Lessons from my First Website Content Job

It was an exhilarating feeling to deliver my first full web content project to a client last week!

It was the perfect project to start off with – really a labour of love for a cause and a customer that I believe in: a friend of mine has been helping young adults in a neighbouring city to figure out their career and life goals. The challenge was to reach the target market – young people aged 18 to 35 who are looking for a job, particularly newcomers to Canada – yet at the same time convey that this was more than a job search program, as it is really designed to help people think about they wanted in their lives and take steps to get there.

Although the website design was fairly simple, it was content-heavy. It was a lot of work, but working with a great web design team and being surrounded with encouragement and fun made this project special.

Writing for websites is different than any other medium I had experienced so far. I learned a lot in this project, which I am already incorporating into my work with my new clients.

One lesson was how helpful it is to be able to do your own content entry in the site. The first time I saw my content uploaded on the website, I panicked. “It’s all wrong!” I thought – the byline too wordy, the slider text off-center, the columns all different lengths. I grabbed my phone to call the developer and ask him to make little edits, to which he was quite obliging. Twenty minutes later I called him again – I found a typo I needed fixed right away. On the third call he politely told me he would be heading to bed soon, so I should make a list of my corrections for him to work on in the morning. I knew it wasn’t as simple as making a list though – the words would need tweaking until they were just right. He finally gave me access to the backend of the site, which was WordPress-based, and with my limited html knowledge managed to tweak to my heart’s content. (Note: I strongly recommend learning even just a bit of html if you are writing for websites. A great crash course can be found at codeacademy.com).

Another thing I learned as soon as we met with the client to present the first draft of the website, was not to underestimate the impact that the visuals will have on how your content is read. If the design side is not completely up to snuff, it may not be the best idea for the client’s first impression of the content to appear next to the design. At the same time, if you give a client the content simply in a word document, they may not understand how it is going to look on the screen. It is preferable to work closely with the designer and present things together that you are both happy with – of course, that’s a bit of an ideal scenario, and we should always be flexible!

All in all, my client was very happy with what we created together, and made only minor adjustments to the content. And that was the most important part to me – that she is happy with how her website represents her organization and what it can help them do for others.

And on to the next project!

In the meantime, any advice from writers out there about writing web content – especially about how you share drafts of what you’ve developed with the client?