Nonprofit Web Design Process Part 3: Content Strategy | npENGAGE

Nonprofit Web Design Process Part 3: Content Strategy

By on Dec 27, 2013


Note: This is the seventh in a series of posts about the Nonprofit Web Design Process. See the end of this post for a linked index of other posts in the series.


Content for your website includes your headlines, body copy, photos, captions, graphics, videos, audio clips, etc. Content Strategy is “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content”. (Quote from Kristina Halvorson) It’s an essential step in the Web Design process that’s often overlooked or skimped upon. Here at Blackbaud, we do our best to start our design recommendations with content so that our clients are thinking about content very early in the process.

Purposes for content strategy include:

  • Defining a Messaging Hierarchy to prioritize messages you’d like to convey on your website and building consensus among your content creators
  • Articulating content priorities for your homepage and other key pages/sections of your web presence
  • Determining what content needs to be written from scratch, revised and deleted and developing an editorial plan (for now and in the future) for when this work should be complete and who is responsible


The foundation for a good content strategy is a current content inventory. If you ever plan to redesign your website, the best thing you can do to prepare is to create (and maintain) a content inventory. I wrote a post about how to create a content inventory several years ago in case you need some instruction.

Once we have a complete content inventory, we then proceed with a content audit where we evaluate each page/section of content for how useful it is for the end user. We take into consideration the quality of the content itself and how well it’s meeting its objective. The data we gathered via Analytics during the User Research phase and during Stakeholder Discovery is key to assessing content performance.

We then assign actions to each page/section of content. This can take several forms but the simplest is to classify content as “Keep”, “Revise” or “Delete”. We’ll make notes on each page as we go through this process to provide direction for the content editors about how to improve the content.

In addition to the content audit, we may have a workshop with the website stakeholders to create a messaging hierarchy to document key messages for the web presence. We also might develop page description diagrams to define and prioritize content for key pages of the site. The page description diagrams are excellent precursors to wireframes, allowing the team to take a content-first approach to design.

Finally, we might devise an editorial calendar for the project, assigning content owners, due dates and recommendations for updating the content pre- and post-launch.


Our content strategy deliverables are not typically very pretty to look at since they’re largely text-based:

  • Content inventory – spreadsheet
  • Content audit – the same spreadsheet with some additional columns added in
  • Messaging hierarchy – Word doc or PowerPoint deck
  • Page Description Diagrams – Word doc
  • Editorial Calendar – spreadsheet or Word doc

Do not let looks deceive you though as these are possibly the most important deliverables in the Web Design process! All project stakeholders must agree on the future of the content for the web presence to be successful.

What’s Next

Once we’ve determined the Content Strategy for the website, we then move into the Information Architecture phase where we decide on the structure and placement of the content for the new site. This phase is where the new web presence starts to take shape with a Sitemap and Wireframes. Stay tuned!

Other Posts in this Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Stakeholder Discovery
  3. User Research
  4. Content Strategy [this post]
  5. Information Architecture
    • Sitemap
    • Wireframes
  6. Visual Design
  7. Solution Design

Lacey Kruger, principal information architect for Blackbaud, designs online properties for nonprofits that delight and inspire. Whether a full scale website, a campaign site or a peer to peer fundraising site, Lacey guides clients through a research-based and user-centered approach to design. In her 15+ years at Blackbaud, she has developed a deep understanding of nonprofit web presences. That knowledge, along with her years of experience in information design, have established her as an industry expert.

Lacey has written a Blackbaud eBook, “A Guide to the Nonprofit Web Design Process” and her article, “Designing Nonprofit Experiences: Building a UX Toolkit” was published in User Experience magazine. She has presented at industry conferences including bbcon, IA Summit and BIG Design.

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