person wearing jeans and boots jumping into a mud puddle and making a splash

Plan by Jumping in the Middle

I often employ a counter-intuitive approach to help clients bring greater awareness and access to the depth of content on their websites. No matter how we plan, it’s a challenge for many solo and small businesses to even know what they’re going to create at the start. My method recommends creating this content however it feels best in the beginning, and we then revise it later. After the body of work grows and we have customers interacting with it, we can begin to review and analyze to decide what grouping of the material makes sense.

This is called ‘planning from the middle work’; or similarly, write first, edit later.

Usability experts rely on user interviews early in the project. I’m realistic, not every client has the resources to do this. Others know exactly what they want and believe everyone will agree.

My experience is that after some time (the exact amount varies), feedback provided by real users can better direct resources for a richer and more usable site than if we began with this step. It’s not to say the site was a spaghetti mess at the beginning, by providing time for the actual focus to develop will result in a site that better relates to the business goals.

3 Steps to Jump into the Middle

First, find what to highlight. I like to review stats at this stage. Are certain webpages or posts (blog or social media) more popular than others?

Second, figure out why the business should highlight it. How does bringing attention to this type of content serve the bigger picture?

Third, take time to review the content and tease out the how. Look for groupings to create consistency for displaying content. Can you help a visitor find the product with a more direct approach? Is there a better way to search or filter?

A Basic Example

An artist wants to expand awareness of their work and their offerings beyond selling high priced finished items. They aren’t sure what might work best — should they mass produce certain works as low-cost items, teach online, or do both? Their current website is a photo gallery of finished pieces with simple purchase buttons. For the past year, they’ve posted short video clips highlighting specific painting techniques to social media and have enjoyed making these. They also shared scanning and printing cards of a few pieces.

We begin by looking through the social media posts and reading the comments. It is quickly obvious that there’s a trend, the videos showing techniques were the most popular. The most frequent comment was “I want to learn how to do this!”

While we can explore creating lower-cost items in the future, it’s clear that there is an audience who wishes to learn how to work the technique now. Based on sales of finished work, it’s also evident that pieces with that technique sell the best.

Here’s one approach we could take since we now have information. First, make it easier to find finished pieces that use a specific technique. Second, create a way for potential students to preview different techniques and sign up for a class.

In the gallery we could add tags for the techniques used in each piece. This allows for the creation of filters and different ways to sort and display based on technique if we want to.

As social media doesn’t have a very good way to show all the short videos, we can create a new page that shares the most popular ones. Under each technique, we can link to the gallery using the new tag. We can also have a link to a course sign up when it’s available.

In time there’s more we can do to create automatic linking between all the elements and tie in new material based on feedback from customers and students. This is a start to improve the functionality and use of the site.

I hope this helps you your content and develop a new plan? Please contact me if you would like additional help and support.