How To Fill A Website

To pay the bills, I’m a web designer, and one of the biggest problems I run into is people who think that websites magically get filled with content.

Most prospective clients think that all they have to do is hire somebody to build their website (somebody who knows nothing about them or their business) and somehow, magically, POOF! that stranger will fill their entire site with pages and pages of content that tells everything about them, in just exactly the way they want it told… all without any input from the prospective client, and all without paying any money for it.  **sigh**  It’s one of the most frustrating parts of the business.  I tell my clients: “I know nothing about you, nor do I know anything about your business.  How in the world do you except me to write the content for your website?”

So, faced with my own issues of needing to put together a whole section of content for my Literary Midwifery business that I intend to fire-up in the near future, I’ll tell you the process I’m going through.

1) Search the web (google, yahoo, and/or other search engines of your choice) for existing businesses similar to yours.  Find 6-10 that are as similar as you can get.

2) For all of these sites, print off copies of their websites.  Print off “Services”, “Fees”, “About Us”, and all their other major pages… don’t worry about blogs and stuff like that.

3) Read through the stack of printed web pages, and with a bright-colored pen, highlight the sentences/ paragraphs/ sections that ring true to your business and your imagined website.  Don’t think too much, if something catches you eye, highlight it.

4) (I’m a big fan of sticky notes, so I did this with sticky notes and a blank spiral notebook… but you can do this directly onto a computer, if you prefer.)  Go back through all your printed web pages, and for each place you’ve highlighted, make a note of the contents of the highlighted area.  If it’s a sentence, copy the sentence.  If a paragraph or section, summarize it onto the stick note, or into the file.

5) Once you have all your notes, sort them.  Some will be easy to sort into sections corresponding to the various web pages you might need, allowing the possibility of web pages that others don’t have, or combining others’ pages into one.  Other notes will logically sort into other categories.  And, as always, allow yourself a miscellaneous stack.  🙂

6) Make a list of the different web pages that you have sorted notes into: “About Us”, “Service”, “Biography”, whatever.

7) Now that you have read through other peoples’ websites a couple times, on separate pages of your notebook (or in new files), without referring to all the notes you just sorted, write your own content for all the pages you listed in #6, and any other obvious ones.

8) Set the pages of sorted notes beside the pages you just wrote, and combine them into a coherent whole that says just exactly what you want it to say, in a clear and concise manner, without plagiarizing content written by others.

9) Type the new pages into separate files, each named with the title of the web page.

10) Send the files to your web designer, including any graphics you want on the pages, with instructions for placement… and I guarantee you that your web designer will love you to the end of your days.  🙂  Or take these files and set up your own website using the abundance of free tools available from most web hosting companies.

As you can see, this isn’t a 5-minute process, nor should it be.  The content on your website is far more important than the site’s look or feel.  So take the time to give your content the attention it deserves, and give your poor web designer a break from endless expectations of magically content-filled websites.