A content-first approach to redesigning a complex website [case study]

Aug 30, 2022

In 2019, Sandy Heubner, Digital/Direct Marketing Manager at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), was grappling with a website that was no longer meeting the organization’s needs. For WSPS, the website is an essential tool for connecting Ontario’s manufacturing, agriculture, and service businesses to the organization’s health and safety support services, information, and guidance.

Screen capture of the previous WSPS website

The previous WSPS website

“Our website was old, and multiple contributors had written the content over many years; it no longer aligned with our brand, priorities, or customer needs. Our site was failing to guide visitors to useful resources or services, solve visitor problems, and support lead generation,” Sandy explains. “While we had started some initial work with UX and web development agencies, I recognized that to tackle a redesign of this magnitude, we needed to step back and put content strategy first.”

Rethinking the overall website content approach

Sandy had previously attended a content strategy webinar I presented for and had successfully implemented some of my recommended approaches. When the need for more direct support arose, she reached out about my website content strategy service and we started working together in the summer of 2019.

We began with a series of stakeholder interviews during which we explored website-related business objectives and the needs of the organization’s diverse mix of site visitors. I also reviewed the existing website content, select print content, and assets previously developed by other vendors, including:

  • Marketing and website personas
  • Brand vision, identity and strategy
  • Preliminary sitemap
  • Content audit and evaluation
  • Website audit

Sandy describes my approach to the discovery process: “Marlene took the time to get to know our customers and us, and did a deep dive into the research, analytics and existing strategies needed to inform our website plans. We benefitted from her willingness to work in an inter-agency environment with many vendors, as well as her clear, structured plan for strategy development.”

I presented the completed website content strategy in October of 2019, with my guidance and recommendations in the following areas:

  • Website purpose, objectives and indicators of success
  • Priority website audiences, their top-level needs, and relevant key messages
  • Voice and tone for website content
  • User questions that the website must answer
  • Priority content categories and topics for the new site, broken down into parent, child, grandchild and great-grandchild pages (see Wired Impact’s article on website structures for more information)

Next steps: strategy-informed website and content development

Sandy and her team used the website content strategy as a framework for the remainder of the project, informing content development (see below), site navigation and structure, tech stack decisions and more.

Content planning: page-by-page writing plan

With hundreds of pages of content needed for the new website, the responsibilities for writing, editing, updating, and reusing copy were shared among internal WSPS team members, the web agency, and me — all led by WSPS Digital Marketing Specialist Elyia Morgan.

In late 2019, I helped Elyia organize the process, translating the website content strategy into a detailed content planner for all core pages specifying purpose, audience, responsibility, key message, call to action, links, and other guidance. I then facilitated a series of calls to help the team plan the rest of the content.

“We could not have gotten through our new website’s content planner, which was critical to the success of our new website, without Marlene. She helped us navigate the process step-by-step,” says Elyia. “She was especially helpful in developing the strategy behind the content planner and the role each piece would play.”

Creating content based on strategy: web copywriting.

Screen capture of the new WSPS About page and section

New WSPS About page and section

By early 2020, we had a content strategy and a detailed work plan, and the web development agency had designed the site architecture and individual page templates. At this point, the writing team met to discuss copy structure and guidelines for writing within the established design and visual approach.

From March to early December of 2020, I developed copy for core pages intended to guide visitors through their website journey, with a focus on:

  • Branded content (e.g., About Us, History, How We Help)
  • Product and service pages (e.g., Training and Certification, Consulting)
  • Self-serve resource index pages (e.g., Developing a Health & Safety Policy & Program, Inspections & Investigations, Workplace Hazards)

“Marlene’s expert writing skills were a huge benefit in helping us position critical parent pages, set the engaging yet professional tone of our digital brand, and ensure pages were optimized for SEO through keywords use,” Elyia explains. “While Marlene helped us set up questionnaires to help extract key information she could use in the project, we truly appreciated her willingness to hop onto calls with our stakeholders to flush out information and close gaps. Her open communication style is just what we needed as there were so many moving parts, and I grew to look forward to our weekly check-in calls.”

Other areas of support

As a result of having worked closely with Sandy and Elyia from the strategy stage onward, I was able to advise and support some of their additional website needs throughout the redesign, including:

Screen capture of WSPS Resource Hub

New WSPS resource hub, reflecting taxonomy for content curation

Taxonomy for onsite content curation: The digital marketing team was implementing a new content marketing and content experience platform to curate their vast library of self-serve health and safety information into a Resource Hub. I facilitated content curation and taxonomy discussions, reviewed available data and insights, and provided recommendations for a website taxonomy/tagging structure based on the website content strategy, content types, and insights previously gleaned about the user journey.

Mini-strategy and copy for a special website section: After the core website copy was completed, I supported an internal client group: the agriculture team. This team needed a special industry-specific website section to address the agriculture sector’s unique health and safety needs. We developed a mini-strategy for their section, and I wrote another set of core pages, positioning the organization’s farm expertise, knowledge, and ability to support this industry sector.

Results and next steps

Because of the size and complexity of the organization, the range of business objectives supported by the website, and the diversity of visitor needs, the WSPS website project was lengthy and multifaceted. However, by starting with content strategy, Sandy and her team proceeded with clarity and alignment, making deliberate plans based on an established framework, and launching the new site in August 2021.

“Today, the core website purposes defined in the strategy continue to inform our website and digital marketing decisions. And we continue to work with Marlene as an extension of our team. Most recently, we worked with her to develop our new live chat strategy and scripts,” says Sandy. “Marlene’s approach is collaborative and transparent, and we share the same values and work style. Our website is the largest face of our brand, and Marlene helped us ensure that it represents us in the way it looks, feels, and serves our members.” 

Are you planning a new website for your nonprofit organization? Learn more about my website content strategy service and how it can help you put content first.

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