Easy Content Strategies for Your Local Government Website

Most local government websites require several website administrators to maintain content on specific sections. This makes sense as municipal websites are often deep with rich content which can become too much for one person to handle. Also, it is common for some departments to have their own unique requirements and a need to control their own identity. But with so many cooks in the kitchen, ensuring consistent and quality content throughout your website can be a challenge. That is why it is important to establish some ground rules, or what is known as a content strategy, for all web administrators to follow.

Content strategy encompasses all of the content that can be added to your website, from basic text to images to videos and more, and how that content is presented. With that in mind, below are some basic content principles and best practices to help guide your own efforts to establish “rules and standards” for your web administrators. You’ll notice a common theme, simplicity. So I’ll do my best to practice what I preach, and try to keep this simple.

A content strategy can keep your website from falling apart.
Review your content
First things first. Proofread, edit, update, and remove outdated information. This is perhaps the single most important rule for any content strategy. It will establish a baseline for where your content is and where it needs to be. If you adopt only one rule, let this be it.

Write for the web
The basic tenant of this rule is simplicity and here are the primary components:
  • Create short, simple, relevant headings/section titles.
  • Break up long blocks of text with paragraphs and bulleted lists to highlight the main points. This treatments is called “chunking”. It’s easier on your site visitor’s eyes and much easier to read. Using page or CMS Items (link) is an excellent tool for this. A lot of text is too much on the web.
  • Use plain language for longer, more technical information. This is actually a good practice for any text on any section.
  • Never underline text unless it is a link. It causes confusion for site visitors. Find other ways to highlight text such as bolding or italicizing.

Let the Content Management System (CMS) do the work
Every design has its own built-in combination of font types, styles, sizes and overall colors scheme. Since content editors function much like MS Word, it’s tempting to play around with formatting. But this is where trouble can arise as each administrator may apply different formatting styles to different areas. The easiest way to keep your content consistent is to let the CMS do the work.
  • Use the default fonts and associated styles built into the design. If you decide to change any of these elements, be sure to decide as a group so everyone is doing the same thing.
  • Add content directly into the CMS content editor. Do not create an external Word doc and then copy/paste.
  • Only use ALL CAPS for a short title or if that style is built into the design headings.

Follow accessibility (ADA) standards
ADA guidelines are kind of a “twofer”. If you apply them to your content, you get a website that is both consistent and more accessible to all visitors. How can you lose?

Set a content review & update schedule
Admittedly this one can be a big challenge to establish staff-wide, but if it is, your content strategy just became that much easier to implement. Even if you just convene the web administrators once a year for a site review, that will pay big dividends.

Ensure new web administrators are trained
This isn’t a true content strategy principle per se but it definitely falls under the large umbrella of maintaining a professional local government website. Remember to have new web administrators trained on the CMS and the ways of your in-house web guidelines. Consistent content is the key to a great site. One errant admin and the whole thing can fall apart!

GovOffice offers a wide variety of content services to help keep your municipal website in tip-top shape. Contact us today to discuss your needs!