Producing website content

When we are building websites, clients often ask the same questions about producing content so I thought it would be useful to provide some general guidelines on this topic:

Purpose

What’s the site for?

Have a think about what you want your website to do for you/your organisation. What do you want visitors to leave with? Is it just to give a good impression? Better that they leave having done something! Such as:

  • Bought something
  • Downloaded some information they were looking for
  • ‘Liked’ you on facebook or LinkedIn
  • Sent you a message or filled in a contact form
  • Watched a video
  • Volunteered their time
  • etc.

So, your site must have effective ‘calls to action’ on every page. Here’s a useful article.

Why should visitors come back?

What would make visitors come back to your site? Is there some useful information there that changes regularly? Is there a linked blog or RSS feed which they can subscribe to? Some useful or entertaining videos? Something else to buy or a regular special offer?

Will they tell their friends or colleagues?

Is there something on or about your site that visitors will want to tell their friends or colleagues about? Can they easily repost your blog or post your content to facebook?

The visitor experience

What route will the visitor take through your site? Stats show that many visitors get no further than the home page. What will encourage visitors to go deeper into your site? Think how magazines do it.. you get an idea of the whole content of the magazine just by looking at the front cover.

Content

When I talk about content, most people automatically think about words on the screen, but websites are also a visual medium so don’t forget to think images, videos, audio!

Images

Relevant images are great for informing and adding interest.

Please supply high-res images (these are the original files as they would have come out of the camera or if you are scanning use >200 dpi). The best format is jpegs.

Video and Audio

There are a lot of options here.  HD video is best and unless it is a very short clip it will probably be streamed from a third party such as YouTube or Vimeo. If the video is already on these sites, just send the links initially. Audio is OK as MP3 files.

Text

Be succinct and brief! The average time spent on a web page is only a few seconds and people tend to scan a page rather than read it all.Here’s some tips for making sure you get your message across:

  • Use only one idea per paragraph and get it across in the first sentence.
  • Invert – start with the conclusion
  • Highlight keywords (links, font style, colours)
  • Use meaningful sub-headings and bullet lists
  • Halve your normal word count!
  • Create effective calls to action

Here’s a useful article

Please supply text as Word docs. Use paragraphs and highlights as you need them but otherwise keep formatting to a minimum i.e. don’t attempt to lay out the text in fancy columns. You can insert pictures as placeholders in your word doc but always send the original image separately as a jpeg and reference the filename in the text.

Above all, BE CONSISTENT! Be absolutely consistent with punctuation, capitalisation, spacing and so on, so that the text is exactly how it is meant to be on the site. For instance, if you have a list of items all except one with the first letter in capitals, it may seem perfectly obvious to you that the odd-one-out is a mistake but the designer can’t know that for sure and either has to make a guess or go back to you to check.

Filenames

Please use only lower case filenames with no spaces. If you want to insert a space use an underscore e.g. this_is_ok.jpg

Navigation

When sending content, the designer needs to know where the content goes in the menu structure – a simple hand drawn heirarchy is fine and you will find that the process of producing this ‘map’ will really help sort out how you organise the information in the site.

If you are supplying images, you also need to indicate on which pages and where in the text they should go. If you have a number of images on one topic you might want to present them as a gallery or slideshow.

Design

In recent years the nature of websites has changed with the emphasis now much more on functionality rather than design for its own sake (remember those terrible all-Flash sites?). The ability for users to publish quickly and easily has become a higher priority and our sensibilities have adapted to simpler, blog-type designs and the use of content management systems like WordPress. That’s not to say that good design, well implemented is not as important as ever, but there is less emphasis now on developing pixel-perfect static designs.

Remember also that layouts, colours and fonts can all look very different in different browsers and on different-sized screens so designs need to work well on a majority of platforms, rather than perfectly on one. Another consideration is that some 25% of web browsing is now done on smartphones, which will display your site very differently to bigger screens.  You will need to tailor the amount of content on pages to avoid too much scrolling and the small screen sizes and peculiarities of smartphone browsers  may cause serious difficulties for navigation and the overall useability of your site. It is often necessary to create a special version of the site designed to work well on smartphone platforms.

 

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