Do you sometimes feel like everyone is scared of editing the website except for you?
When something needs to go live, do people ask you to "just do it for me, this time?"
Do you find that your website feels about as timely as a printed quarterly newsletter?
It doesn't have to be this way!
One of the easiest ways to share great ideas is through digital content creation. Bottlenecks in the publishing workflow force ideas to remain in people's minds instead of on a website. With the right tools and processes, you can have everyone on your team contributing their own content to their own parts of the website easily.
Why is it important to keep your site fresh?
It's easy to think that once you've invested the energy into picking a CMS and building a website you should now be able to sit back and relax. You've managed the creation of this awesome system, isn't it time to move on to the next problem?
The reality is your website is just a place to share content, it's not going to do the hard work of creating content for you. If you let the content on your website languish, your visitors will know. This is equally true for customer-facing marketing sites as it is for Intranets built for employees or partners.
Think about the places you like to be and those you tend to avoid. What makes you gravitate toward some areas but avoid others? If you walk into an amazingly decorated restaurant at a great location, but the seats are all empty and there's dust on the tables - are you going to love this place?
Disorganization is stressful
People prefer clean sites with fresh content. If your office is a mess, it takes a lot of energy to start every new task. Your website is just the same, fill your site with accurate content and keep it organized to get people coming back when they're looking for answers.
You want a web design that will naturally keep attention with a clean, intuitive flow to keep visitors longer. Reading through the content on your site should be an enjoyable experience for your visitors. This goes for contributing content as well.
Your website should be a fun, attractive place to be. By making the website experience more pleasant, more contributors are likely to stick around in the long run. Is the content engaging? Are there good reasons for people to come back after they leave?
So what are some ways to keep control over this fantastic place you've built, so it stays engaging over time?
#1 Develop a Style Guide
A style guide is a page or set of pages that outline precisely how your site's design elements should work with each other. It should also describe your site's audience and the tone you want to use in your writing.
Some people mistakenly view style guides as a rarely used pedestal to help settle heated arguments about superfluous commas, split infinitives, and trademark mistakes. A well-designed style guide should answer real questions authors will have, and it should improve over time as real-world edge cases raise questions. It's how new contributors know how to join the team and make content that looks like it belongs.
A style guide should answer questions about how to present content, sizes of images, a graphic, and style, and formatting questions before mistakes can occur. This helps save the content contributor time and reduces the time needed during the content review process.
#2 Content Governance and Enforcing Freshness
Content is the bread and butter of any good website. That content should be fresh and engaging in order to keep the attention and bring people back for more. This can be done by enforcing content freshness and creating policies to address it. By regulating the content that is presented, websites are kept more relevant and rank higher in search engines.
Fresh content is content that has been recently updated, is regularly updated, or is recently published. The alternative is stale content, which is content that has not been updated recently. Content freshness is essential, allowing website visitors to know that the results will be relevant. Content can rapidly become outdated and therefore is no longer relevant. Less relevant information is likely to rank lower than content that is fresh and relevant.
Enforcing content freshness, such as requiring content to expire at certain intervals of time unless it is renewed can really help.
It is only natural that different content will have other refresh times. For out-of-date content that will remain on the site, it is essential to have a policy of labeling it. This is especially important for information about recent events, documentation for products that have been updated, or other rapidly-changing topics.
By labeling content when it may not have been updated or reviewed recently, readers will know what to expect and whether they should treat that content as reliable. This sort of visibility can also help to foster trust between readers and your brand because they can trust that your site will be forthcoming.
Accurate content is just as important as fresh content. To distribute the workload, your website should have a system built that requires authors to reaffirm the accuracy of the content that is published after a customizable time span. They get an email that asks them to go back and reiterate that this content is still good. For those that do not or cannot opt into reaffirming their content's veracity, the default course of action should be content removal. This will ensure that less relevant or outdated information is removed in a timely manner.
#3 Ease of Content Creation
Most web content management systems have similar functionality these days, so focus on the ease of content creation when choosing a platform. People need to be able to create, manage, and upload their content in as few steps as possible.
Choosing an easy-to-use CMS empowers users to post to your website. If they are able to create their content quickly and manage it with just a few simple clicks, they are much more likely to contribute more. If you find that the CMS takes longer than about 15 minutes to learn for most people, it may be the case that it is not a newbie-friendly option. Shop around for tools your team will want to use.
Empowering non-web professionals means that content creation becomes more accessible. This is where having streamlined processes and intuitive CMS shines.
#4 Default to Trustful Workflows
Beyond providing an easy-to-use CMS, another way to make the content creation process easier is to default to automatically approving content when possible. Mistakes may make their way through, but it's often better to correct occasional typos or mistakes than to create a gated workflow approval step. Creating an unnecessary approval process only serves to slow everyone down.
If you are working with a team that you have already vetted and trust, most of the content should be safe to publish without every word needing to undergo scrutiny. This automatic approval process can help keep things moving. If you need to make a correction later, it should be fast and easy to do that as well.
You can count on people to make mistakes in life. It's easy to assume that workflow steps would fix that, but the approver will occasionally make mistakes too - so you're not getting flawless 100% perfection by adding workflow approvals. You can say for 100% certain that having that workflow will slow publishing down however. Consider if your particular needs require you to slow things down so you have fewer mistakes.
Treat your investment in a CMS and website as building a place you own. Now you have to make it a place people want to stay. Do that by keeping things easy, inclusive, and clear - and you'll be impressed with how your team takes your web presence to the next level.