Most developers have multiple processes in place when it comes to launching a website. It starts with the technical considerations, like where the website will be hosted and what domain points to it. If you’re developing a WordPress website, you’ll have to decide on and configure a number of plugins to provide functionality based on your client’s needs. Before the website goes live, you’ll want to test things like page load and mobile responsiveness so that visitors have a great experience, regardless of how they’re accessing the website.
But when it comes to launching a website, how far down your list does content come?
If you’re the type who sees content as a second thought to the website’s design, requesting relevant copy and images to fill it in at the last minute, you’re doing it wrong.
Many developers are now starting to rightfully make sense of the intimate connection between content and design. More specifically, consider the facts that:
- Content shapes design
- Implementing content from the start of the design process will help you to stay on schedule because you’ll have time to adapt the design accordingly
- Content and design are both incredibly important to how a human visitor consumes your website
Of course, just because you understand the importance of content in the design process, doesn’t mean your clients will. They’ll need some pushing to make content available to you if it’s a completely new website with no existing foundation to work off of. Regardless, pushing the subject early on will ensure that the client is thinking about it, and hopefully also that they’re working on taking care of it.
If you want to be extreme, you can build in receiving the content from your clients as a milestone in the project. If they don’t get it to you, you simply cannot move forward with the design—end of story.
Whether you decide to play good cop or bad cop, it can be helpful to supply the client with a list of exactly what content assets you’ll need to be successful within your proposed design when launching a website. Though changes may take place during the process, potentially cutting out entire sections of content, being proactive will help keep the project on track.
Here are some of the essential content elements to request from clients when launching a website.
Complete Content Checklist for Launching a Website
When it comes to figuring out what content you’ll need from a client to complete a web design project, it’s helpful to think separately in terms of what you typically need for all/most pages, typical needs for individual pages, and additional content considerations that many websites implement over time.
The following represents content needs to consider for any given page:
- Feature Image: As great as copy can be, nobody wants to be assaulted by pages that contain blocks of text without anything to break it up. An easy way to head up this problem is by designating at least one feature image per page. Unless otherwise stipulated by your agreement, the client should provide you with legal to use images for each requested page—ideally, early in the design process.
- Headline: The purpose of a headline is to intrigue someone to click through to check out a page, as well as to communicate the nature of the content within.
- Short/long description of the page: The nature of each page will dictate the structure and length of content, but asking clients for a short and long description of each page can help to define how the page might look if the complete content isn’t ready during the design phase.
- Testimonial: Testimonials shouldn’t live on a dedicated page on a company’s website: they’re much better used across a website strategically. The homepage is a great place to feature testimonials from prominent clients or from people who do the best job of gushing about the company. Interior pages can be filled with testimonials more specific to the nature of those individual pages (like testimonials relating to the given service or product offered on the page). As testimonials can take time to commission from customers, it’s a good idea to be proactive in asking clients to get these together. As far as content is concerned, testimonials are most effective with a name or picture, so implore your client to provide these content assets alongside any text.
- Call to action (CTA): What is the purpose of this page? What is the most important action a visitor can take next? If you’re creating a website for a business providing services, the next step will likely be to get in touch or request a demo/consultation. If it’s a blog, a CTA might be to check out related content (which can be automated with the use of a plugin on WordPress). If you’re creating an ecommerce website, the CTA may be to make a purchase. It’s all relative, but it helps to know what specific actions you’re trying to optimize the design for!
- Meta Information: Even if you don’t offer SEO services, you can still help your client get off on the right foot with their web design by reminding them to supply you with meta titles and meta descriptions for each page. If you’re using WordPress, implement this information with a plugin like Yoast SEO.
- Sidebars: The decision to incorporate a sidebar on an individual page should come down to whether or not it can strengthen that page. For example, a sidebar on a blog post page with multiple elements might take away from the written content, because it’s distracting. However, a sidebar that includes one or two elements, such as a search bar and email newsletter signup, may empower a visitor to go in deeper with the company.
Different page types have different content needs. In addition to some of the necessary content elements listed above, you’ll also want to make your client aware of content needs for the individual pages they’ve requested for their website.
The home page is arguably the most important page of the website. It will likely be the page most linked to or typed in by visitors and acts as the proxy for checking out the rest of the website. As such, it must include content that compels people to want to move past it to interior pages.
Additional content elements you may need for the home page:
- Slider content: Many popular home page designs incorporate sliders with large images and content enticing visitors to check out additional pages. You’ll need to ask the client for legal to use slider images, written copy, and their desired CTAs.
- Feature items: Another popular home page design heuristic involves creating feature items that direct users towards the 3 (or potentially more) most important pages for the company. For many, this is just the company’s most important services. For others, this may direct visitors to the about page, contact page, or blog. Regardless of what you want to put in the website’s feature items, you’ll probably need a relevant photo/icon, a headline, 1-3 sentences of copy, and a relevant CTA.
- Social proof: Because the homepage is so important, it should do the best job of communicating why a company is worth working with (and/or worth seeking additional information about in the interior pages). Depending on the proposed home page design, you may want to request content elements including the likes of client logos, strong client testimonials, and even content that leads to a more in-depth portfolio or repository of case studies.
When launching a website, you can take an about page in many different directions, but the most important consideration is how it comes across to your visitor. Don’t create an about page that only talks about the company—it should effectively communicate who the target customer is and how working with the business can help them.
Additional content elements you may need for the about page:
- The story behind your company: If someone has clicked over to the about page, it’s probably fair to assume that they’re at least curious about how your company came to be and what it’s all about.
- Why someone might want to work with the company (and next steps): This goes back to knowing your target audience and appealing to them. Make sure to include a link to the contact page or directly embed a contact form to encourage interested parties to get in touch immediately.
- Staff bios and photos: If the company considers their team to be an asset, they should make efforts to show off employees on the about page (or a subpage). For this to work nicely, you’ll need photos, titles, and more than likely, bios about each employee.
- Interesting stats about your company: Another popular website design trend as of this writing involves page elements with counters that add up as people scroll to them. If there are some interesting and quantifiable facts the company is willing to share, request them for use on the about (or home) page.
Most service pages include several or all of the following elements:
- Feature Image
- Short and/or long description of service
- Relevant testimonial
- 1+ call to action to get in touch
When it comes to displaying service pages on a website, depending on how many there are total, you’ll likely need to create one page for each service, and perhaps an overview page of all services. If you have an overview page, you’ll want to request images/icons for each service, the name of each service, and a 1-3 sentence description that differs from what’s on the individual service pages (to avoid duplicate content issues).
The blog page is more or less made up of the individual content assets created as blog posts. When it comes to launching a website, request that the client has about 5 blog posts ready to go. You can publish under dates spread out to make their posting look consistent, which will help get visitors interested in signing up for email updates. A blog page without any posts (or just 1-2 at launch) is not worth displaying, as it won’t inspire confidence with the company’s audience.
There’s not much content needed for your contact page, but make sure to include all relevant contact information that someone may need to get in touch. This helps customers seeking information and can also assist local businesses with local SEO efforts.
Make sure your contact page includes the following:
- Business Name
- Phone Number
- An embedded Google Map (if applicable)
- Contact email and/or contact form
When it comes to launching a website with ecommerce functionality, you’ll incur a number of unique content needs to request from the client. You’ll definitely need the following two pages for the website to be legally compliant for the purpose of online transactions:
- Terms and Conditions: Another required security measure, clearly stating how your website is to be used by customers. Again, Shopify offers a document generator for this content piece.
If you’re creating an ecommerce website, you’ll also have a number of additional content needs in terms of product pages, category pages, an FAQ page, and a shipping & returns page.
Additional Content Considerations
As you’re creating content for a client’s new website, you may also recognize the need for additional content assets, such as:
- Social Media Copy and Images: This isn’t technically your responsibility to deal with, but is certainly a consideration for the final website design if you’re embedding social feeds.
- Email newsletter copy and images: Again, not your responsibility, but something to remind the client about if email marketing will be a major focus of how they’re driving customers on their website.
- Content upgrades on individual blog posts: This will be your responsibility to implement if you’re working with the client on a maintenance retainer.
- Lead magnets for email signups: See above.
Launching a Website: Your Complete Content Checklist
Every website is different and content needs will change from client to client. Regardless, getting clients to start thinking about content needs before jumping straight into a design can help to create a better end result, without extending the launch date.