During the process, the role of content writer is often unclear and differs from project to project. When possible, we recommend employing a copywriting professional versed in the nuances of Web communication. Caxiam Group has the tools to provide such services, and if you are interested, we would invite you to inquire with us about these capabilities for your next project.
However, often our clients wish to provide their own content. In such situations, I thought it may be helpful to briefly outline a few guidelines to follow when developing content for the Web.
By now, most of you are undoubtedly familiar with the saying, “Content is King.” I touched on this briefly in my last post, and no doubt it is true. However, knowing the phrase is one thing, but knowing what it actually means (and how it applies to your unique content strategy) is another.
More than once I’ve seen this saying kicked around as an excuse to dump a laundry list of Word or PDF documents on a page, or to fill your site’s content with jargon that your visitors may not understand. “Content is King” does not mean more content, or trying to impress your potential customers with all the technical terms you know. It means more effective content – writing and tailoring the information in your site specifically to the needs and desires of your customers. Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Focus only on what is relevant to your typical visitor. For example, most users don’t care so much about your “about us” section as much as they do the products and services you offer. Focus on these most important aspects, determine which are most in demand and emphasize those.
- Divide and conquer. Although the data is beginning to trend away from this, most visitors still do not like to read long passages of text. Divide your content into small, digestible chunks and organize into clear headers and subheaders.
- Optimize for scanning. When possible, opt for bullet-pointed lists as opposed to paragraphs to help accommodate a user’s tendency to scan instead of read.
- Edit. As a general rule, you want to include about 40-50% less content on a Website than you would for a printed piece. Likewise, try to avoid empty chatter like welcome messages or introductory text. Get straight to the point.
- Be clear. Avoid overuse of clever headings and catchy taglines. Avoid industry jargon or technical terms that your users may not understand.
- Be consistent and logical. Place your content in logical, hierarchical sections with consistent headers and subheaders. Often times you will find that how you organize your content helps determine how your site’s pages and subpages should be built. Thus, developing your content first can sometimes be an effective way to organize your thoughts and steer site design.
- Don’t overdo the formatting. Sometimes when a content document is received, it is riddled overdone formatting. This is not effective Web communication, so please don’t make the following mistakes:
- Multiple fonts, colors, and styles. Your designer will help determine the appropriate typeface, font size, color, and styles for your headings and content. Once approved, it is important that these styles are consistent and adhered to on all pages of the site. Inconsistent font use, formatting, colors, etc. makes your site appear unprofessional in the eyes of your potential customers.
- Overemphasis. It is a common pitfall to make type overly large or emphasize large passages of text. A little bit of emphasis goes a long way. It is important to keep your site looking professional and not undermine the overall hierarchy of elements on your pages. It can also have the opposite effect – when everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized.
- Overuse of bold text, italicized text, underlined text, colored text, or text in all capital letters. This is another common pitfall. Overuse of these elements disrupts the flow of your content and makes it harder to read or scan. Additionally, colored or underlined text inside of paragraphs is often mistaken for clickable links, and text in all caps is often interpreted as shouting.
- Unnecessary formatting like centered text or text inside a colored box. If you have certain elements you wish to give special treatment to, work with the designer to present it in a way that is professional and consistent with the overall look and feel of your site. In all other instances, basic formatting such as bold and italics (when not overused), lists, paragraphs, and basic headings are acceptable and even encouraged. Avoid using tables to provide spacing or formatting. Keep in mind, a content document is intended for providing content only and should avoid implying any design. Including these superfluous elements makes your content harder to integrate into your Website.
- Have a voice (and stick to it). Your writing style is very important when conveying a personality about your company. Decide how you want your company, product or service to “feel” to visitors. Formal? Friendly? Young? Tailor the style to match, and use this style consistently. If you use “I” or “you”, use it consistently. But regardless of the voice you choose, always maintain a feeling of professionalism throughout.
I hope you find this article interesting and helpful. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and I look forward to any feedback you may have.
Photo by bruckerrlb.