Web Content--Why it Should be First on Your To-Do ListBy: Kevin Nunley
If you're going to have a website, you have to have content. Content is a word with a broad meaning, encompassing everything you publish on your website. Sounds pretty important, doesn't it? It is more than important; it is vital. And yet, content has found itself pushed to the back of the line behind technology and design.
In print publishing there is a definite hierarchy, where content reigns at the top. For instance, if one is to publish a book, the content of the book definitely comes before the cover design. But in the online world, content comes last, after the design and technology that make a website. Where design and technology once served the content, the content has become an afterthought to accompany design and technology.
Because technology changes so rapidly, we have to pay continual attention to keeping current on new trends. Perhaps as a result, it is easy to lose track of the importance of content. So on the web, technology sits in the #1 seat of importance.
Next comes design. We're so busy worrying that visitors will not like the design of our site that we put too many eggs in that basket. So many people have attractive, professionally designed sites, and this does help draw visitors to the content. But if the content of the site isn't what visitors looking for, the best-designed site in the world isn't going to keep them there very long.
Last on most peoples' priority lists is the content. The message and content has become inconsequential, but only to the person(s) who designed and implemented the site. To visitors, content is still all-important, which is why we are starting to see a shift in the role of content on the Internet.
Where before the message was considered an afterthought, created after the technology and design, it has started to take front seat again. People are beginning to understand that the process of communication becomes warped when the message and content of the site are ignored. Because, when you think about it, the whole purpose of the technology and design is to accompany the content, not overshadow it.
Good content is crucial to any web site's marketing, search engine results, ROI, credibility, and usability. Current studies show that site visitors base the credibility of websites on content: information focus, information usefulness, information accuracy, information bias, writing tone, information clarity and readability.
So how do you make the switch from focusing on technology and design to making content your first priority? For an expert lesson, visit www.alexthegirl.com. This site is a perfect example of someone who has put content before everything else -- including sale oriented copy -- and has enjoyed tremendous success because of it. This freelance writer's site contains a variety of inventive and enlivening essays about the writer's life as she begins on her exploration of, well, life. The essays are lighthearted and contain an element of innocent fascination that has both intrigued and inspired thousands of visitors. The site averages 40,000 unique vistors a day--with no promotion.
Alex (the girl) also uses the site to display her portfolio and talk about her availability as a freelance writer, but these things are not the predominant focus of her site. The main focus of the site is to provide something enjoyable for people to read, and her essays have drawn people from all over the world; from professionals to advertising execs, students to stay-at-home moms.
The point is, this site provides nothing but exceptional content. The design is minimal. The technology is minimal. Everything is minimal except the content, which is unique and innovative. But that's all Alex (the girl) needed to make her site a success.
Creating useful and engaging content must be factored into the whole web development process. Your visitors don't just want to come to your site and look at things; they want to research, shop, communicate and interact. They want control, security, activity, and an enjoyable experience.
So when you create the content for your website, think of what will make visitors want to explore your site, not just give it a quick glance. Offer content that will make them come back again and again, such as articles, tips, news, forums, recipes, contests, giveaways, advice, special offers and discounts, etc.
Know your target demographic. Know what they want to see, so you can give it to them. Your content is only as powerful as you make it, so give it some real thought and make it great.
© 2003 DrNunley.com.
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