How to Plan a Content Heavy Site

How to Plan a Content Heavy Site

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Mary Fran. She’ll be guiding you through the proper planning involved in projects with larger amounts of content.

A major project can be intimidating. The first time you take one on, it may even be terrifying. But with a little planning, you will succeed with flying colors.

In this article, we’re going to walk through a few of those steps to successful project management.

Create a Project Workflow

This is a critical first step.A  project needs clear planning from the start. Without a clearly defined workflow, your project will quickly become a muddled mess. Even using a management tool like Basecamp requires first creating a workflow definition. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who will be responsible for the site content?
  2. Where is it being saved?
  3. What format?
  4. How should it be named?
  5. How are you going to track versions?
  6. What members of your team are responsible for what tasks?

These are a crucial considerations in the beginning of any project, and if you skip them now it will be very difficult to work with large amounts of data later.

Organize Files Logically

Once you have decided on a workflow, it’s time to get your assets in order. Make sure that there is a clear direction of where your files should be going, and what they are named. This is an important and logical second step in order to keep files organized in future stages.

A Sample Folder Structure

Setting up your folders is always a daunting task (there is always someone who does it better) but you can always learn something from trouble you run into. I have come up with a file structure that seems to work for almost all projects that I work on:

The “Client Files” folder is just what you would expect. It contains all files that the client has submitted to us for use in the project. Typically clients provide content, product images, and logos. I sub-divide the “Images” and “Logos” folders because we edit the files after we receive them, but we do not typically edit the text.

Other Considerations

If you are saving files to something such as Basecamp, documents should be a Word document, placed into a specific category (e.g. “Site Content”) for filing, and named after the page it belongs on.

If you’re using an FTP server, naming the files is a little more crucial. Something similar to Site > Text > HomePage_3October.doc contains a date so that you can make sure that you are using a current version. This allows the content creator to go back to specify a version easily.

Additionally, if you are building an e-commerce site, requesting data from a client in a spreadsheet might just come in handy. The columns you end up with will be unique to your project, but they will at the very least be: Product ID, Product Name, Description, Price, Options, Dimensions, Image File Name. Having this reference will be invaluable as you are spending that day inputting the data into your site.

Create a Site Map

How are pages going to relate to each other? If this is a really large site, how are the categories going to relate to each other and then pages within a category going to relate (relationships only need to be defined in one category if all categories are going to contain similar relationships).

There needs to be a site overview listing all categories and subcategories. You can go back into your main folders and create sub-folders for your categories at this point. By having a graphical or outlined site plan, you and the client will have a better understanding of how the site is going to progress.

Define Page Content

Now that you know exactly what the pages are and how they relate, you can begin to define the page types.

It’s easy to undervalue this step, but it is important not to. It lets you refine the site plan and formulate an effective ask for data and content.

Some of the main points things you should to consider at this point:

  1. What types of pages are you going to have?
  2. What kind of forms are needed, and where does the information go?
  3. Is there a database in play?

From these three generalized points, you can build a whole checklist of further items to review (e.g. Setting up form email accounts, legal pages, etc.)

Inventory Existing Content

What data do you have available or finished? Once you’ve completed the previous sections, it’s a good idea to inventory existing content. Verify that you have the pictures of products or people that you requested, that all of the descriptions exist and that they follow proper format.

Something missing? Go back and check your sitemap and project folders. Making sure you have all the data that you need tucked away neatly into proper folders will prevent headaches and holdups when trying to finish up the project.

Make a Timetable

Make a calendar. Put deadlines on it. This will help you focus and keep the project on track. Managing a large project can be a bit like training a cat — seemingly impossible for an untrained person, but with careful planning and persistence, it will be successful.

Additional Resources

  1. WriteMaps online sitemap builder

Posted Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 · Back to Top


Add Comment

29 Comments 12 Mentions

  1. Eric B. Author Editor

    Excellent post! I’ve never really thought about such large sites much.
    .-= Eric B.´s last blog ..Creating an Awesome Website Design With Gimp =-.


  2. designfollow Author Editor

    thanks for this tips.
    .-= designfollow´s last blog ..How to Plan a Content Heavy Site =-.


  3. Miroslav Nikolov Author Editor

    Planning is what distinguishing amateur programmer or designer from experienced one.


  4. Robin Cannon Author Editor

    Great article. The project management of large scale sites is something that isn’t often considered, a lot of the comment and advice you see online is about designing blogs or small sites of 5-10 pages. Larger projects are a whole different ball game though, and you need to be far more focused and organized.

    Really appreciate the suggested file structure. That’s always been something I’ve found tough when working on large scale projects, the degree to which my resource files get cluttered and disorganized so quickly. Definitely going to look at implementing something similar to your structure.
    .-= Robin Cannon´s last blog ..Styling JomSocial – A Blank Canvas Template =-.


  5. Nash Author Editor

    Well planning is a basic series of step to began any type f work .If u had plan it properly than you will not face any big problem.


  6. Ileane Author Editor

    Mary Fran,
    Thanks for the post. At my day job, we have a huge site and in the past it has been difficult to manage at times. In-house staff is primarily responsible for design and content and web management is out-sourced. These tips will be good reminders that I will share with both groups when issues arise.
    [email protected]
    .-= Ileane´s last blog ..Do Twitter Backgrounds Attract New Followers? =-.


  7. Sean Tubridy Author Editor

    Content Strategy for the web is a great book to help you gather and organize your content for a website.


  8. Nikunj Author Editor

    thanks man will help a lot


  9. Robert Author Editor

    Nice tip…I am learning to much.


  10. Web Design Maidstone Author Editor

    Its all about the planning otherwise projects turn into nightmares, thanks for some useful tips


  11. Q Ball, The 800lb Gorilla Author Editor

    What is the best way to handle WP Plugins who are based on various types of javascript?
    .-= Q Ball, The 800lb Gorilla´s last blog ..Cuban Hip Hop: The Next Revolution =-.


  12. bennet Author Editor

    Great article, very interesting read. I am planning to start a content rich site and this post helped me in getting loads of ideas about how to organize design and develop a content enriched website that has function like a blog. Thanks for this excellent piece of information.


  13. Web Design Singapore Author Editor

    excellent piece of information. And i like the pictures that are very representative of the content.

    and also, one thing to add, for content heavy sites, a lot of emphasis has to be placed on “managing changing content”. For e.g. if you have tens of categories of articles, having a process workflow in place to manage how new content are featured on the front page is very very important too


  14. Hitesh Mehta Author Editor

    Nice article! I think a more detailed one would have helped a lot of us here.
    .-= Hitesh Mehta´s last blog ..HiteshMehta: Getting Clients to Embrace Fresh Ideas =-.


  15. Webanddesigners Author Editor

    Liked “A Sample Folder Structure.” saves heaps of time.
    .-= Webanddesigners´s last blog ..Create Mobile Version of Blog: 12 Free Alternatives =-.


  16. Souika Author Editor

    Thank you for these tips.
    It become more difficult when you have various kind of content like videos, photos gallery, etc..


  17. Mauro Author Editor

    Is a great article! Thanks


    • Maggie Author Editor

      Your article was excelnelt and erudite.


  18. Barry McGee Author Editor

    I also think it’s important to decide whether or not a CMS is needed for a large content site. You can then dictate how content is added and organised in the future.


  19. Anna Cook Author Editor

    Great stuff.
    Setting privileges for who can edit what is really helpful for controlling the beast too.


  20. Web Design Talk Author Editor

    Nice article. BUt you also have to plan for the fact that you often won’t have all the content ahead od schedule


  21. leon Author Editor

    Great tip on how to structure local folders! Thanks!


  22. ASAD Author Editor

    wow great job, really thanks for this informative article.


  23. leandro bernardes Author Editor

    Definitely this is a great post!
    it’ll help me a lot.


  24. Timesheet Author Editor

    Really good tips for structuring the local folders, this is one of the tasks which I find difficult, while working for huge sites. Great stuff Mary.


  25. Aubrey Author Editor

    Thanks! This helps me with my organization. Its easy to skip those first steps and you end up regretting it later when you are missing information that is needed.


  26. megan fox 2012 Author Editor

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  27. Mariah Yeater Author Editor

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  28. Resource Planning Software Author Editor

    Great blog Maria, looking forward to create such content rich websites.



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