The Secret of Optimizing Content in a Deadline World

iterate-green-chalkboard

If you're like most of us, the pressure is great to make content live. And especially with all the approvals that go into our work, it's a miracle it gets published in any kind of readable form.

Well, don't give up hope: there's a secret way to improve your work's readability, usability and accessibility. And it's all about time.

On the Web, A Page is Never Done

The beauty of the web is that content is never set in stone the way it is in print. Unless you're a freelancer or your organization is incredibly strict about edits, you can simply wait a week or three until your perspective on the page has improved (and the hubbub about its publication has died down). Then give it another look.

Iteration is all the rage in programming and web design these days (read: agile). There's no reason this shouldn't be true as well for content, even after it goes live.

Edit Just for Better Use

You don't want to make substantive changes without approvals. But you can apply changes dedicated to:

  • tightening the words
  • finding better ways to present the information
  • helping users with disabilities access your message

Those edits will only help your page by:

  • giving your readers a better experience
  • improving the odds that your message gets heard
  • helping to improve your page’s positioning in search results
  • increasing your audience by doing what you can to make the page readable by users with disabilities

and thereby help your company or organization. I often iterate my pages several times until they feel right.

Win Trust for Your New Approach

The first few times you make these kinds of changes, you might need to show 'before' and 'after' drafts to stakeholders prior to publishing to show them that nothing substantive will be altered. Once they have that confidence that you won't undo their work and that you're trying to increase readership, you should be able to win their trust for subsequent efforts.

If you really need to prove your case, I'd suggest having a colleague (for impartiality purposes) show the currently live version of the page and the UX-improved draft to 5-7 random people and ask which they find easier to comprehend. If you've learned the UX practices well, there should be no contest.

 

There will always be nitpicky stakeholders who want every word just-so. But I find that a few weeks after a page goes live, those folks tend to have moved on to another focus.