Content Entry: Whose Job is it Anyway?

I’ve had an ongoing debate with my coworkers for some time now regarding the subject of content entry. We know the story behind content, he’s king. Cliché as it sounds, it’s still the case. In my experience, content is the most important piece of the puzzle that no one thinks about until the last second. Internally, we’ve tried to circumvent this phenomenon by including content population within our process.

Should the project include it, we’ll work with clients to finalize their content strategy from top to bottom and work with them to finalize copy, imagery, and other assets. The part that comes with some internal divide in my office, however, is that pesky population part. Who does it, and when?

We should do it, we provide a service

One side of the office argues that we should provide content entry as part of the development process. While final content shouldn’t hold up development in any way, this camp feels that once content has been finalized, it should be provided from the client in its native form and it’s our job as the service provider to enter it all. I see the positive, customer service aspect of that solution, but I also see a ton of red flags.

First and foremost, have you ever received photo gallery content (read: photos) in a Word doc? Yeah, I have too. Last week in fact. Although it’s labeled as final, much of the content is still missing and much of what’s there isn’t organized in such a way that makes much sense to the developer or production manager that actually has to input everything.

By far, though, the worst offense that I can see is that it’s delaying a completely necessary part of the project. The part where you hand over the keys to your client and they actually use the content management system you spent 3 months setting up for them.

We provide extensive documentation in conjunction with a site staging environment, and the tools in place exist for the client to use. Why would we delay that and take it upon ourselves to use the tools for them? We would do it because content entry is not fun, it’s very tedious. We’d also do it to make sure it’s done on time and in such a way where we can take advantage of the little tips and tricks we’ve come up with can be fully taken advantage of. But is it for naught?

While the initial content population might be top to bottom perfection if done in house, at some point you’re going to have to relinquish control to the client and they’re going to do everything in their power to make that text centered, bold, capitalized, and “a red that pops” once a new promotion begins. I guess what I’m saying is, why wait until the site is live to try and sway your client in the right direction as opposed to when it’s on the staging server, hidden from public view? If the client is populating all of the content, you can monitor how they are using the CMS and educate accordingly.

The client should do it, it’s their site

The other camp at the office feels that it’s the job of the client to populate their own content on their website once it’s to a stage where the CMS will facilitate the additions. This camp feels that in addition to the documentation we provide, the client needs working knowledge of the website, because chances are they didn’t read the documentation anyway, and won’t until an emergency edit needs to be made at a later date.

While we do work with clients on a consistent basis to finalize content, the only one to have it truly and absolutely organized is the client, and often times it’s very difficult to have a client transfer the assets in such a way where it makes as much sense on our end. Why cloud the waters? Why not just let the client enter the content in the exact way it’s organized in their head?

Many times when we’re entering content we’ll see that the wrong assets are incomplete or categorized improperly, which causes a certain amount of additional back and forth with the client to number one make it clear which page we’re talking about and number two explain what was wrong and what the client needs to do to make it right. This is often a very circular, frustrating process that we’d rather avoid altogether. If the client is entering their own content, it’s a moot point because they plainly see the exact problem at hand.

The major argument against the client entering their own content is customer service. Is content entry putting your client to work? I try to put myself in the shoes of the client, having just gone through this extensive process of working with a company to build my dream website. I might not be the most computer savvy person, but I went with this company because they showed me that managing my website isn’t as scary and impossible as I was once told. I want to get my hands dirty, I don’t want to be scared of making updates to the site in the future, once I’m on my own.

What’s my take?

I know I can’t help my bias of actually building these websites and thinking about how much a client willshould love working with the content management system the way I’m setting it up. I try to be objective with this situation, as I do with all client situations. I feel that it helps me do my job that much better, but I see both sides with this argument.

I do have a formulated an opinion on the subject, though. I’d prefer to hold off in saying it outright in an effort to hopefully spark some conversation in the comment thread, but at some point soon I’ll plead my case in line with one of the camps above.