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Templates can make sense of your content mess... with or without new technology

Many hospitals have websites that have become unwieldy, with content that is hard to find, written in different styles and sometimes out of date. If you find it frustrating to use, you can bet that your prospects and customers do too.

And you’re not alone. Many of our hospital clients have built a huge inventory of content, often created by multiple authors. Inconsistency reigns, and the content experience suffers — either for the whole site or for a section where a visitor would expect every page to deliver the same type of information in the same way.

What can you do?

Identify the types of content your audience needs most. Then, for each type of content, create a template that all authors can use. A template improves the consistency and quality of your content. (This is what people mean when they refer to structured content.) And content templates may be just the tool you need to clean up your site.

What is a content template?

The content template is basically a form or a descriptive outline that authors fill in. It can be as simple or complex as you like: highly structured (word and/or character counts) or more open ended. Whichever your approach, your template will create consistency in your content across your site.

Technology can drive a template, but it’s not a requirement.

Technology takes content templates to the next level. For example, authoring software like GatherContent, and CMS like SiteCore allow organizations to set up structured templates. However, if you aren’t ready to make technology or design changes, you can still use content templates to wrestle your content into shape, without using digital tools.

And if content management technology in your organization’s future, your templates can provide a useful guide for migrating that content in the future, When developing your templates now, think through future needs.

A word of caution…

It is important to create different templates for different types of content, and not just content that has different functions (i.e. service line landing page vs. contact form vs. physician profile).

If a template is very structured, it may not work well for different service lines. Blood draw services may work well in a two-paragraph format but the same may not be true for complex heart surgery. Different types of medical services need different templates.

  • Takeaway #1: Whatever your content mess, content templates can help clean it up.

  • Takeaway #2: Content templates are easy for any organization to create, use, and refine, even in the absence of company-wide content management technologies.

  • Takeaway #3: Consider different templates for different service lines, not just different functions. This give service lines the content they deserve.

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