Creating, editing, and managing content for the new site

As Patrick works on building and testing the site, I’m thinking about what will go into it. A clean, usable architecture is great, but not if you fill it with clunky, cludgy words. Since these prototypes represent a relatively dramatic shift in how we present content, finding the words to fill our pages isn’t going to be a cut and paste kind of operation.

I had several things to consider:

  1. Who to involve.
  2. How to involve them.
  3. How to manage the data generated.
  4. How to share the information appropriately.
  5. How to do it all without making myself batty.

In the end, I decided on Basecamp as the tool that we’ll frame the whole project around. For a relatively low monthly fee, anyone can use Basecamp to manage an extensible number of proejcts for an unlimited number of users, and it has all the classic features of robust project management software: To Dos, a Calendar, a message system, file sharing, and most important for my purposes, collaborate WriteBoards.

To make this all happen, I’ve done the following:

  1. Set up a Basecamp project around the idea that each page of the website will be written by the person/team/department who oversees that work. This involved, essentially, creating the project, naming it, and inviting all stakeholders as participants.
  2. Created a To-Do item for each page (ie, “Write: Borrowing Policy”) and assigned it to the lead person for that area.
  3. Held a meeting to introduce the project to all stakeholders at once, and explain the goals and the tool.
  4. Asked each leader to create a WriteBoard for their individual tasks, using our existing documentation as a springboard, and then coordinating their teams to edit the text collaboratively. WriteBoards track versions, and authors, in a way that makes collaboration dead simple.
  5. Created a set of To-Do items for the editing phase — “Edit: Borrowing Policy” — and assigned them largely to myself as the editor of the project. (The exceptions are the pages I am writing; they will be edited by a librarian with a great eye for detail and tone.)
  6. Asked that each writer use the “email this person” feature in Basecamp to inform me when their writing tasks are complete, so I can begin editing, using the versioning in the WriteBoards to indicate which version is the final one.
  7. When I am done editing, I will use the same feature to notify Patrick that the content is ready to be inserted into the finished site.

That multi-phase approach has a few different reasons behind it. First, the single-editor approach ensures that the content will have a coherent tone and approach, will adhere to whatever stylesheet we agree upon, and will make it less likely we make dumb grammatical errors. Second, the multi-author approach ensures that all the facts are true — no one knows our circ policy like the circ staff, so having me write that section is foolish. And, third, using BaseCamp to do the entire project streamlines the information flow for me as the editor, and Patrick as the one who has to process all we create. This way, we each only have one place to consult for content, rather than a slew of emails, shared files, Google docs, and scribbled-upon sheets of paper.

I have high hopes that this will go smoothly, or at least that the speed bumps will be interesting ones. Here’s to rewrites!

Target Audience Review

We Are Not Our Patrons

This phrase is very important to remember as the content gets written and excluded from the new website. The content needs to support the tasks that people need to accomplish. INFLUX created persona’s that identify the people who uses the College Libraries website.

Information Architecture – Web Pages

The web pages that have been identified came out of the iterative process that has been used to create the new website. By creating a lists of questions that people expect the website to answer will support the tasks they need to complete. The research that INFLUX did at the start of the new redesign project set the foundation for the card sort, sketching, wire-frame models, and interactive prototypes that have been created.

Through testing and retesting it has become very clear that the web pages that have been created for the new website will allow a person to accomplish a task or find the information that they need.

“Getting rid of all those [excess] words that no one is going to read has several beneficial effects:

  • It reduces the noise level of the page.
  • It makes the useful content more prominent.
  • It makes the pages shorter, allowing users to see more of each page at a glance without scrolling.” (p. 45)

– Steve Krug

If we start adding additional pages and content it will just get in the way, preventing people from doing what they need too.

Target Audience Overview

  • Guidelines – discusses target audience, requirements of new website, and explains how the current website has failed to meet the needs of the SUNY Potsdam Community
  • Gathering Information – lists most common questions asked at circulation desk.
  • INFLUX Presentation – talks about persona’s and a list of items that people at SUNY Potsdam are doing.


Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think!: A common sense approach to Web usability (2nd.). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Picture of a pencil with the quote "We are not our patrons"


Tips for Writing for the Web

In order to be successful in creating a good website the content that appears on it should be valuable and useful to the people who use it. This is something that is often overlooked by most organizations and causes people to fail at a task that they are trying to complete. By understanding how and why people use websites will help you write content.

Keep It Short

People do not read content on websites they scan it. Give people only what they need. They are only interested in a small amount of what appears on a web page.

Break Up Content with Headings

This will make it easier for people to quickly locate the information they need. Good headings help both readers and writers.

Write for Your Audience

Focus on the people who are using your website and the content that they need to be successful. For more information about the audience for the College Libraries website please take a look at the Guidelines web page. Have the user persona’s around while writing.

Don’t Make Up Names

If you make up a name people will not know what it means. Do you know what flippyflop means? I just made up the word and thought it would be great word to use instead of frogs.

Start with the Most Important Thing First

When people read the content on a web page they are more likely to read the entire first paragraph than the last one. Think of writing like a funnel where the top part is read by everyone and only a few words are read at the bottom if at all.


Nielsen, J. (2006, April 17). F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content. Retrieved from

Nelsen, J. (2008, May 6). How Little Do Users Read? Retrieved from

Redish, J. (2007). Letting go of the words: Writing Web content that works. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. (n.d.). Writing for the Web. Retrieved from