buttons or image areas.
Once upon a time, a website was generally a header, footer, text and an image or two. As such, it was easy to add content to pages by either directly typing a few paragraphs or a quick copy and paste from a prepared document or text file into the page.
Now, we can do so much more with sites in terms of content design, utilizing different types of content, content modules, columns, sections and more. Unfortunately, these individual design areas and elements often need to have content added in much smaller chunks. For example, when working from content documents supplied by the client or our writing team, we may need to copy and paste a header and then copy and paste a paragraph and then copy and paste a caption to author a section of a page. Obviously, the complexity that we can achieve in page design can slow content authoring a bit, as we’re not just copying and pasting a single page of text from top to bottom.
Wireframes as a Guideline
When content is written to fit in the framework, authoring can be simple. It truly can be copying and pasting into various sections or modules within the template. How closely the final content follows the wireframe or design determines how quickly it can be authored into the site.
One challenge is, we don’t always wireframe every page of the site. For a website with multiple silos or sections, such as the one for HydroComp, there are several levels to silos. For a second- or third-level page, we may only wireframe one semi-generic example. For HydroComp, the content for their level two pages on the topics of software and industries, for example, are not going to match exactly in length or style. Sometimes we discover that the wireframe or a page within one section of a site doesn’t satisfy the content needs of another section of the site.
When this occurs during the authoring process, some design decisions might need to be made on the fly, based on the available content. That can pose a challenge. The web developer and content creator are different people in this project, which means they may need to come together to devise a solution.
Even if we were to wireframe every template, page or section, the wireframes don’t always satisfy the messaging needs. Remember, they are a template or guide created often before content is written. Additional design elements or content modules may need to be added to specific pages in order to accommodate any variation between the wireframes and the final content.
These occurrences cause content authoring to take some time, as we go back to design phase in order to accommodate changes.
Another potential challenge of content authoring involves imagery. The authoring process includes collecting all images that will augment text, whether they’re icons, photos or other graphic elements. If the supplied photos aren’t all sufficient – perhaps they are low-quality or the company no longer has the license to use them – the content author or another member of the development team may need to update page designs for that area or spend time searching for alternate photos. Worst-case, you may have to hire a photographer or develop graphics or iconography from scratch. Again, this can slow the content development process.
That said, it’s very difficult to plan for every design element during the initial design phase. You’re creating guidelines at that time and not the final product. Development and authoring can become more time consuming when we run into these alignment issues. As much as you try and plan, sometimes, as you dig into the actual messaging needed for the site, you find additional areas of work needed.
With all that stated, the initial wireframing is still an important – and time-saving – part of the process. Imagine how long it would take a developer if they had zero idea what to expect for content.
Our next step with HydroComp is to review their QA feedback and address any issues they find. Then, we launch!