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How to Build a Content Outline for Your Next Web Project (with Free Template)

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Josh Hill  /  Marketing

You did it. You finally convinced the the higher-ups at your company to forgo the status quo and upgrade your clunky and outdated website.

Great! So what’s next? Well, now comes the hard part where you need to figure out what content and imagery needs to go onto your website.

So how do you organize and present your entire team’s thoughts and web ideas?

Well, you can start with our Free Content Outline For Web Projects. Check it out below and grab your copy and then read on to learn how to use it.

 

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What is a content outline and why do I need one?

A content outline is a collaborative document that helps teams outline their content requirements for web projects.

Your team can use this document to brainstorm together and develop your primary and secondary page list, individual page sections, content ideas, and even the exact content that will go on your website.

 

When should I build a content outline?

From a high level, your website project will look something like this:

  1. Define Audience
  2. Define Goals and Strategy
  3. Build Sitemap
  4. Build Content Outline
  5. Build Wireframes
  6. Build Design… Develop… Deliver… Refine…

As you can see, before the content outline is built, you need to have the audience defined along with the goals and strategy for the website.

So before you build your content outline, you should ensure you understand your customer personas and what actions you are trying to have users take on your website.

Most companies have a good idea as to who their target market is, however, many don’t have a true understanding of their customer personas. Before you build your website make sure you clearly understand the user’s goals, pains, challenges, behaviors, and habits. You should also understand what type of messaging resonates with your personas.

After building your personas, make sure that you understand what the goal of your website will be. Are you trying to sign users up for a free trial? Demo? Provide information?

The goal of your website not only affects your call to action but also your supporting content and imagery, so make sure this is clear from the onset.

Once you have a firm understanding of your customer personas and the goal of the website, you’ll be ready to start your content outline!

There are 7 main steps to completing your outline that include:

Building your collaborative team
Building your list of primary and secondary pages
Deciding the goal of each page and what sections to include
Brainstorming content for each section
Collaborating with your team of experts
Collaborating with designers and developers
Deciding on your final copy and handing it off

Let’s start with building your team!

 

Build your collaborative team

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

Building a website for a B2B startup is no easy task, and no single person is going to be able to tackle the project themselves. You’ll likely want multiple stakeholders from your marketing team, executive team, sales team, along with subject matter experts in your company to chime in at various times.

Each one of these individuals brings their own unique perspectives on the products or services being offered, which helps ensure that small details about the offering or customer persona are not forgotten.

Before diving into your content outline, make sure you’ve assembled a small but knowledgeable team that will assist with this project.

 

Build a list of primary and secondary pages

Once you’ve built your project team, take some time to build a list of primary and secondary pages that you may want to include.

You can think of your list of primary pages as the items that would be on your top-level menu. These will be the big buckets that your other subpages fit under.

When the UpTrending team completed CloudCheckr’s website, their content outline included:

1. Home
2. Solutions
3. Product
4. Partners
5. Pricing
6. Resources
7. Customers

Secondary pages are great opportunities to be persona-driven and target more specific needs. For CloudCheckr, we worked closely with their team to break the solutions section down into industry-specific secondary pages, while breaking the platform section down into cost/benefit specific secondary pages.

When filling in your template, simply use the top section to brainstorm and jot down page ideas.

 

Decide the goal of each page

Now that you have a good idea as to the pages that you’ll have on your website, it’s time to brainstorm the content that will go on these pages.

Start by defining a specific goal for your page. Think about what you want your users to get from each page and what actions you want them to take. This could mean signing users up for a demo after educating them on a specific benefit or having them interact with your chat widget to get more information.

After deciding the goal of your page, think about what features or functionality you’d like to see on the page. This could be a video of a specific part of your tool, a certain type of CTA, a certain popup, or an important section. Once that brainstorming is complete, you can start to define each section of your web pages.

 

Brainstorm content ideas for each section

Defining the sections of your website helps give your site much-needed structure as you think through the content. These sections can be designated for things like a hero image or video, social proof, blog snippets, benefit explanation, and feature lists among many others.

To use your content template, start by brainstorming your ideal list of sections. Remember that you can always remove sections so get down as many good ideas as you and your team can think of. From your list of sections, start to think through the type of content that you want in each section. This could be:

– A Headline
– Subheadline
– Video
– CTA
– Copy ideas
– Animation
– Illustration

In the section notes, you should then start to piece together how you’d like the content pieces that you listed above to fit together. Do you want a product screenshot aligned to the left with a list of bullet points with a spring animation on the right? Write it in this section!

Finally, you can start to fill in what your actual copy may be. Remember that this is just your initial draft so it doesn’t need to be perfect or complete.

 

Discuss with your experts

At this point, you have a strong idea of what your website will look like and what content will be included. Now it’s time to make sure that your entire team is onboard. Bring in your subject matter experts, marketing team members, sales team members, and executive team to review and comment on the work you’ve already completed.

If you’re using our template as a Google Doc you can simply share the document with your team members so they can comment.

We recommend sharing the document, having your team comment, and then bringing everyone together to meet and discuss things more deeply. It’s important to give every stakeholder an opportunity to voice their unique opinions and concerns.

Once you’ve met with your entire project team you can go back and refine your template.

 

Collaborate with your designers and developers

Your content template still does not need to be 100% done before talking to your designers and developers, but having it as complete as possible will help the conversation.

Having a content template that you have thought through will help either an agency or your in-house designers think through what is possible and how much time and resources it will take to build your ideal website.

 

Decide on final copy and handoff

In reality, the copy of your website is never “Final”, however it’s great to have your baseline copy that you can test or iterate on going forward.

After you’ve brainstormed with your designers and developers, you can go back and refine your copy even further. Be sure to continue the project as a collaborative effort between each member of your team and give everyone a chance to comment on this round of changes.

Ideally, you’ll have your outline to a point where you can hand it off to the designers and developers to start their work. Remember, this does not need to be 100% finished at this point and there will likely be changes as the project progresses. Now you have a great starting point and a clear guide.

 

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