Content is the core essence of a website. Everything else is there for support. Its what the target audience comes for and without good content visitors quickly move on. Your content will dictate the design and development of the website and so needs to be determined early on in the process.
There are four aspects to the content phase of a website. These are summarized in the table below. Each item and its role receives a fuller description in the paragraphs lower on this page.
|Content item||Its role in content development|
|Content Planning||Determining your content strategy based on your audience and goals|
|The Message||What your main message will be and how it will be delivered|
|Words||Writing for the web|
|Graphics||Using graphics in a visual medium|
There is a good deal of research and thinking that goes into the content of a website. This includes researching demographics, and developing personas and scenarios for your target audiences. It also includes a careful consideration of what you want to accomplish with your website.
From this information comes:
- Your audiences' major characteristics, their motivation that brought them to your website, and what they identify with.
- Clarity and precision of your goals. What do you want your website visitors to do on your site?
- A sense of the interaction that will happen between your visitors and your website, and how that will play out across the pages.
The Main Message
The interaction between the visitor and website has been likened to a conversation. This conversation needs to allow the user to feel comfortable and confident with the website and by extension the organization. The sensibilities of the target audience will inform what the message is and how it will be shaped.
Aspects of the message are:
- Using a tone of voice throughout your communication that effectively speaks to your visitor.
- Having a visual style that the end-user recognizes and identifies with.
- Being focused on the message. This means cutting out superfluous material that can distract or discourage the user from accomplishing desired actions.
- Creating original material that specifically addresses the needs of the user in the context of the current website.
- Creating a storyline that unfolds and flows for the user, informing them about you and your product.
Writing for the web is different than writing for a book or article. That's because people read differently on the web than they do for other written material. Web material needs to be well organized so it is searchable and can be easily scanned.
Writing for the web includes:
- Reducing words and ideas down to their essence
- Using precisely the same tone and vocabulary as the end-user would
- Using keywords in headers and links that the reader will scan for and recognize
- putting information into easily digested formats such as tables and lists
Graphics play an important role in content. Visitors will predominantly look at a graphic first before reading print. Graphics can convey mood, style or information much more quickly than trying to write it all out in so many words. Importantly, they can clearly convey your main message to the user.
- These can include charts, graphs, maps, illustrations and photos
- They can illustrate different options to be taken, help with instructions or point the way with navigation
- Images can support the conversation that you are fostering and effectively tell your story