You know what I’m talking about. It’s the mailer you’ve received that made you barf in your mouth a little and wonder how it even made it into your mail box. It may even be the site that led you astray with a bunch of pages strung together leading towards a 404 error.

Whatever it may be, I want you to think about it. Remember every aspect of it that made your blood pressure rise just a tad bit. Think about how quickly you flung the piece into the trash, closed your browser, or deleted the app.

It’s not that the content was shoddy or anything. It could have been the most polished, beautiful thing ever. Beautiful isn’t always effective though.

If you’re a designer, writer, planner, strategist, stakeholder, leader, or have anything to do with the creation of communicated content with the sole purpose of influencing or persuading others, think hard about the most obnoxious piece of content you’ve ever seen.

Then, I encourage you to wonder if what your organization has produced is making a consumer out there cry just a little, in a bad way, on the inside and outside.

We may be spending a lot of time making and not enough time thinking.

Checking whether or not the infrastructure, expectations, and upkeep of your content are up to snuff takes hard work. This work is often outside the normal hustle and flow of production. It’s work that is avoided in many instances when time and resources are thin. I can’t help but believe in these symptoms of poor content due to the piles of ill-planned stuff that we all run into on a daily basis.

I believe that smaller businesses are more susceptible to infrastructure neglect than larger ones, given the fact that there may be fewer dedicated resources to proper content strategy and maintenance. The “GO-GO-GO!” environment of small business is great due to the consistent momentum to ship for the sake of shipping. However, the neglect of content expectations of both the organization and the user can lead to dire consequences.

If you’re a part of this dynamic, always-on-the-move kind of place, I’m not condemning you at all. If you know that user testing or quality assurance may go out the window due to a lack of time or resources, please consider a compromise. Test it live.

Take a page out of the software world and BETA TEST.

Don’t get too discouraged if things don’t work out at first. The project may have been rushed out the door to meet an ill-advised deadline. That’s okay. Use the first run as a means to gather user testimonial and feedback. Squash bugs and remove kinks.

I wouldn’t be vague and obscure about what you want from the feedback. Let your user know that you would like to find out ways to improve the content because you think it’s valuable to you and their peers. Start conversations and learn from the people you’re trying to influence. They have a lot to teach you if you’re aware of them.

Oh, and of course, find ways to compensate them for their hard work. It can be small, yet memorable. They are doing a massive favor to you by letting you into their heads. Reciprocate.

Gain the insights needed to revise the content to a live, more effective version. Once again, this is a ton of work, but it is well worth the effort. Rinse. Repeat.

Speaking of repeat, don’t get discouraged if things to awry. Don’t let your superiors or peers get discouraged either. You can salvage a lot from doomed content if you take a moment to listen and learn. Boil “failure” down to a lesson learned and use those insights on the next time around.

Turn it into the investment that you wish you had made the first time around with your content.

Don’t forget who the content is for.

The purpose of content is that is allows us to communicate an idea, way of thinking, or call to action to a specific group of people. It takes the form of things that a particular audience may find useful, entertaining, or interesting. Whatever it does, its use has very little to do with us, the people steering the ship.

We aren’t the users. The audience is. It’s easy to forget that when the pressure mounts and deadlines draw near. Ego gets in the way. Worries that the user isn’t being told enough about the wares arise. Buying behaviors and cycles are forgotten. Don’t let this happen!

This is where trust in the overall content strategy and in your team come into play. It will be all right if a great framework is in place and the right people for the job, like you, are doing what they should be doing.

Have you been a part of a fantastic content producing machine? Maybe you’ve just experienced quite a nightmare. No need to point fingers or name names. I just want to know:

What have your experiences with content launching and upkeep been like?