The heart of a website is the content within it. Content drives traffic to website, and connects a visitor through words and images to a company, product, or idea.

Lately I've been working on projects that require significant thought and planning for content. I thought I would share some tips for planning for content (some I learned the hard way!):

Start early

It's ideal to start working with a writer during the IA (information architecture) phase. Labels and structure have to work with content, and vice versa. It's critical to get your Project Manager on board to help kickstart the content development process whether it's within a client organization or your own. I try to work with a client to figure out a plan for content — whether it will be incorporated into wireframes / mockups (I highly recommend this), who is tracking it, how migration will work, etc.

Store content in a central location

Ideally, it's best to have one central place where people can refer to wireframes / mockups and the content at the same time. Storing content in your email inbox is not recommended! We are still figuring out the best way to do this, but I've been looking at services such as Jumpchart which helps multiple people view page content as it gets developed, and collaborate on it.

Whatever method you choose make sure text, keywords, links and assets such as images are stored in a location where all members of the website team can access the latest version.

Plan for revisions, and more revisions

It's important that as the website design is getting fleshed out, writers are involved and know about content areas they need to work with. There is usually a lot of back and forth between writer(s), translator(s), and the website development team to get everything in place and looking right — and if a process is planned out from the beginning the revision cycle will go as smooth as possible. Some ways we planned for this: set early deadlines for the high priority content in all languages and set 2 days a week as "translation" days where a set of content gets sent to translation in bulk.

Don't forget about other language(s)

Translation adds another level of complexity to the content development process. If possible, start translating as soon as the main content and labels are being developed. We find that some languages such as French can add up to 25% more characters, which could impact global navigation design, page width, etc.

QA your content

It's important to have someone test your content. Sometimes content is developed in isolation from the design and areas could get missed, be too short, too long, etc. It's also important to look at content on a site with an editor's eye and ask yourself if all sections have a consistent tone, are connected and flow together.

Some of these tips may seem obvious, or common sense — but I hope it's a good reminder to get your plan together when starting a content-heavy project. If you have any other tips to share, please leave a comment.