In our experience, the part of the web development process that often draws the project out is the content collection phase.  Some of our most successful projects happen when the client has really thought about the site and the content they want to include before even contacting us. When clients come armed with a site map and content outline or when they have filled out our website planning guide, the entire process from planning to implementation is much more successful and goes much more smoothly.

It’s important to say that most clients haven’t thought about the content they’d like to include in detail and that’s OK too.  However, it’s important to get these clients thinking about their site and what they want to include.  The main question to begin the collection and website planning process is “Why do you want a website?”  This is important as someone who is looking to open up an online store has very different needs from a business services firm that’s looking to establish a professional brand online.

To make things easier, here’s a list of materials and content that you should begin collecting once you decide that you need a new website. For a larger list, please download our handy website planning guide.

1. Take out a pen or pencil and answer these questions from the start.

Why do you want a website?

What are you expecting to accomplish with the site?

What are the main 2 – 3 messages that you want to communicate on the site?

2. Do some research on the web and make a note of sites that you love and also of sites that you really don’t like.  These can be sites within your industry or can have nothing to do with your product or service.   Make sure to make a note of what you like or don’t like about each site.

3. After reviewing the sample sites, write down a simple list of the website pages or types of pages that you’d like to see.

Do you want a blog?

Will you need a calendar?

Do you want to integrate your social media pages into your site?

Are you looking to sell products online and if so do you want any specific features like a gift registry?

Will you need detailed contact forms?  If so, what fields will you need?

Do you need a password-protected area of the site?

4. The next step would be to start collecting your company logo in vector format and any images that you’d like to see used on the site.  If you don’t have a logo, let us know if you’d like to have one created.   Save these in a folder on your computer and make sure it’s accessible so that you can add items as needed.

5. As for the actual copy for the site, start gathering that as well in Word docs for each page type and make sure they are labeled accordingly.  If you have difficulty, reach out to us and we’ll offer ideas and can walk you through what is needed.

6. If you are going to sell products online, make sure to start collecting the information for at least 20 products.  This information should include images of each product, the category(s) associated with the product, description, price, size, color, etc…The easiest way to collect this content is by adding it to an excel document with a field for each type of information.  You can then save this document along with the product photos and you’ll be set.

In addition also make a list of the categories that you think should make up your shop.  Keep in mind that you are not going to be held to these categories and that this is just a starting point to get you thinking.

7. The final and a very important piece includes collecting the necessary logins for your hosting account and domain name.  It’s very important that both of these items are registered to you.  If you do not have a domain name or hosting account, we can help point you in the right direction.

In Conclusion:

If all clients had started thinking about the purpose of their site and began collecting content from the start, their projects would be completed much more quickly.  When projects are dragged out for a long period of time, it’s always because the client is too busy to collect the necessary information.

A website is a significant investment, and you should be prepared to spend a good amount of time gathering the content and thinking about your goals for the project.

When clients are prepared with relevant content and have clear goals for their site, we are able to produce a much more effective end product.  This is due to the fact that it allows us to design the site around the content provided as well as focus on the marketing messaging throughout the site.

It’s our job to help our clients through the site planning process, and this includes offering content suggestions. By scheduling out time to collect content and think through the site, you will end up with a much more effective website.

Please feel free to download both our content checklist and website planning guide.  Happy planning!

Do you have any tips for organizing and collecting website content?  If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts.