Gathering website copy and the bigger picture

Many times I’ve worked with clients who are super-keen to get their new website live, why wouldn’t they be? One of the major bug-bears suffered by development agencies is getting hold of copy. Copy gathering, be it imagery, product data or general site wording is in my experience, 80% of the time, a problem. Why is it a problem? It falls into two main areas:

– The copy isn’t of high enough quality or well-organised
– The copy needs creating

If the client can’t provide copy as requested don’t end up in a blame game, you can at least both agree it will delay the project and nobody wants that. If a project manager is given a ton of images and descriptive text that need arranging it’s frustrating but look on the bright side, nine times out of ten it’s perfectly do-able after chatting to a developer about the options – and even if it comes down to manual copy n’ paste at least you have copy to work with.

The latter copy-creation issue is more of a problem. Chances are no one in the office is an expert in the product the client is selling so you’re stumped but you have options. You could use a copywriter but if they have nothing to work with, you’ll need and expert in the field an that’s expensive; a cost likely not in your original quote. My advice is to use what you have, no matter how thin – work something out and get it uploaded. Don’t hold back waiting for copy to come in – it may come in, but I bet it will be too late!

Show the client something, anything! it’s important. Even if the dev site ends up containing titles that say ‘Product 1, Product 2’ etc it show’s the client there is a gap and they need to fill it. It helps the client a lot, people find it very hard to envisage a virtual product – helping them see it is key. In my experience if a client can see a gap to fill they’re more inclined to get it sorted than being told ‘Need copy for product pages’.

Another big part of missing copy woes is the classic ‘flowery’ spiel needed for the ‘about us’ or similar pages. Why does everyone leave this till last? it’s important stuff! Just how important is debatable but I’ll be the first to say don’t let it stop the site from launching. I’ve known sites not launch for months purely because the client couldn’t provide copy and didn’t want the site to go live until it was word-perfect written. Ultimately this is the client’s choice, I get that, but when it happens I firmly believe it’s the agencies job to enlighten the client and show them the bigger picture. Would a business delay opening a shop because they were missing some pictures on the wall or a waiting for a poster? I think not!

Take this example:

Email from agency to client: “We need the copy, it’s holding up the site launch”
Client thoughts: “Bah, that can wait, I’ve got more pressing things on today”

Don’t irritate the busy client, perverse individuals who got out of bed on the wrong side and don’t hold purse-strings may even slow things down more! Said in the right way you might be able to turn it round.

Phone call from agency “Hey, I know you’re really busy and it’s such a shame we’ve not had all the copy yet! The site is looking great, we want to show your customers. I’ve had an idea, how about you give me a paragraph over the phone for the ‘about us’ page now, I’ll tidy it up, get it on the site and we soft-launch? We can easily upload your final copy once you’ve found time. The other benefit is that search engines can start to find you – we don’t want to be left behind.”

Copy starts with the client but it’s everyone’s responsibility, think about it; help the client and get creative! Unless the copy is offensive, a site that’s online is better than one that isn’t!