Stop Right There
You’re sitting in a meeting with a client and the first thing they say to you is: “We’d like the site to have some sort of movement on it. It has to be interactive, and it needs to include some Ajax, or whatever that’s called, and make sure people can see everything without scrolling….”
Rather than running from the room screaming, because your client has given you a hodgepodge of unworkable requirements, take a deep breath and respond to each and every one of the things your client has asked you to do. You could approach doing this in a couple of different ways, but I’ve found that separating client requests into content units removes uncertainty and offers clearer direction, while helping your client recognize each individual request as a deliverable, requiring assignments and responsibilities.
To do this, I follow a four-step process that helps delineate what content units each section of a Web site must cover—as opposed to content that acts as filler, or filler units. Before I outline this process, I’ll define these two main content types.
Content units are any type of content that
- is sectional in nature
- is updated with some degree of frequency
- has a direct impact on the structure of a navigation tree or site map
Examples of content units might include client case studies, products or services, core offerings, and any application-related content such as Help files, a wiki, or a glossary.
Filler units are content that
- does not have a definite destination
- does not impact a Web site’s overall structure or linking strategy
- has a short life span
- you could remove without changing the integrity of a site’s navigation
Examples of filler units might include a video you intend for a single viewing, a news article, a signup form, a short-term promotion, or a contest.
Step 1: List and Gather Your Content Units
Content can drive the creation of a user experience in more ways than just affecting its layout and look. Divide content units into more finely grained classifications. You can list the content units in a spreadsheet, then have your client add their classifications to the spreadsheet, and finally, decide who will produce them.
It’s very important to note that this exercise does not replace the creation of a site map or navigation tree. But assigning responsibilities with deadlines for the creation and collection of content units helps you to manage a deliverable—in this case, a Web site.
For creative managers or Web producers, getting a client to deliver information in a well thought out manner can be a daunting task. Clients often have no idea where to begin, even if they were the ones who originally wrote and produced their initial Web site.
By working out a set of deliverables and giving your client some of the responsibility for producing them, you can get better results.