We’ve all been there when working on a website project – you breezed through the strategy and design phase with relative ease, development milestones were met and completed smoothly, and your QA/UAT phase has just wrapped up.  You’re ready to launch the website when you realize that “Lorem ipsum” isn’t the actual content of your client’s website! While all the great progress was being made on the design and functionality of the website, you and your client lost track of the actual content that was going to go on each of the pages.

In this topic, we’ll explore strategies for how to avoid this much dreaded moment, as well as ways you can work around it if you do find yourself ready to launch a website with no content.

Always plan ahead

Of course, the best way to avoid content delaying the launch of your website is to plan ahead. Oftentimes, at the onset of a website redesign project, the client is so focused on meeting a launch date that they overlook how much work their team will actually need to contribute to the project. And one of the most overlooked areas where client input is critical is in developing content.

Know what you’re working with

Before committing to a timeline, work with your client to get a general sense of what content they already have. If you know upfront that the content gathering/writing process is going to be significant, you can be sure to build an adequate amount of time in to your timeline for the client to create and gather content for the website.

Getting a clear picture of what the content needs are for the new website will help to put you or your client on the path of being able to create or gather the content that is needed. That sounds pretty obvious, right? Yet, you’d be surprised how often this initial content assessment step is overlooked. There are a few ways you can work with your clients to evaluate the content needs:

1. When creating the new sitemap

When the sitemap for the new website is completed, you and your client can compare the current sitemap to the new sitemap and identify gaps. Most likely there will be pages on the current site that will carry over to the new site, thus, you might not need new content for those pages. Conversely, you’ll also be able to identify new pages that will need completely new content for. Knowing what the high level content needs will be from this initial sitemap comparison will give you a general understanding of how much content will need to be created for the new site. And because you’re identifying this early on in the process, you’ll be able to incorporate the appropriate amount of time needed to develop the content into your overall project timeline, thus avoiding getting caught off guard when you’re ready to launch the site.

2. During the Wireframe/Design Phase

Another opportunity for identifying content needs is during the wireframing and/or design phase. The layouts determined in the wireframe or design phase define content needs at a more granular level. With layouts in hand, you’ll be able to visually see how much and what type of content you’ll need for each page you have laid out. Evaluating content needs during this phase can be particularly helpful in identifying imagery needs as well.

Get organized

One of the most challenging parts of creating or gathering content is actually organizing it all! While it can be tedious, creating clear and organized documentation at the onset of this process will not only enable your clients to more efficiently generate and document the content, but when it comes time to actually implement the content into the site, the team completing the page production will thank you for your upfront efforts! There is nothing worse than sifting through numerous Word documents and image files, trying to figure out what goes on what page. Thankfully, there are some great tools out there, such as Gather Content, that help make this process more bearable. If you choose to forego using a formal tool, a simple, well organized Word document can certainly be effective.

Even the best laid plans…

So, you’ve done all of the above, identified the content gaps early, allowed adequate time for content development in your timeline, and had an organized approach for documenting all of the new content for the site. And yet, somehow, you still don’t have content. Below are a few examples of being content-less at certain project milestones, and how you can continue to move forward without causing delay:

1. Starting development with no content? Fake it ’till you make it!

Using Lorem Ipsum and placeholder images during development is actually pretty common. Developers typically don’t need final content in order to get started on the front-end development or back end integrations, or even on building out some of functionality on the site. Using placeholder content will allow them to get started on building out the site while you and the client continue to make headway on content development. When possible, try to provide the developer with placeholder content that is roughly the same length as the final content. This should help to avoid any major issues when you enter in the actual content.

2. Ready for QA but still have Lorem Ipsum everywhere?

It can be a little tricky and requires some planning for your QA team, but you can still go into QA with placeholder content. A lot of the QA process is testing the structure and functionality of the site, not necessarily the content. If you find yourself in this position, create a clear test plan for your QA team that will be more narrowly focused than testing the entire site. Your plan should include:

  • List of pages that use unique templates
  • Unique features or functionality throughout the site
  • List of forms
  • Integration points

Once you have final content entered, you may want to consider regression testing some of the page templates to ensure the content didn’t impact the previously tested layouts.

Even though “content is king” and is ultimately what your users are visiting your website for, many clients often don’t focus their attention on gathering or creating content for their new website until late in the game, causing project delays. Implementing the strategies we’ve discussed here at the right points in your project are sure-fire ways to keep content development top of mind and moving forward, ultimately keeping your website launch on track!