Now with some understanding of how to present your material, and what role you are going to take: editor, writer, promoter, site manager and acquisition specialist; take the work from the marketing step and apply it to the web formats work. An example is taking a message or positioning statement and creating articles as the core content. You can start with a list of topics or titles and sketch briefly each article. You can collect a few images (or videos) if you have products or services with something to show. A brief description of what will be developed by an outside service is also a good way to start.
Be Specific: What Is The Core Message, Detailed Format, and Style
Learning what to do is a great first step. Planning and detailed descriptions are even better. It helps even a solo developer, to describe the job at hand. Clearly writing and sketching the work helps with the post (or page, or section) outline and writing work. Clear and detailed description brings life into the work for the first time. Many writers and artists skip this step and “Just Do It”. With all do respect to exercise coaches and the famous Nike tag line, “Just Doing It” sometimes means less thinking and planning, and throwing things out to the world and seeing what sticks.
Specific details about content cans start with a general description of the actual content message. The format, for example: short blog articles, messages on Facebook pages and Twitter streams, pages on a site, guest blog articles and teaser announcements on Linked-In groups and YouTube pages. Style or tone, the language used and specific terms (i.e. technical, business or domain related, fashionable jargon) is very helpful when outsourcing the work to writers or editors. If a specific design style related to the content is useful, a description, sketch, or even an example from a public site is good. All the ideas about what to write and the way it will be presented should get you started in this step.
Thinking on Paper, Top Level, both the overall strategy and specific tactics, is crucial to getting off the ground. If you are doing it as one single writer, designing and testing examples on paper is a good way to start. If you are working with others, starting out on paper or a board is a common way to get everyone involved from the very start. Starting from the “bottom”: article material or headings (titles) is also useful. Much like a writer starts out with a character description or a lyricist starts out with a line. Even a series of article ideas is useful.
Graphics, Links, Connections, Widgets, and Layout
Sometimes “seeing” the final page on the screen is helpful. It is useful when you are looking at comparable sites and social media pages. A sketch and even taking a screen shot from different sources is really nice. You can test out different layouts and see how different page elements look. Trying out different themes in WordPress is fairly easy. When you have not added too much customization, testing out a different look is good to try out. In Blogger, there is a graphical layout system (called template designer 2) where you can change colors, background and even column width with a click and move of a mouse. It is much easier than earlier methods of changing numbers in a file and seeing the result after reloading the page. In most graphical systems you can see the changes before actually making the change, so even if you have “live” articles and readers, they are not seeing your changes until they are final.
Test out different widgets. These are blocks of graphics and text which make up a page. Some widgets display information from a specific source, like Twitter posts or Facebook status. Some widgets give information like local weather or stock price. As the social media connection to your content becomes more crucial, plugins to your groups and pages become also useful. Take advantage of these features and make your page look and feel like a full display. These details are nice to have even before you start developing your content. It will give you another way of defining and guiding your work.
For more ambitious sites, you can actually test out a full blog with WordPress.COM or Blogger. Before you pick your own domain name, a specific theme or design, real content, or even a message strategy. You can pretty much do most of the early design work, some limitations exist, yet not enough to get you started. Getting a full page designed and writing a few test posts, creating a few pages (about, help) can give you the initial boost to get going more seriously later. When you are doing this work, pay attention to what you see. Once you start looking at the details the work starts making sense.