Content Planning for and Launching a Responsive Site: An Editor’s Perspective

By Jennifer Ford

Launching a new website presents a host of concerns. First, what kind of site does your audience need? Is it a store? Is it a blog with regularly published news? The most important consideration is your intended audience and researching what they need and trying to create it.

As a web editor for a healthcare publisher, I was tasked with launching a new web-based clinical journal for healthcare providers. Because I have done my research I know that my intended audience is using tablets and mobile devices as much if not more than a desktop, and more than the general public. So, I knew from the start I wanted this new site to be responsive. One consideration you need to make when planning for a responsive site is keeping the site design simple because website elements shift and reform as the size of the screen decreases. You don’t want a lot of drop-down menus and you don’t want users to have to click more than a couple of times to get to where they want to go. Another thing to remember is that as the display of your site shrinks to fit the size of the screen that displays it, certain items may “disappear,” like images or ads.

Starting from scratch, I wrote a business plan for my publisher that detailed my reasoning and a structure for the new responsive site. Here I’ll share some of the resources I used to create the plan.

First, I went to fellow Web Editors contributor Gazalla Gaya’s site, “Web Content Blog.” In one very helpful post, Gazalla details some tips for planning a site launch using a content map. The resource she suggested for creating a content map is the slideshare presentation on web content strategy by  from Content Marketing Institute. To build a content map, identify the goals of the owner of the site and the goals of the readers, and prioritize your content based on this. My plan described my mission statement, my audience, the goals of my readers, the goals of our business. It was helpful to see the way reader and publisher goals overlapped or didn’t when I built the content goal map.

Website wireframe built with Google Drawings.

Website wireframe built with Google Drawings.

Then I used the content map to create a wireframe of the site that showed the menus and essential areas of the site. I presented it to our artists and e-media team and they were able to translate it into a responsive site design. It took a lot of guesswork out of what should go where on the site and helped make my reasoning clear to everyone involved. I also was able to plan for a lightweight site design with a limited number of menu items and site areas that would easily resize to various screen sizes and form factors. The web and design team created mockups of several different screen size displays and we made tweaks based on them. We launched the site in September and have already had great feedback from readers.

If you take just one thing away from this, it should be this: When planning a site launch, do research about your audience and be deliberate in creating a site plan that is tailored to their needs. And giving readers compelling content will give you the added bonus of appealing to the Google Hummingbird algorithm, which, to steal a page from a Website Magazine webinar on SEO, values content that “delights humans.”

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The Web Editor Job Description

By Jennifer Ford

Recently I started a new full-time job that includes a web editor title. I got to see first hand how similar and yet how different web editor jobs can be, even in the same industry.

The overall goals for the web editor are always the same: Help increase traffic to your site, showcase quality content, and make the experience an excellent one for website visitors. In both my previous and current roles my web editor title was shared with another editorial title, which goes to show how flexible the role can be. One reason for this may be that some employers who haven’t employed a web editor before aren’t sure there’s enough work for a full-time position. I have found that there’s never enough time to do everything I want to do, but I still enjoy the variation of my dual roles as managing editor and web editor.

If you’re looking for web editor jobs, you’ll find a standard set of responsibilities in the job descriptions. They include planning an editorial schedule for a website and collaborating with other editors, designers, web developers, and marketing and sales staff. The web editor creates content – either by writing or acquiring it – and publishes it to the website’s content management system. Web editors also manage a websites’s blogs, polls, news, events calendar, social media, multimedia, e-newsletters, and any special projects like surveys or microsites. A web editor needs to keep on top of best practices for websites in terms of SEO and user experience, and needs to become an excellent content marketer. It’s increasingly helpful to have a handle on the basics of HTML, too. Here’s Princeton Review’s take on the web editor job description. And here’s a web editor job description from the UK-based creative professional company Creativepool.

A few things changed for me when I started my new job. I began using a different content management system, for example, which in principle is the same but in practice required some relearning. And I began editing and producing the videos that I shoot when doing interviews. I also use design software to lay out articles myself. But in general the basics have stayed the same as far as web editor duties.

In the end, although the web editor’s job responsibilities have become fairly standard and the position is becoming more familiar to employers, eventually it will be a given that “web” is part of an editor’s title, and all of the web editor responsibilities will be lumped in with any editor job description.

(Side note: There’s been discussion on the Web Editors LinkedIn group about salaries being lower for web editors. Take the Web Editors group poll on salary, if you’re a web editor.)

Pinterest for Your Publication

By Jennifer Ford

Most publications have gotten started with the basics of a social media plan by creating a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. But there are many, many other social media tools that your readers might be using and where you might be able to reach them. Readers and consumers these days don’t much care how you get your content to them, but they want to be able to find you on every screen and every device and every network they use.

That’s why you might want to consider Pinterest as part of your social media strategy to share your content. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that launched in 2010. In under 2 years it became one of the 10 largest social networking services. I can easily see why: its purpose is to share photos, which we all know innately (and gauging from the shift toward a more photo-centric Timeline, Facebook agrees) are the most enticing element of social networking. I joined Pinterest during its beta phase and it has since become a regular at my social media table along with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Businesses selling products marketed with images on Pinterest are seeing better sales than through Facebook. In a comparison of 50,000 purchases via Facebook and 50,000 purchases via Pinterest on jewelry site Boticca.com, Pinterest buyers spent $180 to Facebook’s $85 per purchase.

That’s great for an e-commerce site, you say, but what about for publications? They’re getting in on the game, too. Publications like the New York Times curate images from lifestyle and blog areas of their site on Pinterest. And take the magazine House Beautiful, for example. As of the time I am writing this, they maintain 41 boards of various themes on Pinterest. And this year they became the first Pinterest-enabled print magazine by implementing a digital watermark tool, like a QR code but integrated into an image, called Print-to-Pin (Digimarc). You can actually take a photo of the printed page with your smartphone and create a pin that will reference the House Beautiful site. There are still some wrinkles to be ironed out, but there are so many possible applications it makes the mind spin.

But there are reasons you might not want to use Pinterest, either. Consider the way it works: a steady stream of photos that reference a URL. For example, healthcare publications could face HIPAA compliance fines or other legal action if Pinterest users ever shared photos that did not have identifying information removed or did not have the necessary permissions attached. Even if you’re not risking something as serious as legal action, you don’t want to risk wasting your time. You need to gauge whether your readers are on Pinterest and would want to see your content there.

If you have decided you want to get on the Pinterest bandwagon, start by downloading the Pin It plugin that you can put on your site. You can also look to see if anyone has already pinned something from your website by going to http://pinterest.com/source/yourwebsite.com/. And, of course, you’ll want to develop a strategy for your activity on Pinterest and share it with other editors who are involved. When you pin your content, you’ll want to be sure that there are feature images that relate to the content, because the image associated with a URL is what users see in the pin, and if you don’t have one, Pinterest will try to use another image it can find, like your logo or an ad. Another resource that could be helpful is the book Pinfluence by social media expert Beth Hayden, which was published in July 2012.

Share your experiences! Leave a comment or tweet @jeniford or @thewebeditors.

Content Strategy for Web Editors

By Jennifer Ford

I believe content strategy is something web editors should understand and incorporate into daily practice. But I am no content strategy expert, so I invited a friend and long-time content strategist to answer a few questions. Monica Hays has been a web content strategy professional for 6 years and shares some information here you won’t want to miss.

1. What is content strategy? 

Such a simple question and if you ask 100 people, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. Here’s my stab at it.

Content strategy is the planning, implementation, and maintenance of a successful experience for the end user using words.

Using words? Sounds pretty basic. But at a base level, a successful user experience is comprehension. Did the user accomplish what she wanted from your site? Were you able to get across your business goals to the end user? A content strategist looks to achieve goals for both the end user and the business using words.

2. Who uses it?

We all use it. But before I invoke the ire of content strategists everywhere, let me explain: in planning for a site, app, process, or anything that will be consumed by your user, there are three equally important elements that work together. The content strategy, information architecture, and design. In my organization, we’re fortunate enough to have individuals working in these three roles. In our planning sessions, the information architect will chime in on how she thinks something should be written, the designer will chime in with how the page should be organized, and I will chime in with how I think something should look. But ultimately, we each have our disciplines in which we focus and are responsible. The content strategist (and subsequently the editor) is the decision maker when it comes to how we speak to our end user.

3. How do you use it in your current role?

I work for a relatively large organization where I’m able to focus on the words and their presentation. This entails visioning with the information architect, designer, subject matter experts, business managers, etc. In this planning process, we research what the client wants and how we are uniquely capable of delivering it. Then we devise how we want to present this to the user. My job is to write to this, marrying the clients needs with business objectives.

But it doesn’t end there. I work with the development teams using a content management system. I adhere to style guides and follow brand standards. I govern and maintain this content through elevation and into post-production. In my world, all of these elements run concurrently which leads to additional challenges (cough, agile methodology, cough), but that’s another topic for another day.

I must admit that I’m lucky to have all of these roles in place. So many of my colleagues and respected leaders in the CS community are freelancers, consultants, or they are simply the only person on the team wearing the UX hat. But when it comes to content strategy, the goal is the same: to help the user achieve success using content that is clear and concise. (For more info about what “clear and concise content” actually means, please see question 4.)

4. How can web editors incorporate content strategy into their work with managing website content?

This is a really great question. Editors are integral to a successful content strategy. While I may write the content and figure out the best way to speak to users, I’ve had the benefit of countless hours of research with subject matter experts and planning with IAs and designers. Editors are often brought in near the end of the project cycle and as such will have no effect on changing the organization, look, or feel of the page or flow. The editor is then limited to moving around words on a page or even worse, be relegated to simply proofreading for grammar and misspellings. (Not that this is bad per se, but the editors I know generally enjoy flexing their red pens in a more meaningful manner.)

Join your writer or content strategist often and early in visioning and development. Ask questions. Learn the goals of the project. The biggest challenge I face (and probably to the frustration of my editor) is that I’ll send my copy for review but then I’ll need to disregard suggestions because they just don’t align with the project. Perhaps the changes don’t mesh with how we want to speak to the user. Or even worse, the edits just won’t work in the space given.

These suggestions are definitely perfect world scenarios. Where there are writers, there are even fewer editors. But I think being engaged with the different elements of the project will provide a broader understanding and will only make the edits more meaningful to produce a winning content strategy.

5. Can you recommend resources you find helpful for learning more about content strategy?

Join your local content strategy Meetup group! In Philadelphia, we generally try to meet once a month where we’ll have cool speakers, fun workshops, or just a happy hour for mingling and networking (http://www.meetup.com/Philly-Content-Strategy/).

Read the CS bibles. Killer Web Content by Gerry McGovern (@gerrymcgovern), Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson), and The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane (@kissane).  I’m also really looking forward to Karen McGrane’s (@karenmcgrane) book, Content Strategy for Mobile.

Follow peers in the industry. I love the Brain Traffic blog, and I read a ton of great articles linked from super smarties I follow on Twitter (@abookapart, @GeraldGant, @angelacolter, @ahaval, @hejhejnatalya, @rahelabto name a VERY small few).

_________________

Monica Hays is a content strategist for an investment firm, where she plays with words and fights against excessive ellipses. Follow her at @SuprMonica.

I’d love to hear from you if you’re a web editor and a content strategist in one. Share your experiences below!

Mobile Apps in Publishing

By Jennifer Ford

Is your publication already ahead of the curve with mobile apps? Many larger publishers have long-established mobile apps. One visit to the Newsstand in the iTunes store and you’ll get a better grasp of the kinds of publications that are already in this publishing space.

But maybe you’re still waiting to jump on the app wagon. Maybe you don’t have resources to build an app in house. Maybe you can’t spend the money on hiring someone to build one for you. Or maybe your readers aren’t there (yet).

Any way you look at it, though, mobile apps are a growing facet of publishing and they’re something I keep an eye on. Considering approximately 67 million iPads have been sold to date, it might be time to start considering a tablet app to be a priority. The publication I work for is in the process of building mobile apps, and to edify myself on the subject of publishing and mobile apps, I attended “Mobile Publishing: Repurposing Your Content to Create Highly Engaging Apps,” a webinar hosted by FOLIO: magazine, presented by GENWI, a mobile app developer. I found it to be pretty interesting and thought I’d share a recap here.

Sean Brown, digital creative director for Fairchild Fashion Media, was online to share his experience with building a mobile app. He is also past interactive creative director for Condé Nast Media. Some mobile projects he’s worked on are The Daily W, the Epicurious cooking app and GQ for the iPhone (which has been replaced by the GQ iPad app).

During decisionmaking about creating a mobile app, Brown and his colleagues ask themselves several questions:

  • What’s the best interface?
  • How can we capitalize on the device’s functionality?
  • How do we get content onto a mobile app?
  • What will be the best user experience?

The key, for Brown, is identifying what each unique publication has to offer and optimizing it as something interesting and different for users. Each publication has its own brand, and  as an editor you need to find your goal and then figure out what device will work best for your app. The most important offering from Epicurious, for example, was recipes, so they created an app that showcased their recipes in an easily searchable app.

PJ Gurumohan, cofounder and CEO of GENWI, talked about his product, too. Theirs is one of many cloud-based mobile app products. I do not pretend to be a developer, but I do know that cloud computing is cool. The way these mobile apps work is you upload your content to your content management system, and the app (once all its parameters have been set) pulls from that to deliver it automatically in the right way on the right mobile device to the app users.

“Mobile is a completely different beast” from print and web, Gurumohan said. GENWI was able to create the Daily W app for Condé Nast in two weeks, which seems to be much faster than the norm. My theory on the fast turnaround for that app is that the publisher already had a content management system that was compatible with the GENWI platform.

Both Brown and Gurumohan talked about an “engaging” experience. You’re no longer competing with other magazines, said Brown, “you’re competing with users’ time and availability,” so a mobile app can reach people at times when they can’t read in print or on a website. A mobile app should be utilitarian, content rich, targeted to readers, informative and personal. From the developer perspective, Gurumohan added that touch activation, real-time content delivery and analytics are ways that a mobile app can benefit your publication.

The draw for a mobile app, said Brown, is that a tablet bridges the gap between a standard website experience and print. Gurumohan added that many publishers lost an emotional connection to their readers by switching to the web, and the tablet is a way to regain that connection. For publications supported by advertising, it is great news that users can be more connected and that ads can be more intuitive and less obtrusive to users.

One question asked by the audience that I thought was particularly important was, “How do smaller publishers with less money enter the game?” And unfortunately, it seems, if you want to create an app, you’re going to need to spend some money, unless you’re already a developer. Another good question was, “What analytics are important to look at after launching an app?” Important analytics are somewhat similar to your web analytics: number of downloads, number of articles read, location of readers, whether an article was shared on social media. Pay attention to those analytics to deliver more targeted content. Also, Some generic content management system apps like Blogger (Blogspot) allow you to automatically render your content into mobile, so smaller publishers might want to explore those options.

A video of the webinar is available for FOLIO: subscribers at “Mobile Publishing: Repurposing Your Content to Create Highly Engaging Apps.”

Share your thoughts below! Does your publication have a mobile app? Are you considering developing one? My next post will be a Q&A about content strategy.

Managing Multiple Blogs

By Jennifer Ford

One thing that’s so interesting about being a web editor is the way the job is so similar to and at the same time different from our previous roles as editors of print publications. An editor completing a copyedit for a print publication is editing for clarity, style and grammar just like a web editor does for web content. The difference, as our blogger Anne very aptly describes in this post about web editing, is that you must edit with the goal of traffic to the article first in your mind.

Another example of this similar-but-different characteristic of web editing is blog management. Blogs are a facet of your web publication just like an editorial, feature article  or column, and you’ll see better success if you give them just as much attention. There are so many different purposes for a blog that some publications have many of them. If you visit the blog directory of the New York Times, you’ll see they maintain a whopping 66 blogs at the moment. In addition to writing for a staff blog, I manage seven other blogs for my publication that are written by contributors. Most of those blogs have multiple authors. It can be overwhelming at times, even for just a handful of blogs, when you think about managing that many authors and trying to stick to a plan.

It’s important when managing multiple blogs to create a calendar. There are lots of tools available to choose from that can help you with this (one example is this WordPress blog calendar plugin and another is this Excel blog editorial calendar created by tech blogger Michele McGraw). Take into account the amount of time you’ll need for the blog posts: Will you be writing? Copyediting? Posting press releases? For myself, I’ve needed to create different systems based on the way each blog works, but in general I use a spreadsheet to work out a calendar for each blog. An overall editorial schedule that sets out the topics you’d like to see in the blog can help you generate traffic and keep things interesting. If, for example, you can coordinate posts to cross-promote other articles on your site or to coincide with events that are important to your readers, you can increase traffic to your blog and your site. When you’re establishing a new blog, ideally you should post at the very least once a week to make sure content is always fresh and to become a trusted source of information in your niche.

When you’re managing multiple authors, finding those authors for a contributed blog is the first hurdle. Social media (like Facebook and Twitter) and e-newsletters are good avenues for recruiting bloggers if you want to open up the invitation to your readers. We took applications for a student blog we recently launched, and requested that potential bloggers tell us about their motivation to write and their plans for topics, so we could choose the bloggers we thought would be reliable and interesting.  When you’ve assembled your list of contributors, remember that each author has his or her own style, schedule and strengths. You might want to give bloggers the freedom to post on their own, or you might want to request that they send posts to you so that you can publish them after proofreading. Try developing a tip sheet with any special instructions and style points that your blog authors need, so you can send it to the bloggers before they begin writing.

And have fun! I’ve developed great relationships with bloggers as we got to know one another better, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

My next post will be a discussion of a FOLIO: webinar I attended on creating mobile apps for publications.

Six Tips for Hosting a Great Webinar

A webinar can be an excellent source of traffic and interest for your site. A live event offers the chance for your audience to connect personally with an expert and shows them that your publication is a great source of expert information.

That said, it’s not a simple task to produce a webinar. It can be stressful. Things can go off the rails. When my publication began offering webinars, we had the benefit of a sister publication that had been doing it for a while that shared war stories and strategies, which saved us a number of times. Of course every publication will have its own internal system that coordinates the different steps and departments involved, but the steps are generally universal. Here are some of the tips I’ve learned.

1. Start planning well ahead of time. 
First, if you haven’t looked into platforms, here are a few popular options: GoToWebinar, Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Office Live Meeting and AnyMeeting. And when you have a presentation topic and presenter chosen, you need enough lead time to market and promote your webinar so that you can attract attendees. At least two months ahead of the webinar, send your presenter an agreement to sign. Book the date in the webinar platform and create a landing page for your site where the registration link will live. Choose a day and time that make sense for the audience (unfortunately for many webinar hosts, this might be outside business hours). Then…

2. Promote your webinar.
Do you have an e-newsletter that you can use to mention the webinar? Can you run house ads on your site? Are you using social media for your publication? Use all of these and any other marketing avenues to tell your audience about the webinar, and be sure to include the URL for the registration page. Another helpful tool is an email/eblast dedicated specifically to promoting the webinar, and don’t underestimate the power of that email’s subject line. Send it around 1 to 2 weeks before the webinar to get the best response; sending it too far ahead of time means people will forget about it, and sending it too close to the webinar means they won’t be able to make the time to attend.

3. Go over all the details with your presenter. Then do it again.
There will be quirks in any webinar presentation platform, and both you and the presenter need to be prepared for them. One quirk I have to work with is that the platform I use, GoToWebinar, does allow presenters to use a microphone, but my employer chooses instead to use a conference phone line for presenters, so I have to remind presenters of this repeatedly, because the automated reminders they receive from GoToWebinar tell them otherwise. You might even want to schedule a practice run with your presenter so he or she understands how the webinar platform works. This is a great idea for first-time presenters. Send reminder emails with all of the pertinent information within a few days of the presentation.

4. Prepare, and prepare for the worst.
Your presenter could lose the passcode. He might call in from his cell phone and lose reception. She might have an emergency and be away from her computer (and the presentation file). He might have a dog who decides to start barking in the next room. There always seems to be something that goes awry, and it’s your job to plan for it and try to recover from it gracefully. Request a copy of the presentation slides, ask for multiple phone numbers for your presenter in case you get disconnected during the presentation, remind presenters to use a land line in a quiet room if at all possible. If you can, you might even want to secure a back-up presenter in case of an emergency or be prepared to present the topic yourself.  Also make sure attendees have all the information they need to access the webinar. You might also consider offering a presentation handout for attendees to download. Always keep in mind what will be most helpful for the attendees.

5. On presentation day, stay calm. 
Like many writers and editors, I prefer to stay “behind the curtain,” so hosting webinars is stressful. To combat the jitters, the first time I hosted one I wrote a script for the intro and outro. You should also smile while you’re talking – attendees can hear it! If something goes wrong during the presentation, tell the attendees as soon as you can that you’re having a problem and are working to fix it. Think ahead of time about what you’ll tell attendees in this case. Encourage and remind attendees to ask questions of the presenter – after all, that’s the true benefit for them of the live event. And be sure to thank the presenter and the attendees when the presentation is over. 

6. Check the stats to help you plan your next presentation.
You should be able to get a report from your webinar platform that will give you helpful information about how useful your webinar was for your audience. The report should tell you the percentage of registered attendees that actually attended (I’ve found that a successful webinar will have about 30% of the registered participants attending). GoToWebinar tells me, based on the computer activity of attendees, exactly how engaged and interested they were during the presentation, among other stats. This can be very helpful when you’re planning another webinar, or if you’re deciding whether to do another one. Attendee stats and feedback is important to gauging the success of the topic, the presenter and the time of day you chose to present the webinar.

I’d love to hear more in the comments from folks who have other good webinar tips, or if any of you have questions. In my next post I’ll write about managing multiple blogs and bloggers. I look forward to hearing from you!