Do you need a web content specialist?

Content is often the most time-consuming part of creating and maintaining a new website. Here's how you know when to hire a dedicated web content specialist and what skills they need.
A note pad with a red pen on top of it

How to determine if you need help

There are three factors to consider when determining whether you should hire a new content team member. First, you need to decide what your minimum viable product (MVP) is for launch. Second, you need to estimate your workload. And third, you need to make sure you have the necessary expertise and skill sets on your team.

Decide what MVP is

Most websites do not need 100% of their content published to launch. While developing a content plan, you should know what your minimum viable product (MVP) is.

The best way to determine this is to focus only on transitioning content that your primary audience group needs most. For example, a college whose primary audience is prospective students may require that all of their recruitment and application content be published for launch, but they may deprioritize news posts or content about strategic plans and institutional history. 

Remember, you can and will continue to publish content after launch. MVP is just for the initial push across the finish line.

Estimate the workload

At Pixo, when we help migrate content, we tend to make a very broad guess at how long it will take because a detailed assessment of each page is usually unrealistic. Some pages need brand-new content, and others will only require minor tweaks. Many pages will fall somewhere in the middle. At a high level, we assume each page will take 4-8 hours, depending on how much writing and editing is required. 

Once we have decided what the MVP for launch is, we can make a content plan spreadsheet that lists all the pages to be migrated. In this spreadsheet, we include a column indicating the expected effort for each page. We gauge the level of effort based on how much new content is needed and whether it will require lots of information gathering and stakeholder feedback. The standard levels we use are high (8 hours), medium (6 hours), and low (4 hours). Some pages will fall outside this range, but the idea is that it all comes out in the wash. 

Keep in mind that every individual works at a different pace. If you rely on someone new to entering content in a CMS or someone without a writing background, you may need to add a bigger buffer to accommodate their pace.

Identify gaps in expertise

Content migration requires a few steps:

  1. Gathering information and fact-checking with subject matter experts
  2. Drafting page content
  3. Getting feedback or approval, when necessary
  4. Implementing the site architecture and taxonomies in the CMS
  5. Inputting the content into the CMS

Depending on the team and the website’s size, each of these steps could be performed by the same person or delegated to multiple people. If you have a very large site, one person with writing for the web skills is probably not going to cut it. Regardless, you want to make sure you have: 

  • Someone who knows your organization well 
  • Someone who has writing for the web skills
  • Someone familiar with maintaining content in a CMS

If you don’t have these three bases covered with your current staff, or if the number of staff members with these skills doesn’t match up with your workload estimate, then you need to consider hiring.

What to look for if you decide to hire

If you choose to supplement your team with new hires, you will likely be looking for applicants who can help with writing and/or publishing in the CMS. 

What to look for when hiring a writer

If you mainly need support with writing content, make sure to look for skills related to writing for the web. Academic writing or other long-form writing is a very different skill set and is less helpful. Look for someone who can articulate a strong understanding of web accessibility, user-centered design, and search engine optimization. These are all important factors to consider when writing web content, and your new hire should be able to jump in and start writing with these factors in mind. Your internal team members with all the organizational knowledge will be handling fact-checking and feedback, so experience in your specific field is less of a priority when filling this role. 

What to look for when hiring someone to help with publishing

If you mainly need help getting the content on your site, you want someone with experience publishing content using a website CMS and/or an eye for page hierarchy and the ability to organize information visually. They should also be aware of accessibility and writing for the web best practices. Even though they aren’t drafting the content, they will be responsible for making many structural and content decisions. For example, you want someone who can implement headers and links correctly. No matter what, you’ll likely need to do some training for a new hire so that they can get accustomed to the ins and outs of your particular CMS. However, it doesn’t hurt to look for someone who is familiar with your platform (WordPress, Drupal, etc…). 

Don’t forget to make a plan!

Before it is time to get started migrating, confirm that you have roles and responsibilities assigned and clearly communicated. Read our blog post about assigning content roles.