How-to: Content Development Plan (Re-post)

It's one of those cases of deja-post; did I imagine posting this about three years ago, or I did I actually post it and now can't find it. Or the draft. Or the backup. Or the site I posted to.

Since I'm trying to persuade a client of the need for a content development plan, let's assume this is new to everyone...

Any content development plan for a website needs to begin with some dam' fool questions. Always start with the bleedin' obvious; purpose, goal, audience. Never assume.

What is the purpose of the site?

What do you hope to accomplish by building this web site?

Target Audience:
What are the specific group(s) of people you are addressing?

How does the content breakdown:

  • by topic
  • by audience
  • by type of output
What story are you trying to tell?
Is there a different story for different audiences?

Site Map:
Draw a site map – the page hierarchy of the site

Start with top level navigation:
  • 'Home' is in the top-left.
  • Search is in the top right.
  • Your other content headings (top-level content pages) run across the middle.

Maybe a sub-menu in the sidebar on the right for quick access, as an alternative way of accessing the content.

Home/Landing page:
  • Explain what the site is for/does
  • Explain who it is for/target audience
  • Explain what you get out of it
Make those things your headline navigation in the body of the page.

  • Tackle one thing on each page.
  • Divide the content into coherent, short sections.
  • Tell the story (or part of the story)
  • Have an in-page menu at the top to sign-post what is on each page (words or pictures)
  • Can you use diagrams, charts, pictures, audio or video in place of/as an alternative to words?
Signpost where to go next / related items / back to Home.

Step back, review:
Does the site map tell the same story to the target audiences you identified at the start?

Revise the content structure and navigation:
  • Simplify
  • Break topics and pages into smaller chunks
  • Think of your network of links between pages on the site
  • Think of external links.
I have actually used this in the wild with several clients (which may be why I'm thinking I posted this before), with some success. As blank sheet (or back-of-an-envelope) exercises go, this fits well with non-web savvy clients.

It's a short, home-brew methodology and there's a lot more depth to follow up for elements such as the content development calendar or schedule, the content publishing plan and the practical tasks around compiling and preparing content.

Image credit: Steven Lilley via Flickr/Creative Commons