Creating Successful Web Site Content
Website content development is a huge and often misunderstood subject. It encompasses everything from headlines to video clips. It determines web design, the functionality a site requires and ultimately how well the site will rank in search engines.
Content is the message and the story used to deliver the message. The website story can be told in narrative fashion with simple text. It might incorporate images and graphics. Even video could be used to engage the visitor. Or, more likely, your website might include all of the above, each to make or reinforce certain key points, all designed to achieve the desired response from the visitor.
Just Imagine specializes in creating and managing website content. We use whatever formats and technologies make sense for the project, from plain HTML to Flash.
A Common Sense Approach
Creating website content is very different from traditional copywriting. Though the goal is the same, the medium forces a totally different approach.
- Each page must tell a complete story because it may be the first and only page the visitor sees.
- Information competition calls for SKIMABILITY.
- Hype-weary visitors demand objective wording.
- Layering content is key.
The Web is a Non-Linear Medium
When one writes a book or a brochure or even a print ad there is a beginning, middle and end. The eye is trained to start at the beginning and proceed to the end. So copywriters have the luxury of working in a medium in which they control not only the story, but also it's flow and pace.
Website content developers, on the other hand, work in a medium in which the visitor controls the visit. We still have to tell the story, but we have to do it knowing that the visitor may elect to start at the end instead of the beginning.
A Website is NOT a Brochure
As content consultants, Just Imagine has experience in virtually every kind of marketing content imaginable. So when we hear a client or a web design firm refer to an "online brochure" our eyes roll and our heads shake. Here's why:
- A website is by nature evolutionary, it changes with you; a brochure is static, it's a snapshot in time.
- A website is meant to inform, a brochure is meant to tease.
- A website is educational, a brochure is graphical.
- A website is bi-directional, a brochure communicates one way.
If your web developer asks you for "content" and your response is to hand him a brochure, contact Just Imagine immediately.
Skimming NOT Reading
Many studies have been conducted in order to understand how a website visitor deals with the enormous of information online. The results shouldn't surprise anyone.
The eye looks for highlighted words, headlines and bullet points. That's not to say that at some point during the first or subsequent visits the visitor won't settle down and examine what you have in detail. It DOES say, though, that you can't logically expect the visitor to reach the point of seeking detail unless you have laid out your top level information in a very "eye friendly" fashion.
Time is of the Essence
Once a web page loads, the website content developer has 10 to 20 seconds to grab the visitor. But how does one engage someone who can move on faster than he can read what you have to offer?
Copywriter's spend hours and even days brainstorming that clever headline, that play on words that will make the magazine reader stop in his tracks. NOT ONLINE. A clever headline that begs to be savored in print, will only result in a one page website visit. Web surfers have no time for clever. Instead, a website's headline has to tell the visitor what you have to offer and why he should be interested. Clear, concise, to the point.
Facts NOT Hype
Studies also show that websites perform better with few adjectives. DON'T make claims that can't be backed up and DON'T use words like "better" and "best." Website visitors want the story as unvarnished as you can tell it.
Write objectively. Tell them what you have to offer and NOT how wonderful you are for offering it.
Speed Demands Directness
The sheer volume of online information makes getting and keeping the visitor's attention more of a challenge than what a copywriter faces in making a point in print. To get the attention of a magazine reader, for instance, a copywriter is merely competing with other ads in that particular publication. After all, most of us only read one magazine at a time.
Not so when searching the web. We type in our keywords and then start down the results list. We give each site a few seconds to load and then in another few seconds we decide if this is what we're looking for. No time for subtleties or fancy images or other weapons at the disposal of the print ad community.
Think Onions NOT Apples
Website content developers have to layer their content. Whether you're dealing with images or words, we start with little bits at the top layer peeling away to more detail (larger images) and finally more detail still.
Website visitors are in way too much of a hurry for you to expect them to take a big bite out of your site without knowing what it's going to taste like. In non-linear story telling each page has to stand on it's own, because it may be the first page the visitor sees. So you summarize at the top then let them work their way down.
These general content guidelines should help with any website.