Product Director Insight: The most common blind spot in project planning

One of our Product Directors, Peter, was recently asked by a client at the start of a project "Where will we struggle with this? What should we start working on straight away?

A great question, and one which has a common answer across many of the projects we work on.

That answer is content

Content is typically left to a line on a project plan "content creation & population" but it always takes 2-3x longer than expected.

It is a critical component. If you are trying to engage, influence, or drive people to certain actions, then the technology can be world-class, the UI can be intuitive and the visual design can be breath-taking, but with lackluster content, users won't take the actions you want.

Why does content always take longer than expected?

Typically, because it is underestimated. Underestimated in three primary ways:

In its importance: When discussing a new technology project, topics such as functionality, UX and tech-stack, naturally come up far before the afterthought…content.

It's complexity to produce: It is often assumed 'we can put this together, I just need to sit down for a few hours and write it out'

Time needed for population: Once created, many mentally tick content off as done, but the process of actually entering it into your experience almost always takes longer than expected.

1. Importance

We will state the fact again, if you want to engage or influence users, content is critically important.

Alongside UX, UI and visual design, content is one of the primary interactions users have with your organisation. You will be judged on your content.

Professional planner using a laptop creating digital content planning for user acquisition

2. Complexity to produce

We are primarily referring to content that is designed to do more than just inform. If content is purely instructional, then it can be quite quick to produce. If it needs to do anything else, for example entertain, engage or persuade a user to take certain actions, then it is complex.

For it to be effective, you need to clearly define exactly what you want the content to do. Are you trying to be entertaining or educational? Are you trying to get users to take certain actions?

Then, there are myriad other factors to consider, for example, the narrative, the audience, the desired impact, the accompanying imagery, the production, the editing...the list goes on. All of this needs to be carefully considered and it must be done properly, it is important (see above!)

Furthermore, the skillsets needed for each part of content production are quite different. You may need to engage various members of your team to execute effectively. As an example, being a great copywriter is a very different skillset to having an excellent eye for imagery and brand. It is a quite real possibility that you don’t have the full set of skills inhouse to produce high quality, effective content.

3. Time needed for population

Far from being almost finished once created, the population of content into your experience almost always takes longer than expected.

Quite simply the process of copying, pasting, proof-reading, checking formatting, and editing to make sure the content behaves exactly as you want, for every user, takes time…more time than you expect.

A person sitting at a desk with a laptop, focusing on copywriting, content writing, content planning, proofreading

The solution

Don't underestimate content, start working on it as early as possible.

Like any other task, break content production down into its component parts and allocate realistic timeframes to each. One, all-encompassing, title ‘content creation’ isn’t enough.

Make sure the people tasked with each part of content creation have the correct skillset.

Don't be afraid to explore 3rd party providers that specialise in content production, such as Contently.

If you have an ongoing content requirement, and content is core to your business, don’t be afraid to look at hiring a dedicated, in-house, content creator.

A project management professional discussing project planning and implementation plans