How to Get Your Clients to Send You Web Content On Time

web content on time

For Internet marketers and web developers, working on a new website project can provide an exciting feeling of accomplishment. It’s almost like producing a piece of art or constructing a building. You can look at it after it’s complete and admire a job well done.

But when a website contains gaping holes where content is supposed to go, that feeling of accomplishment can dwindle pretty fast. And you think, “Gee, when is my client going to send me that web content for their home page?” And also, “when are we going to close this project so I can get paid?”

The client probably told you they were “in a rush” to have this website done, but didn’t realize how much work it is on their part to produce content for their own site so that it can go live. We’ve all experienced this. Talk to developers on LinkedIn and at WordCamp and you’ll see it’s a common problem. So just how do we get our clients to send us their content on time?

Here are a few tips, woven in with participant advice given from a question we posed on the LinkedIn WordPress Experts Group.

Set a Payment Deadline

There’s nothing like the pain of knowing you paid lots of money for something and having it do nothing for you. It can motivate a person to buckle up and get serious about their web content. If a client’s website is all paid for and all it awaits is content to go live, the client is more likely to start writing sooner than later.

It’s human nature – we don’t like our money wasted and we also work well with definitive deadlines rather than, “Oh yeah, I need to do that thing on my task list sometime soon…”

This method requires a payment plan that is clearly outlined in a website development contract. Personally, my method is to charge 50% up front and the remaining 50% immediately upon completion or within 70 days, (whichever comes first). That way the client knows two things:

  1. The site is “complete” when the site is developed, not when the content is ready, which means the payment will be due when we’ve done our part.
  2. If they delay the project, they still have to pay the final balance within 70 days, which is plenty of time to reach all the project milestones, plus some extra leeway for the ‘usual’ unexpected things that might come up and cause delays. In other words, it’s more than fair, because it’s sufficient time for them to finish their web content, but the payment can’t wait because it affects our cash flow and ability to ‘eat’ for our hard work.

How strict you are in this regard is up to you, and there is no ‘standard’ or unwritten ‘code of conduct’ that web developers must go by. However, some developers make their stipulations extra rigid, to help light fire on the dynamo. For example, Mark Hannon of Mark Hannon Art Direction & Design suggests the following:

If the project stalls for a period of 3 weeks due to the client’s delays, the contract expires and a new contract has to be issued and signed. Any outstanding money the client owes needs to be paid at this point.

I’ve heard someone else give this type of stipulation to her clients, saying that upon delays, the client would have to lose everything they paid on the project to date and would be forced to start a new project with full re-payment. I personally think that a few weeks might be a bit too strict of a timeline, though it may be necessary in some special cases. For example, some WordPresss developers and designers are in high demand. I can see how a client’s delays can be a complete waste of time, since time is worth money and there are plenty of other businesses lining up to use the services of high-demand developers or designers.

However, three weeks is actually not that long for a client to delay – I’ve experienced a lot worse, and I’m sure others have too! I can understand how this would be a good clause to have for projects that are delayed extensively — like for months, not weeks.

I recommend including a clause that covers “unresponsiveness” from a client. If the client continues to not reply, or goes MIA in the project process (this has happened to me before), then the project at some point can be deemed closed and the client will need to pay for any work done up to that point. It’s also important to include a no-refund clause to this as well, since if you’re closing down the project, some clients may feel they didn’t get what they paid for in the first place, even though it’s their fault the site was not finished and the work as promised was completed up to that point. I personally am happy to send unfinished files to the client to help compensate, though some designers may not want to do this to protect their copyright on artwork.

It’s scary to go several months not knowing if you’re going to get paid because the client may not be around to finish the project or send you a check for what you’ve worked on. In my experience, a contractual clause covering payment deadlines is essential to being in the web development and design business. It’s an industry where we work with entrepreneurs who have no one but themselves to be accountable to, and that usually means delays are inevitable because self discipline is rare.

Set a Launch Deadline and Use Lorem Ipsum Placeholder Text If Necessary

This is a great tactic, and as Mary Diaz of Amethyst Website Design points out, in her experience:

Writing content for your own site is really stressful for many, especially small business owners, and it can cause good clients to avoid your emails, and projects to drag on forever. Since I don’t want that, I now add a clause that says if they are unable to send the content according to the schedule, I will add placeholder content for them, and they will be responsible for adding content. So far it’s worked really well. It actually relieves the stress for both of us. I can finish the site on time, and they can add the missing content when they can write without a brain freeze. I also have a copywriter that I can recommend to help them.

Using some demo Lorem Ipsum text is a great way to get the visuals of the site done even if the ‘real’ content is not ready. It allows development to continue on schedule but it does have its pitfalls. I have noticed that web projects that don’t have ‘real’ content ready at the beginning of design phase can suffer in terms of marketability and making sure the design fits the required content during development. For example, a call to action may not fit in the space it was designed to go in, or there may be more content boxes on the home page than the client really needs to sell their key products. This is why having content up front is always the best scenario for producing successful web projects.

But it shouldn’t be a reason for a web developer’s cash flow to suffer for months, or for their portfolio to be void with a bunch of un-launched websites, which can affect future sales. I’d say to use this tactic only if you really have to.

And remember, as Scot Zoumbaris of Pro Image Gold says, if you do use Lorem Ipsum text:

You’ll still run into clients that complain about what you’ve created, but had they moved forward in a timely manner, there wouldn’t have been an issue, so how much can they complain?

Charge Late Fees

I’m personally not a fan of this approach for a couple reasons.

Firstly, I’m an entrepreneur too, and I know that if the situation was reversed and I were in my client’s shoes, this would probably be a deal breaker for me. I would think, “I’m the one paying you, you don’t get to charge me late fees, it’s my website, I’ll go live whenever I want. All you need to be worried about is that I pay you for your work on time, and pay you for any extra work you do, which is fair.”

Gordon Jablonski of Keystone Internet Services also weighed in on this on our LinkedIn discussion saying,

I know we are running a business here, but some of our clients have some serious issues to face in supplying us with their information…Constant contact with clients is essential and “nagging” won’t get the problem solved. Lighten up a little, let your clients be responsible for their own tardiness without issues.

we all have a hard time producing web contentLet’s face it; even many of us who sell websites have terrible-looking web designs because we neglect them due to our own spells of busy-ness as company owners. We know our top priority is to serve our clients first, not ourselves. So we may have one finger pointing at our clients when they cause web content delays, but that becomes three fingers we’re pointing at ourselves.

And, as Jade Stanley of Oasis Interactive explains, in her experience,

We tried charging a monthly fee for delays but it wasn’t enough to motivate them, but it did seem to make them mad.

I can totally see this happening. Clients don’t ‘get’ what we do, so this is could just be opening the door for angry arguments that make the working relationship really awkward. No one likes to fight about money.

Secondly, if a payment deadline is in place, it doesn’t usually cost more money to launch a client’s site later. I don’t like charging clients for nothing. So why would I charge them for something that has no hard cost for me? Well, except frustration, demotivation and the feeling of impatience…I guess that’s pretty bad to have to experience, but doesn’t actually put a dent in my bank account, if you know what I mean.

But – And This Is A Big “But”

I do understand why people implement late fees. If you’ve read Tim Ferris’s book, The Four Hour Work Week, which talks about time efficiency, you’ll know that set up time is your money eater. This is why it costs the same money to silk screen a few t-shirts versus silk screening a lot of t-shirts, and likewise with book printing. Once the printing mechanisms are in place, it’s only a matter of letting the machine run longer. It’s not the quantity that affects cost as much as it’s the set up. The printer makes more on larger batches of work.

So for sure, if a client is causing delays that require you to consistently have to close and then re-open files, re-read e-mails, and have repeat conversations on the phone because no one remembers what was discussed four months ago, then late fees are totally acceptable. In this case delays definitely do cost more, because they take more set up time, and time is our only currency in this line of work. The more of it we spend on a project, the less we make.

So with point one and two above considered, I’m in favour of calling this a “project re-opening” fee, rather than a late fee that is charged based on the number of weeks or months a client is delaying the project. It sounds a lot fairer, and can be justified if explained to the client in the way I’ve described it above.

Offer to Write Content For Them

This is an excellent approach and I can say this because I’m also a copywriter and Internet marketer. Having the right web content can make the web design and SEO so much better. They work in harmony.  For more on this, I highly recommend “The Content Conundrum” by Christopher Detzi as well as my own response to the article titled, “My response to “The Content Conundrum”: We forgot the SEO!

As Paul Gourhan of PMW.net states well,

We have found that some clients are just incapable of providing content. It is that simple. Either they can’t write, they can’t motivate with their writing, they don’t now what to say or are simply too busy.

He also gives a great idea for us to turn our not-so-prose-friendly clients into writers overnight!

When we copy write we use an interview technique. We interview the client for each page and record the conversation to preserve the tone or voice of the client. Then we transcribe and polish it and send it to the client for review. This usually expedites the process.

See, it’s a complete client makeover idea. In actuality, people love talking about themselves. They just don’t know what they have that is so valuable, so trying to explain what is so great about their own company is hard. Ask yourself to do the same thing and come up with your unique selling proposition. Chances are you’re going to want to revise it ten times a year because you don’t know what it is that makes your target market love you, you just know that they do. Sometimes it takes an outside person equipped with the right questions, to come in and draw out these qualities in a way that can be explained to the masses.

More from Paul on this, because his point is so great:

If you listen to the client, they love to talk about their business and why they built their company. If you are lucky you can capture the energy of their vision, the spark that made them start the business in the first place. It can really brand the site and make it different from its competitors. Also this technique can help the writer to apply proper industry specific keywords on top of the phrasing of the business owner. Very helpful for SEO.

Copywriting isn’t their expertise it is ours.

This is true. Our clients are not writers (unless you’re literally making a writer’s website…). They are business owners in different industries. We are the ones that know what kind of writing they need for their site, and it is only natural to provide this service to them or to refer them to a copywriter you know that can take care of the job and get it done on time. And, as Bob Rosenbaum of The Market Farm so classically points out, “[We] look at [web development] as a technology service, while our clients are expecting a marketing service.”

Sometimes the client just doesn’t want to pay for the added services, even though they need it badly, as Jade Stanley also mentions. Also, John Hollands of RWP Group points out,

For some sites people just do not have realistic assumptions of how long it takes to write decent copy. For technical sites the Professor of whatever can very rarely write anything that is going to motivate a visitor. We offer photography, copy writing, copy editing and a journalist and this still does not work.

In cases like that, I’d say, just go with placeholder Lorem Ipsum text. :)

Show Them How to Add Web Content Themselves

This is a no brainer. The reason we use content management systems like WordPress in the first place is because it allows the client to add content to their websites without having to go through a web developer. So why not take the same route that Leo Adhemar Tan of Agents of Value suggests, which is:

We don’t include content in our agreement. We basically just provide them with a finished website that contains lorem ipsum content. This works for us because once we are done with the website, the next step is training the client on how to use WordPress, where to make changes, how to edit slider images, administer users, comment moderation etc… Some clients get so excited when they realize how easy making changes on WordPress is that they immediately start writing content. 😀

This is true – once clients see how easy WordPress is to work with, and see how fast it is to publish their content for the world to see, it gets exciting for them. They feel like they’re participating in ‘making’ something for themselves. I personally will only set up a limited number of pages for clients as part of the web development package, but then I train them thoroughly on how to add the rest later. That frees me up from having to fix their typos as revision requests after they send me their so called ‘final drafts’ to put up :)

Educate, Educate Educate!

You know, we really can’t blame our clients too much. Sometimes they have no idea what it takes to make a website. I often feel I work in one of the most misunderstood industries of our time. I’ve actually had clients think that all it takes for me to change colors on their website is the click of a button. I wish it were that easy! I’ve also had a business owner let me know that entrepreneurs just expect to pay the bill and suddenly have a website appear. They don’t realize how much work it is on their part.

As Jade Stanley points out almost exactly as I’ve thought of and heard it said before,

It amazes me that business owners so often refuse to take responsibility for their part of the project and want the website to magically appear with no input from them. Their has to be collaboration to create a successful website.

It amazes me too, but I’m less and less surprised nowadays.

Lydia Green, who isn’t a WordPress web developer but works in mobile medical communications and experiences similar client delays, mentions advice that is very applicable to what web developers do:

I like to think of it as an educational fix, not a legal fix. We have had luck with using slide decks on client kick-off conference calls at the start of a project. You can use these calls to review each person’s roles and responsibilities, project timelines, the importance of milestone dates, the need to be respectful toward team members and how delays at any stage create stress for people downstream.

I personally have a chart that shows visually how the timeline process works, and what all the milestones are. It shows clearly that there are three ‘streams’ of work that need to get done before a site can launch: web design, web content and web development. In addition to this, a written timeline is also given, to describe what happens at each milestone and how many days it should take. When I first get a sales inquiry, my quotes mention that while the work time of a project can take x number of weeks, if the client delays getting back to me for say two weeks, then the entire project is delayed by that amount of time.

In short, clients need to know what this process is going to be like, what will cause delays and what they can do to prevent the delays. This is run-of-the-mill for us, but to them, they’re walking into a scenario that’s brand new to them. Even if they’ve worked with other developers in the past, it’s likely that your process is going to be different from what they’ve experienced before. So education up front is pertinent. Bob Rosenbaum agrees, saying:

We understand how these projects come together but often don’t recognize that it’s all a mystery to the client. In those cases, you have to hold their hand and work with them upfront, before you begin programming, so they become a partner in the project rather than simply the buyer of a service.

Web Content Doesn’t Have to Be a Hold Up

Well, it can be a hold up for the client, but it doesn’t have to hold you, the web developer, up. You should still get paid and should still be able to launch a site using the strategies mentioned above.

Late content delivery and client delays are a universal problem in the web development industry, as we’ve seen from our LinkedIn discussion. The fact that web developers have to put clauses about it in their contracts shows how big of an issue it can be, and how little understood our jobs are. Hopefully the above suggestions provide insight into what you can do to avoid this problem.

I also strongly recommend checking out the LinkedIn discussion to read more about what participants had to say (I couldn’t fit it all in one article!), and please, do add your own suggestions in the comments below!

Photo Credit (laptop and writing desk): Nadir Balcikli
Photo Credit (fingers pointing): Simone Lovati

Joyce Grace

A Vancouver Internet marketer and freelance writer who loves making WordPress websites, writes with pencil, owns a paper agenda (still), gets ignited by anything Dutch, and is probably the only person on the planet who doesn't like cheesecake. Follow Joyce on: Instagram: @thoughtsofjoyce YouTube: /thoughtsofjoyce Twitter: @thoughtsofjoyce Google Plus: +JoyceGraceontheweb

28 Comments

  1. John

    Good article but it’s not helping me in my case. What do I do if a client is not getting me content on time, refusing to use any copywriters but their own, and the content is CRITICAL for design. (meaning I need the content to design icons, layouts, etc.) They’ve lied to me for about 6 months telling me they would get me the content and it’s not happening timely at all. I have about 5 pages of a 25 page website. I’ve moved on with other project but the problem is that they will randomly send me content and expect me to continue working on it immediately. What is the best way to handle a situation like this? I’m not really sure what to tell them, other than “you’ve not met the timeline on getting me content, I have other work now and I can’t work on it” but that sounds horrible and they would be mad, but it’s the truth.

    1. Nemanja Aleksic

      The first thing would be to set expectations. Tell them you will be happy to complete the project, but you need the whole content – all 25 pages. As soon as they’ve provided it, you will be all over it.

      Each time they send you something, thank them and remind them how much more content they need to send before you start working.

      Don’t be aggressive, don’t be passive aggressive. Be assertive, be calm, be a true professional who can’t be jerked around.

      Hope this helps.

  2. H.T. Major

    Absolutely great article. Love how you interspersed the options presented by various developers throughout. It was nice to see so many different ideas and perspectives in one place!

    In any case, it really does take time to get this process just right. We’re still perfecting ours, though we realize that, as each client project is unique, they can’t and shouldn’t always be handled the same. We do, however, favor at least the basic process flow of “content -> design -> development.” Like other designers have said here, trying to get and add the content after the design is completed can cause many problems with fit, leading to hours wasted.

    1. Joyce Grace

      Hello H.T. Major, thanks for your response. From my experience, having ‘been around’ in the industry, in agencies, and talking with others, I’d say most websites out there are made without content in mind from the start :) It’s usually an afterthought. I think it’s hard for the writers to imagine what space they need to write for. And it’s hard for designers to imagine what content to design for. So it can go both ways. But yes, in an ideal world, we would all have our content first :) That said, the role that should really be the ‘glue’ in this process is the content architect. This person needs to plan for the content, then communicate that to both designer and writer, and then eventually to the developer. Just some thoughts to add to your point :)

  3. Jessica Kay Murray

    This is a VERY timely article! I am in the process of re-inventing for 2016. I really love working with small businesses and new businesses, but they can be the WORST when it comes to getting me content on the very cheapest site. I have gotten better at managing scope creep, but delays in getting content are affecting my ability to stay in business.

    I believe that clients do NOT realize how big of an issue this is. Also, new businesses and small businesses are often unclear about their brand, so even when presented with a site with content areas to “fill in”, eventhough they’re assured that they’ll be able to change the content ANY time themselves, they literally freeze from being overwhelmed. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve attracted LOTS of perfectionists. When I offer to help them write their content, they decline because they don’t want to spend the extra money.

    Inspired by this article, I’m adding this line to my contract, under Payment arrangements: “Content for this site is due no later than the content due date agreed upon in article 1Ia. If it not received by that date, and the site is otherwise technically functional, Lipsum Ipsum and place holder content will be added, and the site will be considered completed. The remaining balance will be due at that point, and the site will be moved to the final nameservers as soon as final payment is received. ”

    I am also adding a line that the client will get to make only ONE change request to the content they give me. I have also had issues with clients refusing to launch their sites in a timely manner because they want to get new pictures done, etc.

    Thanks again for the useful advice and I am SO glad I found it!!!

    1. Nemanja Aleksic

      Now that’s what I call tough love :)

      You might want to reconsider the phrasing, tho. The way it is now is that, once you’ve been paid, you’ll push the site live even if the content is not ready. This is bad for the client’s business, and might force them into not going forward with the final payment.
      Wouldn’t it be better to say something like “If you don’t deliver content on time, I’ll consider the site completed. Once the payment is complete, I’ll wait for the client to give the go ahead and redirect the name servers”.

      This is not a big deal for you, since you can create a backup with ManageWP (or some other service) and store the site on your hard drive until the time is right.

      At any rate, please let us know in a few months how the change fared :)

  4. Gareth Brown

    Perfect article for me right at the time I’m lying awake thinking about how to get content from clients quicker! I thought about trying an approach of asking them for content and it’s taking too long I’ll contact them and offer to write it with their input. Writing is not really my strength though. I also really like the final payment idea of being at the end of the project or in a set amount of time. Thank you!

  5. Theresa Sheridan

    I have been struggling with this A LOT this year, and have been unable to find any possible solutions until now! I thought my contract was already pretty tight, but I’ve made the changes to my contract, and am anxious to see how these ideas work out.
    Thank you so much!

  6. Amy

    I realize this is a couple years old but you make some great suggestions. I am tired of the introduction of new content near the end of the project that results in design changes. A client just changed her logo out of the blue. She had a list of content to be supplied and “new logo” wasn’t on there. The new one is vertical, whereas the last one was horizontal, resulting in website headers that are now 3x too tall and kicking content out of view of course. If I refuse to redesign at this point, I get something I can’t be proud of. I’m sure that design-changing-content has affected others out there. What do you do when the supplied content requires more time?

  7. Rajni

    I like your way to define this article. Good Job.. Keep It Up!

  8. Dainis Black Lion

    Hey that was great. Thanks for the tips. Any suggestions on Professional programs or software I can use to gather content from the user easily? not word documents. Thank you

    1. Joyce Grace

      I do most organizing for websites in Google Drive. Storing all the files, including the content in there. It can really help.

  9. Luke Boobyer

    It’s always a struggle to get content of some clients. I would never consider charging late fees because personally I would be rather hacked off if a company did that to me. You just need to set expectations and deadlines, if a client misses these deadlines politely remind them and offer to write the content for them.

    Use placeholder text if none has been provided and move on to the next stage.

    1. Nemanja Aleksic

      This is probably the best approach. As you mentioned, nobody likes hidden fees.

  10. Chandan

    Hi Joyce,
    First thank you for posting this awesome article I am facing same problem my client delay content and review from there end, Joyce which clause I will mention in contract please help me

  11. Faith

    Great article! I will keep this in mind! A lot of people does that, they always think about how their website will look at even if the content is more important.

    I totally agree with the points that you and Stacey made, content plays are much more bigger role in the success of the website, the design comes next.

  12. Hassan

    This is like spot-on!

    Just in time when I was about this close to give up on a project that’s got freezed up for nearly 10 months now! It’s very frustrating that you finish more than 80% of the website and for mixed reasons, the work stops and halts. I also went through this “project re-opening” thingy more than once leading me to realize, albeit late, that this is indeed the biggest time waster among all other stuff.

    The project is still in a “pause” state as I’m writing this. It’s a pretty big project that would be great addition to my portfolio. I’ve already got payed 30% of the cost, but the client is a super-busy entrepreneur (and this project isn’t a real priority for him, but it is for me… heh).

    I admit to have contributed to some of the delay, and at other times it was the client’s fault. I don’t feel comfortable now just charging them extra stuff or start to put the WHOLE blame on them because the fault is mutual; I just want to finish the dang thing! :)

    Joyce, I’d love any advice on how to expedite things when a project reaches such “milestone”, or just what to do at this point. Have you experienced something similar?

  13. Simon Duncan

    A great article. Thanks very much.
    One thing that I do that helps some clients is to provide them with 2 detailed lists of all the work that they need to provide to me. One list is generic across all sites, so all clients get that. The next list is specific to their site. Each list has an explanation, a tick box and a date completed section. This helps them to know what it is that they have to do and to plan accordingly.
    It also helps me to keep track of what they have provided me.

  14. Mark Steinbrueck

    Wonderful article, Joyce. I also agree with the points that Stacey made. We start all of our projects by creating a content map with the client but then it has been the client’s responsibility to create the content that goes with the map.

    As a firm believer in developing websites with the purpose of helping our clients have a successful web presence. So our staff will be discussing some of the ideas that have been made about helping the client create their content.

    1. Joyce Grace

      Thanks so much Mark! I’m so glad to know it’s inspiring people out there to implement some of the ideas!

  15. jainlv

    Joyce:

    Loved the article. As with many others (apparently), I’m having the same issues of getting people to get across the finish line. I get 85% of the way there based on their “just do this”, then when it’s time to get the final payment they decided to actually start paying attention and change things.

    Does anyone have any samples of the clauses that they use for defining the client’s “unresponsiveness” — or do they leave it kind of vague? I’d love to get some of those examples to use as a template for my own Agreements.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

    1. Joyce Grace

      Hi Jeff! Thanks for this comment. I’ve been meaning to write an article about web developer contracts, do look out for it when it comes out (I can’t give a definite date at the moment). But in short I would say this: just say it like it is. I was listening to a podcast by Seth Godin and he mentioned that if you don’t have a lawyer to draft up a contract for you, make the contract as simple as possible, in plain English, so that both parties understand it (I’m paraphrasing good ol’ Seth). I also like to not use a small font :) I feel that if a contract is too wordy or follows a template, then people may not read it, and it’s better to have it be understandable. So I would just put your clause in there the way you would say it in conversation. This is not legal advice or anything official, just an opinion on the matter :)

  16. Lana Walker

    Excellent article with many good points. I also fully agree with Stacey that successful Web sites have designs that are built around content. Because I have a background in publishing, training and marketing communication, it’s hard to imagine developing a site without the content.

    Designing and building a Web site is much like designing and building a house or a magazine. It’s a process that has several phases. If you skip a phase or get the phases out of order, you may end up with a beautiful house built on sand or a magazine no one will read.

    I follow what I call the 3C Web Design Process™. Clarity first, then Content, then Container. Each phase leads to the other and cannot be done (well) out of order. I describe the process here.

    http://www.goodbananawebdesign.com/3c-web-design-process/

    Thanks again for the great article and helpful tips!

  17. Mark Hannon

    Great article and I appreciate the mention. I plan to share it.

    Mark

  18. Stacey Cordoni

    Great article, Joyce!

    Obtaining content from Clients is always a struggle because people are more concerned with how their website will look than they are with the content that goes on it (even though people go to your website FOR the content, not the design).

    Of course, good design matters. You have to initially intrigue the site visitor in order for them to even read your content. It all plays a part in a successful website (so much more than just design and content).

    The problem is partially our fault. By “our”, I mean those of us offering website services. We provide design and development services, but most of the time rely on the Client to provide their content. Because who knows their business better than them, right? Well, they may be great at what they do, but often times, they are not great copywriters (let alone writing copy for SEO), or even knowing what information is relevant or important to have on their website.

    As a developer working for a number of small businesses, I’m usually not the one working with the end-Client so I have little influence on processes, but I’m a firm believer in content FIRST. Why? Your website is nothing without content. As Jeffrey Zeldman puts it: Content Precedes Design.

    We’re stuck in the early days (when most of us didn’t know better) of designing a homepage and subpage, quite often with Lorem Ipsum, and then plopping in the content whenever it arrives. There’s no consideration to the content. Successful websites have designs that are built around their content.

    Content first solves a lot of design and development problems, and can probably make jobs cheaper. How many times do I re-work templates because of the content that comes in after? EVERY project. So, more money for me (unless it’s not hourly), but it’s just more proof that it’s not what we’re doing now isn’t working.

    In an ideal world, or one where I can actually influence those I work with (who can then influence the Client…), we’d be designing and developing sites with content first. There are other benefits to this as well. You’re not stuck waiting for the content or payment (the premise of this article). The project doesn’t start until the content arrives. More incentive for the Client to write their content, pay someone to write it, or work with your team to write it.

    1. Joyce Grace

      Hi Stacey! I absolutely agree. I always like to tell the tale of my own site. I once had a designer make me a so-called “professional” web design for another company of mine, and I remember how agonizing of a process it was. It just haaaaad to be perfect. I asked so many people’s opinions about it and actually more than one designer worked on it.

      But in the mean time I had to get SOMETHING up to showcase my portfolio.

      So I launched my personal site just by myself – no fancy design work, just a theme with some minor modifications.

      But I filled it with content. And then more content. And then more content.

      And eventually, that has been the site that has brought me the most number of clients. The “perfect” site with the “professional” design that I agonized over did not bring me one customer to this day.

      I am NOT saying we don’t need good designers (I myself will not work on a project without hiring a designer to do my client sites justice).

      But I AM saying that you are right – people come to a website for content. So even if the design is not that fantastic, as is the case with my own site, it can still sell if the content is good.

      And yes, if content is ready we can save so much time, and thus cost for our clients.

      I have noticed though that if you say to a client the project won’t start until they write their content, then nothing will happen for ages. Like AGES! We might as well wait for a meteor to hit planet earth. But if you move along at your own pace, then the client will need to keep up with you. And when payment is due, it’s due. I think with some people they just aren’t going to be organized and won’t ‘get with it’ no matter how much you cross your arms and say you’re not moving forward. Actually I rarely see it, and when I do see it with a client, it shocks me. Its funny because everyone is always in a “rush” to get their website live but in reality THEY are the ones that delay their own site, meanwhile rushing me like crazy to get it done. So I put in my contract that if they delay the project, then I don’t have to meet my deadlines either (because how can I, right?). So it eases the pressure on my side too and let’s me take a breather when the going gets tough :)

      Anyway, THANK YOU for your elaborate and thoughtful response!

  19. Marcy Diaz

    Joyce,
    You did a great job putting all out thoughts together. Thank you for including my comments.

    I also appreciate what you say about how having real content before the design phase helps with marketability and SEO. That’s really the ideal for everyone, and it helps us deliver the best product we can.

    1. Joyce Grace

      No problem Marcy! I had some wonderful feedback on the LinkedIn discussion. I like that method, I think it gets more people discussing the topic. It was a trial this time but I might try it again :)

      Glad you liked the article!

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