A web content matrix can be an immensely useful in tracking your content. Before you create one, you need to decide what information you are going to record on it. Having too much information will make the document unwieldy and time-consuming, perhaps leading to its abandonment. Having too little information can lead to the excel content matrix not fulfilling its potential.
So how do you know what to include?
Creating a web content matrix
You need to make some decisions before you start.
- How long is the website going to exist for? A typical website may last 3 years before being rebuilt.
- What information will be useful for you to have in that time period before the website gets rebuilt? Some information will change regularly and some will be static (such as URLS). Having these all in one place can save you a lot of time.
- Who is going to use it? If this is just for one person (yourself) then you can be quite flexible (e.g. “I know that information is a little old but I don’t need to spend time updating it right now”). If it will be used by multiple people then it needs to be clear what is on it and how accurate it is.
Having a lot of information (such as photo URLs used) that change a lot make the content matrix very difficult to maintain, and you may be better off leaving them out.
The Cycle Ireland Content Matrix
I have 100 routes on the cycleireland.ie site, with 200+ pages, so I wanted all of the information that I would regularly refer to in one place. I used the following columns in my content matrix:
- Route ID
- Short name (used on the app)
- Main image
- Video URL
- GPX filename
- Long name (used on the site)
- Directions page URL
- Type (linear or loop)
- Status (on the free or paid app)
- Central co-ordinate (used by the app)
- Number of photos in gallery
- Word count
- Start town
- Finish town
- Published date
This matrix gave an an overview of the site in a number of important ways. A couple of columns – number of photos and word count – were not updated when changed but still gave a rough overview. If I needed accurate figures for these I could update them at any time. Others, such as rating, occasionally changed and the matrix was updated in tandem. The most important thing is that I understood what was accurate and what was estimated, which is easy to show in a spreadsheet, however you choose to do it.
What about large sites?
This web content matrix was for a small site. If you have a much larger one you need to decide for yourself what is important and how deep to go. Nobody else can make that decision for you. It is a good idea as you are starting off to quickly create a simple matrix and then add to it as you find yourself requiring information.
In this way you don’t need to make a huge blind commitment that you may later regret.
When discussing what a Web Content Strategist does, it is very easy to get bogged down on all of the different requirements of a role that spans so many disciplines. It is a very useful exercise to reduce it to its most important elements. In the excellent The Web Content Strategist’s Bible, Richard Sheffield outlines 4 key qualities for a content manager which have nothing to do with technical requirements. He contends that the individual must be:
- A decent writer and editor
- Someone who understands how to plan and implement a project
- Someone who really wants to do this kind of work
- Someone who understands the bare basics of how the web works technically
And that’s it. Everything else is ‘gravy’.
Different jobs will have different emphases and technical requirements. I would fully agree with the above. Of course I can think of half a dozen other attributes to add to the list but that is self-defeating.
So you want to redesign your website. It’s exciting. But before you jump into what could be a gamechanger for your business or a nightmare that sucks time and money out of it, why do you want a new website?
There are good and bad reasons for doing this and it is important to understand which are prompting the change that you are making.
5 good reasons for a website redesign
You want to change CMS
If you feel that your content management system is not serving your needs as well as another option can, you face a significant job to transfer your site. Redesigning the site can kill two birds with one stone and minimise disruption.
So you have decide to conduct a web content review. Great. You need to examine what you have already and why you have it. Every piece of web content that you create must serve a purpose for the user. You thinking that something is cool is not enough to justify putting it up. Engagement or entertainment value is a reason to justify creating the content. There are other reasons:
1) Information – you can place additional or obscure information on your site that can be easily searched by your users. Generally, the more detail the better for your users, as long as it remains navigable.
2) Sell – if you’re selling products, a lot of your content will be oriented solely towards selling, whether you do it explicitly or subtly.
3) Persuade – you may be selling nothing but using your content to persuade people to act or think specific things.
4) Entertain – some content will only need to engage and entertain users for a variety of reasons – e.g. to sell advertising, to gain visitors or to generate social media attention.
Whatever the reasons for creating your various pieces of content, it is important to know them and to assess whether they are achieving their aims. More informational content may lead to a reduction in customer service emails needing to be processed and pay for itself in that way.
A web content review and your web strategy
By identifying why your content is there you can more easily identify its deficiencies and identify the areas in which it can be improved. Identify what works well from analytics and feedback and determine if this content can be expanded. Similarly, you can move the site away from the content that is just not working for you.
If you define yourself as being the most user-friendly online worktools shop, your product demonstration videos might set you apart from your competitors. Are they working? Are they prominent enough? Are they the right length? Are the scripts good enough? Are they easy to follow? Are the presenters likeable? Do you need more of them?
Answering such questions is part of your web content review. Go for it!
So you want to start blogging? How do you avoid your blog (which is going to be amazing) becoming part of the 90% of blogs which fall apart and die within a few months? That’s not an official statistic, by the way, I just made it up to make a point.
Most people take enthusiastically to blogging – for the first few fevered posts anyway. Then they slow down a bit and the posts become more infrequent. Then they seem to run out of things to say and switch to once-a-month posting. The last couple of posts look like orphans, separated from their families by several months of inactivity, and the topic is usually how the blogger is going to become more disciplined again. And then – poof!! – it’s gone.
Here is how you avoid that:
What is the reason you exist?
Or, to be more accurate, ‘why does your website exist?’ – this will come out of your web content strategy. What does your website do better than every other website out there? If you can’t answer that then you can’t think of a reason for people to visit your site.
If you know the answer, if it is ‘the best value furniture in X area’ or ‘the most comprehensive guide to y area’, or ‘the best way to waste time at work’ then great. How are you communicating this?
On the header of cycleireland.ie, I have a tagline. I chose to put the three most important pieces of information into this, so that it would be entirely explicit what my site did.
Web content strategy in the tagline