Getting the planning process right

Web writers sometimes say there's no point planning content. Content approvers make so many changes that planning time is wasted. Sounds reasonable, except there's a flaw in the logic.

It sounds reasonable to object to spending even more time on content when approvers are likely to make changes when they see it. However, that view reflects a poor understanding of what planning should involve.

Involve content approvers in planning

Planning should involve content approvers. Before writing anything at all, sit down and talk with them about their expectations. And of course, talk about your users and their information needs.

Some issues you could discuss are:

  • Why has this new content been requested? What business goals will the content help the organisation meet?
  • Who is the target audience for the content? What will they want from it?
  • What should the focus of the content be? What is its purpose? What is the key message?
  • How does this page relate to other content on the site?

Get content approvers to check an outline

For important or contentious content, you could prepare an outline before you do any solid writing. Draft some of the main headings and jot down the key points to be covered. Get the content approver to check this before you go any further.

This is also a good approach when you struggle to get time to discuss content with approvers. You do some of the planning work up front to produce your outline. Then use this to explore their views before you've invested too much time in writing.

Planning is worth it

Some sort of discussion — it doesn't have to be very formal — should always happen before you produce new content. Delay writing until you've got a good idea of what you need to achieve.

A little planning is likely to save time (you won't have wasted time on your first draft), and produce better results.