Content – the forgotten part of websites

Remote Cabin

Remote Cabin

Text, pictures, sound and video. It is all content on a website. Yet with the advent of content management systems (CMS) it is often the last thing to be considered by an organisation.

The techies get excited over their backend structures, servers and coding. The designers will endlessly extoll the virtue of particular colour schemes or font styles. The two sets of people are both there at the pitch to deliver you stylised CMS driven website and mostly they put on a pretty good show.

Launch day approaches and they had over control of the CMS to you, ‘to put the meat on the bones’. Then what?

Anyone can do content. Can’t they?

The number of websites out there that have been developed to use a CMS, but never actually change is staggering. You see, content takes time. It takes thinking about. It takes commitment to deliver against organisational goals.

Content, or rather good content, is what keeps people coming back to your website and repeat visits allow you to tell your organisational story and promote your products and brand.

What is good content?

Anyone can ‘do’ content. That is true, but not everyone can produce good content.

Macbook and pad - planning the content journeyPoor grammar and spelling on a website can kill an organisational reputation almost overnight. Your website is either working for or against your organisational goals 24/7.

Good content takes your visitor on a journey and as a content editor, you need to plan that journey just like any other.

You need to engage with your visitor. This may be:

  • via a series of punchy bullet points
  • a short video introduction
  • an infographic
  • text and pictures

Whatever method is used, the message needs to be passed across to your visitor as quickly as possible. If it takes me four or five mouse clicks to find what I want on your site, then the navigation structure is all wrong. Restructuring your menus into logical groups from your visitors’ perspective greatly aids the journey. (I have argued this several times with web administrators in the public sector.)

Print / Export Menu on Wikipedia provides alternative content formatFor detailed reference material, good content also includes downloadable or at least, suitable for print format documents. An excellent example of this may be seen at Wikipedia with their Print / Export menu on the left-hand side.

It provides a very quick way for you to ‘grab and go’ with some content. This is particularly useful for complex documents such as design plans or product or process specifications.

Good content loads quickly. Can you believe I came across a page only last week where the images, beautiful though they were, were absolutely huge and even by today’s standards took an age to load. Good content editors know how to get around these problems.

Good content is search engine optimisation (SEO) friendly. There are literally hundreds of books  that discuss the dark arts of search engine optimisation, but an editor with basic understanding of the fundamentals can make a huge difference to your page ranking so your website features on that all-important first page of search results.

All of that needs to be considered in conjunction with the actual message you wish to deliver for your organisation. It’s tone, language and vocabulary are incredibly important. Talk down your visitors, you lose them. Pitch over their heads, you lose them. Subtitling of videos can be time and labour intensive but if your video is in English, but you want to break into an Italian market, good quality subtitles can make the difference between a sale or no sale.

A good editor will also bring cultural awareness. Something as simple as the use of colour can create a problem.

So yes, anyone can slap a few words on a website. It is getting them there correctly, presented in the right format, with the correct grammar and spelling, within a structure that works for the organisation, visitor and technical infrastructure that is key.

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