Managing your online content

Have you ever been in a situation when a manager, boss, or client shows up to a meeting with a huge folder of handwritten notes, photographs, or even worse—hand drawn images? When asked what the material is, they haughtily reply, “It’s content for the website!”.

Managing content is a problem that all developers encounter at one point or another. However the problem isn’t with the client — the problem is accepting the content in whatever shape or form the client submits it in. Let’s look at some common issues regarding the management of content and how to avoid them:

Problem #1: the content is organic

Content is constantly evolving—if it’s to succeed, we need to implement well-managed support systems. You can’t leave content to manage itself.

The solution is simple: begin auditing early. Content management should be something that happens over the course of the entire project—not something that can be done in a few hours before a deadline. Identify all issues no matter how small they are. Ask yourself questions: Is it outdated? Is it unlinked or broken? Is the content relevant? Addressing these simple easy-to-fix problems is a good way to start trimming the hedges on the shrub that is organic content.

Problem #2: the content is disconnected and/or fragmented

Many clients and/or content producers are told what type of content is required. Once they’ve been told, they create and submit content that they feel meets the initial requirements. It’s more of a problem of communication more than anything. Instead of discussing content together, each department will go and “do their own thing.” The main problem is that it becomes really difficult to track and update specific chunks of content—because you may or may not know where it came from.

The solution is to centralize the content. By putting the content at the core of the project, you eliminate the hassle and confusion. It’s critical to have focused, detailed discussions with all the departments involved. Collaborate together. Brainstorm together. Work together—you’ll be surprised how easy this task will become.

Problem #3: the content isn’t consistent

We’ve stressed this before: consistency is key! Without consistency, it’s difficult to keep track of different versions of content, cross-reference documents, or specific projects from a bird’s-eye view.
Consistency and content models go hand-in-hand. is a great example of setting a solid foundation for consistency. A basic map of your content is another quick solution that makes this easily accessible to everyone. By grouping and storing your content online, your content will be connected.

Problem #4: the content is hard to maintain

Content is like a living thing—it requires constant attention and constant maintenance. Content is a continuous process. Developers should consider the updating and testing of content from this perspective.
Luckily, content doesn’t have to be hard to maintain. There are some great tools available online that can test the content of websites. Page Trawler and Content Insight are two great resources. If you have a smaller organization, Perch is a CMS that helps find and update content. By simplifying the process, developers can allow clients and non-technical employees to help out.

Content shouldn’t be collected—it should be developed. By adopting a consistent strategy of experimenting, testing, and regular maintenance, you can create content that’s better suited for your designs. Clear, well-managed content is the first step in being able to define the websites that you create.

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