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Many organizations are faced with the decision whether to address their content strategy challenges before or during a website redesign. In fact, they may be redesigning their website to address content problems: inability for the audience to find content, lack of audience engagement with the organization’s programs, products, and services, or dwindling website visits. Unfortunately, a new website won’t fix these problems, although it can help fix outdated platforms, speed issues, and presenting content based on the org chart.

If your organization is deciding whether to include content strategy as part of a website redesign or as a standalone effort, I’d like to encourage you to strongly consider doing it separately from—and ideally before—your website redesign.

Content strategy isn’t the primary focus for a website redesign

In the context of a website redesign, content strategy usually involves

  • doing a content audit, recommending what content to keep and migrate, what to rewrite, and what to leave behind
  • creating content templates
  • delivering a content governance document

(I know, because web design firms approach me regularly to participate in projects. Usually, we decide not to work together because my rates are as high as theirs, so they end up using a much more junior person for content strategy tasks.)

I typically see content strategy taking 10 to 20 percent of a redesign time and budget—which is not nearly enough time to create a sustainable vision and plan for your content, get the buy-in, and guide content strategists, authors, and managers through the process.

Content strategy isn’t a design firm’s primary strength

Here are some examples of how that plays out:

  • A web design firm can assess your current content, but won’t know the goals for various types of content, so the assessment might not be realistic. They might recommend that you delete everything that’s more than two years old, for example, without considering the nuances of the value of different kinds of content. And they’ll do it primarily with design and technology considerations in mind, rather than member value and the organization’s strategic goals.
  • A web design firm can give you a governance document, but won’t have the time to help you think through all the aspects of content governance and ongoing content operations. FYI, your organization will need to have staffing, roles, processes, and accountability in place to ensure that your content is effective on the launch date and every day after that.
  • A web design firm’s competitive audit is likelier to focus on design and branding rather than content.
  • And because a web design firm is focused on the website alone, they won’t consider all of your organization’s content platforms and channels, which might include multiple content management systems, learning management system, association management system, abstract management system, journal platform, social media channels, e-newsletter platform, etc.

Content strategy takes time

I’m currently in the second year of working with a scientific association. Our work includes

  • Getting staff members from multiple departments to a place where they have the same understanding of the needs of their multistakeholder audience – planning, scripting, and conducting audience interviews
  • Building trust and involving their SMEs in the effort to create measurable goals for their content
  • Trying out the process of collaborating to plan and create content differently (and more effectively).
  • Expanding their taxonomy beyond scientific topics to include content type, location, audience, and expertise level, across all their platforms and channels.

This work will ultimately will position them so their audiences know what the organization creates, can find and use it, and find it relevant to their work.

Here are two resources about full-service content strategy work:

Content Strategies for a Changing World,” a study I co-authored about content strategy adoption and maturity in membership associations

Content strategy roadmap to view and download (updated 2021)

If you decide to go the full-service consulting route, contact us to discuss timing and scope!

Hilary Marsh

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