Get Clear On Your Copy: Why We Use GatherContent

Hey there! We have newer articles about content strategy that you might like. Check out How to Update, Repurpose, and Retire Content, or dig deep into your content analysis with 7 Ways to Tell if Your Content Marketing is Working (and What to Do if It’s Not)

A website redesign or update is the best time to analyze your content, clear out the clutter, and look for opportunities to fill in the gaps.

But how do you know what content you have? Is your content operating at its most effective, or could it be improved? And are you giving your visual and written content equal weight on your site?

The answers to those important content strategy questions can be found using Forge’s favourite tool, GatherContent.

“Of all our services, it’s the one that saved us the most time and provided the largest value to our clients,” says Forge principal Shawn Johnston. And he means it.

GatherContent is web content management and collaboration software. It allows large, remote teams to work together to input different types of content via easy-to-create (and use) templates. You can use labels to mark progress, set deadlines, and easily view the pieces of important projects from anywhere.

Prior to using GatherContent, Forge partners would send us images and text via other more tedious methods. The switch has saved our clients dozens of hours per project, and our team hundreds. It also dramatically simplified our entire process because it removed the distraction of decoration.

Let’s look at how this system has helped us provide better quality service in all aspects of web design and digital strategy.

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Experience first

Writing content is, and should always be, about the reader’s experience. You may have the best business or invention ever created, an incredible insight to share, or a revolutionary process that will change the world. None of that matters if you can’t convey it well in your copy.

If a visitor to your site can’t get the information they’re looking for quickly, and can’t make sense of what they find, they’re gone in less than five seconds flat. That’s called ‘bounce’, and bounce is bad for business.

Our process puts the user first from the onset, starting with User Experience (UX) and flowing through to design and content. We do it this way because it structures how visitors interact with what you have to say, and it sets the framework for how you’re going to say it.

Whether you do the writing yourself or delegate to a copywriter, it’s always easier if you have someplace to start.

Collaboration

Simply put, GatherContent is a paint-by-numbers approach to copywriting that takes narrative and breaks it into functional, goal-oriented, web-ready text blocks. It allows us to help partners curate quality, purposeful content.

Starting with the sitemap and UX prototypes as a guide, we map the layout of your website in GatherContent and provide text boxes for you to complete. This process is called Content Prototyping.

GatherContent presents a simple, author-friendly interface that is neutral and distraction free. Page elements like headers, intro paragraphs, links, and upload fields for images are clearly laid out. We base them on many factors, such as how your previous site’s pages were structured, or what content our design and strategy team requires to build the best experience.

Content is saved as you type, and useful or repeatable page structures can be turned into templates to save you valuable hours in re-entry. Every item stores a complete revision history. This makes bulk-population of things like locations and office hours simple. This way, content is easy to edit and approve, and a breeze to move into your new website.

Prior to using GatherContent, we actually had to redesign sites to fit content that our clients had which they were unable to craft to fit the version of the design that was signed off. Yikes.

Multiple contributors from the same company can be tapped to add content, templates, and specialty knowledge where it’s required. Both contributors and editors can add comments, post replies right in the editing page, and approve posts or send them back to the drawing board. This lets you cut through a lot of the email-chasing and iteration by concentrating all efforts in one place: on the page.

On the back-end, GatherContent helps us out by automatically stripping out code, lets us set word or character limits on fields (so a header sentence stays a sentence), and gives us the ability to define a tightly controlled markup that’s ready for publishing.

Not all content is good content. Before you move everything into a fresh site, conduct an audit using A Simple Content Strategy Checklist.

Getting clear on your copy

While GatherContent is a great tool, it’s helpful to be mindful of KISS when creating the content you put into it: “keep it simple, stupid”. Focus on the following tips when writing to get the most out of your page and blog content.

  • Clarity – Mark Twain once wrote “Anybody can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.” Translation: “Never use eight words when four will do.” Avoid jargon, put the most important points first, and make the salient points easy to find.
  • Brevity – Short is sweet. Unless your website is a deep academic or technical resource, like an engineering library, no individual page, should be text-heavy. Consider your audience when writing wordy content, and save it for SEO-friendly long-form blog posts.
  • Consistency – Once someone has read one of your pages or posts it should be transparent how they go about finding what they want. Keep it consistent, and make it scannable. Nothing deters someone faster than trying to navigate other people’s creativity to find the information they want.

For examples of how our partners’ sites have grown from the GatherContent collaboration we used with them, check out our Case Studies.