I can't help but have a critical eye.
When you've been involved in website project after website project, it's hard not to.
And that's why - as I've browsed the internet this week - I've seen example after example of people falling into common content traps, or leaning on common misconceptions about their website content.
Take note, and you might just avoid these traps yourself.
1. Work on your core
Do you know your website's core message or purpose?
Do you have a clear editorial mission that you refer back to with every piece of content you write?
There is so much information available to us on the internet. When we publish on behalf of a business we have an opportunity to improve the usefulness and quality of what's out there, not just add noise. Over time, websites become bloated and seem to grow out of control, like the evil blob attacking a city.
If you want to have a lean site, you need to work on the core focus of your publishing practice (yes, you're a publisher!). A short content mission statement is all it takes. This way, you will know that the work you're putting in will help meet user need, make users happy - or at least not pissed off - and make it easier for you to make decisions about both content and design. Otherwise, you're just wasting time churning through content - and that's not smart business.
2. Step away from the CTAs
Website content trap number two - giving people too many choices.
When you have awesome content on your site, it's understandable that you want everyone to reach all of it, all at once. But what you're doing is putting the burden of choice on your user. They're looking for the shortest route to the information they need. If that's your phone number, why is it hiding on a page somewhere you can only reach through a drop down?
What's the alternative? Start with understanding your users. Get into their heads and get to know what information they need, check out your analytics, and make real, informed decisions about their potential journeys. How can you reduce the steps to the most important things (for your users and your business) and still make sure that everything else can be found if it's needed?
3. Stop giving a FAQ
Let's say you're shopping online. You want to check the potential shipping turn around. Ideally, it would be in context right by the great big BUY button. You don't even have to leave the page. But it's not there, so you look for a Shipping page. But that doesn't exist. So where do you turn to? FAQs.⠀
Want to know why that question is asked so f'ing frequently? Because the answer is nowhere to be found.
One argument for FAQs is that people are lazy and will just shortcut there anyway - which I find depressing. Another is that, in this world of 'Who is' and 'How to' Google searches and voice assistants, Q&A styled content helps search engines find the right information. So just let's settle for non-FAQs Q&A format content, ok?
4. Define 'done'
Are web projects every really finished?
Content is ever evolving. People often look for a magical ‘finished’ point when creating a new site. But often the end goal has way more pages and way more content than is immediately necessary, or immediately possible.
A better approach? Get people involved in content up front (don’t create it in a silo), think about your orders of magnitude. If this site had one page what would be on it? If it had 5? If it had 10? Prioritise based on what can be done now, and create a plan for expanding, adjusting and maintaining information over time.
5. Focus on more than the paint job
The design and functionality of a website are hugely important.
But when you dive into a new web project ask yourself, what are people really here for? Are they here for the pretty, or for information?
We all can thank of at least one person who is absolutely gorgeous but...when you dig deeper...they don't have much substance. Don't let your site be this person. Let your site be Elle Woods - beauty and brains (what, like it's hard?).
When you focus on design and not content, two things will inevitably happen:
- Content is shoved into a design that doesn’t support, enhance or draw the user through the content in the easiest way (for the user).
- There’s an imbalance of resources (time and money) because the writing is the easy bit right?! If you’re not a developer, it can seem like there’s a lot of magic involved in building a website. So you’ll invest in, and prioritise those skills. But writing? Anyone who has done some basic schooling can put pen to paper...right?!
When I'm asked what it is that I wish my clients and potential clients knew, these are usually the first things that spring to mind.
Let's work together to make the internet and easier, and more awesome place to hang out.